Sunday, 18 August 2013

Do You Believe in Magic?

This particular topic started out as a little piece of grit under the tongue of my personal sensibilities.  Like the oyster I kept working at it and working at it trying to expel the grit.  Unlike the oyster, I did not spit out a pearl but a rant instead.  Sometimes I just cannot help myself.

 Anyone who has ever tried to lose a few pounds has probably at one point or another muttered the words “I wish there was a magic pill for this”.

We all know that there is no magic pill, but that does not stop big companies from preying on our simple wish and making billions of dollars in sales.  Are we all that gullible?  No – I think not.  I don’t believe it’s gullibility that makes us go out (at least once … come on … admit it) and buy a product that advertises itself to be the final solution to all your weight loss problems.  I’m sure that if I put my mind to it I could think of a product for every letter of the alphabet. 

Some promise to cleanse the fat out of your body (which just means you’ll spend your life in the bathroom).

Some promise you will never be hungry again (like the warriors in Kilimanjaro).

Some promise to rev up your metabolism (lack of sleep and an overdose of caffeine always being a good thing?)

Most of them claim that you have to change NOTHING!  Don’t change your eating habits!  Don’t do any exercise!  The weight will just magically disappear!

Take the pill.  Sprinkle the powder.  Mix the juice.  Drink the liquid.  Blend the smoothie.

I remember back in the day, and I really am dating myself by even mentioning this product, but you
could buy a box of “Aids”, horrendous tasting chocolate or butterscotch flavored concoctions that looked like candy.  Even the box looked like a box of chocolate and the squares were wrapped to look like individual caramels.  Eat two (bleccchhh) with a cup of hot tea one half hour before eating your meal and it would curb your appetite.  Truthfully it fooled you into thinking you were going to eat a candy and then tasted so disgusting that it killed you taste buds.  No wonder you lost weight – nothing tasted good after that.

These days every time you flip through a magazine there is a new miracle cure for obesity.  It changes weekly.  We’ve watched them come into vogue and then leave just as quickly … Hoodia, Acai Berry Concentrate, Sensa, PGX, Bitter Melon Extract, Green Tea Extract, Raspberry Ketone and lately it seems to be Green Coffee Bean Extract.  Granted, most of these will probably not hurt you if you take them (please note I said probably) but they are not going to be very effective in lowering that number on the scale either.  The only thing they will lower is the numbers in your bank account.

Prepare yourself; the rant starts here …

What really bothers me about these products is not that the companies manufacture them. It’s not that they are readily accessible at reputable drug and health food stores or even that people buy them.  The companies and the stores are in business to make money.  Manufacturers pay employees.  They need to ship the product, which in turn keeps transport companies in business.  Those transport companies make sure the product is unloaded into stores, which also have their profit margin, and they pay employees.  All these people pay their taxes (hopefully) and all these employees along the line go out and spend their money and that keeps me employed (hopefully), which allows me to go and spend my money.  All of that stimulates the economy.  Economics 101.  Supply and Demand.  All this to the tune of billions of dollars annually in North America.

I do get it!

The battle of the bulge does add significant fuel to the spin of the North American economy.

I am not even grossly upset that people buy them.  Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of psychological help to get things jump-started.  The mind is powerful and if you believe you are taking something that is helping you then it may very well be doing just that.  It’s a crutch, but sometimes we all need a little something to lean on.  Just make sure the product is not so bogus as to be actually doing you real harm.

I get that too! 

This whole post was brought on by a bored click onto a link at the side of another webpage.  The picture caught my attention more than the by-line.  My only thought was “Oh please, how is that even the same girl?”

Then, of course there was the picture of Kim Kardashian labeled Before and After.  I don't know what they are claiming by including the following picture, but I have been on Kim's diet and it DEFINITELY works ... it's called ... having a baby!  Really?  How dare they?

So much for truth in advertising, yet I felt compelled to move my mouse over the picture and left-click.  The link took me to a page for “Women’s Health News”.  It looked very similar to an established and reputable magazine.  You would think that all the information under a title like “Women’s Health News” would be fairly trustworthy.  Alas, that was not the case.

This brings me to the point where I leave disbelief behind, move past annoyance and travel well down the road to outrage.

People with titles (real or fabricated) in front of their names, people in positions of authority (real or imagined), people with a wide audience and the respect (earned or purchased) blatantly promote these products.

There stood Dr. Oz explaining to an enraptured audience how two test subjects lost weight by not changing anything in their daily routines except to consume a couple of Green Coffee Bean Extract capsules before each meal.  In previous episodes he extolled the virtues of Raspberry Ketones and prior to that the miraculous hunger-pang suppressing Hoodia Extract.  I don’t mean to single out the good doctor as there are many organizations (Herbal Magic), celebrities (Oprah, Cathy Smith and even weight loss gods Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper) and media (Good Morning America) who do the same thing with other supplements.   However, I do feel a little justified in picking on Dr. Oz because a year or so ago he made it a point in a press release that he emphatically DOES NOT promote any of these products.  He said that unscrupulous distributors Photoshop his face into product advertisements and unless viewers see him standing there saying the words himself … do not believe that the ads are directly quoting him or that he is endorsing the product.  Well!  In the case of the Green Coffee Extract, in the little video clip from a segment of his show, I saw his lips move and heard the words come out of his mouth at the same time.  I can only assume he is actually promoting this product.

I do not watch his program because it happens to be televised during a time slot when I am at work.  To the best of my knowledge he is a real doctor.  I know many people who watch his show regularly and have told me that he very often gives very sound advice on a variety of subjects.  He is well spoken, well liked and well respected by his viewers.  I have no way of knowing this for a fact (nor is it any of my business) but I can only assume that in light of the success of his daily program he is not under any sort of financial stress.  Why is he promoting a “magic pill”?

Again, I can in no way be certain and, yet again, nor is it any of my business, but he must be getting compensation for promoting this product.  It was a specific brand name that could only be ordered from a specific website.  That fact made abundantly clear by the segment’s guest warning potential buyers to spend their hard earned money only on that brand and “beware of imitations containing fillers and cellulose”.

My TOPS members often come to meetings with questions about advertisements or word of mouth from friends and relatives extolling the virtues of one diet fad or another.  I’ve been asked about everything from the Cabbage Soup Diet (if you can stomach eating cabbage soup for seven days, that one is not going to hurt you) to Bitter Melon Extract and Sensa™.  It usually leads to a lively discussion, and no product is promoted.  I am not a doctor and I do not play one on television but I take my role as group leader pretty seriously so I always try to look into it for them.  I rely on research.

Just in case you are curious –

Bitter Melon Extract is not sold as an aid in weight loss but has been shown to help regulate blood sugar in diabetics.  Even blood sugar levels do help in not having those mid-morning or mid-afternoon munchies.  The health professional I spoke to informed me it would not be significant enough to be counted as an aid to dieting.

Sensa™ is the product that you sprinkle on ALL your food before you eat and it claims to suppress your appetite so you feel full faster.  No one in any professional capacity had any opinions on this product so I resorted to on-line comments from users.  Hint:  do not get independent reviews from the product’s website – all the comments there are glowing.  I did a general search and found that every other comment was a complaint about having stomach cramps and/or irregular bowel movements while taking the product.  No one substantiated the weight loss the product claims in advertisements.  It’s a tempting one to want to try but there is another word of warning.  Many people were complaining that they were having trouble cashing on their “Money Back Guarantee”.

This Green Coffee Extract was a bee in my bonnet though.  So, in my official capacity as a (currently badly backsliding) TOPS group leader – I undid the top button on my too snug fitting jeans – and went on a little mission.

I questioned a doctor she said don’t bother with it, eat healthy, moderate exercise and lay off the sugar and salt – same result.  I thanked her and got out of there quickly, before she could pull out my file, make me step on her scale and mention it was time for my annual physical.

The homeopath I asked suggested some other more helpful products.  Not much help there, since he was basically in the same business so I shrugged, thanked him and left.

Three different health food store managers stated that it would not hurt you to take the product and it may help.  Not much commitment there.  I asked they had received any feedback on the product and was told that no customers have come back raving about it, but at the same time no one has come back to return the product demanding their money back either.

I find when a thread like this is pulled more information seems to materialize.  Maybe it’s because I am tuned in to the topic, or maybe it’s just the way my life works … I really have no idea.  I was walking past a magazine rack and noticed a by-line that said “Diet Pills that really work!”  I spent the $2.29 for the magazine and this is pretty much what I found out:

Doctors recently found out that the ketone that gives raspberries their sweet aroma also burns fat, especially belly fat.  Naturopathic physician Lindsey Duncan, N.D. went so far as to call it “great fat liberator”.
How to make it work for you?  Find the capsules at the drugstore or online, take 100 mg, 30 minutes before breakfast and again before lunch with a large glass of water.  Choose products labeled 100% pure raspberry ketone.
Interesting side note here:  Lindsey Duncan is the guest Dr. Oz interviews about the Green Coffee Bean Extract in which he states “I don’t usually don’t recommend weight loss supplements”.  Yet here he is quoted in a national magazine recommending yet another weight loss supplement.

Susan Smith Jones, Ph.D., author of Recipes for Health Bliss says it’s a “natural fat burner that raises your metabolic rate as much as 25%”.
How to make it work for you?  Stir a half-teaspoon of cayenne into a glass of water and chug before each meal.  Or take one cayenne capsule, three times daily, with water at meals.

This edible cactus from India has phytochemicals that help block enzymes that convert carbohydrates and sugar into fat.  “When these enzymes are blocked, the body can’t form fat, so it has to use it’s own reserves for energy.” says Duncan.
How to make it work for you?  Take one capsule 30 minutes before breakfast and again before lunch with a large glass of water.
Yep – there’s Duncan again promoting another supplements even though he “doesn't usually recommend weight loss supplements”.
This root is rich in a soluble fiber that swells to 17 times its size in the digestive tract, staving off hunger pangs, slowing food absorption and reducing insulin production after meals.
How to make it work for you?  Take two to four Konjac Root capsule with water 30 minutes before eating with a large glass of water.

I could go on and on but seriously – is it just me or do all the “How to make it work for you?’ instructions have something in common?  I’ll come back to that question.

I made it my business to look at some of these products on the shelf of my favorite drug store and if the outside packaging was not sealed with one of those annoying little circles of tape I even surreptitiously opened the box to peek inside.  Without fail, everyone I looked at included detailed instructions, warnings about getting a physicians approval before starting to take any supplements, a healthy eating guide and a moderate exercise recommendation.  Yes, even if they stated on the outside of the package that the consumer needed to make NO LIFESTYLE CHANGES they were still strongly recommending HEALTHY EATING AND MODERATE EXERCISE. 


Now back to the question I posed one paragraph ago.  Is there something that these products all have in common in their instructions?  I noticed most, if not all of them directed the capsules to be taken 20 to 30 minutes before one, two or all three meals with a LARGE GLASS OF WATER.


It seems to me that if you drink a LARGE GLASS OF WATER before each meal that is going to fill up your tummy.  This would more than likely cause you to eat less.  Plus, it has the added benefit of good hydration, better digestion and aids in absorption.  Add to that the strong suggestion of a HEALTHY EATING PLAN AND MODERATE EXERCISE and you may accidentally find that you are losing weight anyway! Save your money and drink your water.  You don’t even need a doctor’s approval to do that.  It’s just a thought.

So, bringing this too long rant to an end, my highly unscientific research conclusions …

Shame on you Dr. Oz!

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