Smoke and Mirrors

In my previous career I spent a number of years learning Public Relations and Public Affairs.  My diverse formal training in the area included public speaking (which I was told I’m a natural),messaging,advertising and interestingly enough, Psychological Operations. I decided to apply my education to a topic that trainers continually face, the day when a client brings you a bottle of something and asks your opinion if its any good.

One thing I learned early in advertising was perhaps one of the most important lesson.  What drives the process?  Fear, and Hope. If you can identify what people are afraid of or hope for then you have found a way to sell them something.

In Psychological Operations, we learned to convey only part of the information (the part that drives fear or hope) to influence behavior, reasoning and emotions.

People fear what they cannot control and don’t understand. In terms of health, fitness and aging people are often looking for the path of least resistance. The diet supplement industry rakes in billions annually largely based on peoples fears and hopes.

Are all supplements bad? No. Do all supplements have a substantial amount of clinical research backing their efficacy? No. For lack of better words some rely purely anecdotal evidence (which being honest I’m not one to totally dismiss) and some studies are poorly designed.

In the case of the MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) diet supplements, a high percentage of the glowing testimonials are from current or previous distributors,therefore there is a financial and emotional bias attached.  The OTC (over the counter) supplements are not off the hook as the glowing testimonials are at best individual to the person. Anecdotally I have taken some well-regarded supplements and seemed to gain no benefit, while some other brands produced noticeable improvements.

I spent less than five minutes reviewing a popular MLM website. Although arguably not explicitly stated, the products they offer work best as a cocktail and are completely life changing. COPIED FROM THE WEBSITE (Bold Text and Underlines are mine)

“The PRODUCT NAME REMOVED Experience is an 8-week premium lifestyle plan to help individuals experience and reach peak physical & mental levels. You’re going to live, look, and feel Ultra Premium like never before! Results from the PRODUCT NAME REMOVED Experience are high impact, and can differ slightly from person to person, depending on your 8-week goal, and which areas of your lifestyle need the most help. Whether your goal is to lose weight, get in the best shape of your life, or simply be the best you can be, we know the 8-Week PRODUCT NAME REMOVED Experience will get you PRODUCT NAME VARIATION REMOVED in all areas of your life! Individuals on the Experience will enjoy premium support and benefits in the areas of:

“> Weight Management+ > Cognitive Performance+
> Digestive & Immune Support+ > Healthy Joint Function+
> Lean Muscle Support+ > Calms General Discomfort+
> Age-Defying & Antioxidant Support+
PRODUCT NAME REMOVED is something that’s hard to explain, and challenging to describe… it’s something that can only be experienced.”

All that in some pills,a transdermal patch and a shake?  It seems to address the most common health fears and hopes. If you’re overweight, or think you are, believe you’re having memory problems, have or think you have gut issues, have or think you have joint issues, are getting older (aren’t well all?), don’t “feel right” and want to hold on to your looks  then this product can help you with all of that?

So many questions here. What does the fine print have to say?

“These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to cure or prevent any disease. Keep of out reach of children. Not suitable for individuals under 18 years of age. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding consult a doctor before using this product. If you are taking any medication, or have any type of medical issue, consult with a doctor before using this product.”

Considering what the product is advertising, it seems it would replace Registered Dietician, a Fitness professional (possibly one with specialization), a Psychologist, a Gastroenterologist, a Gerontologist and a Medical professional.  Why isn’t this product prescribed?  Why can I not think of single thought leader in the fields of health, fitness and performance putting their name behind this product?

Five repetitions of the product name in fifteen lines of text. Lots of reminders that this is a  short-term program, which also happens to be about the same amount of time your body adapts to training stress. No kidding here, total beginners typical see great improvements in the first 6-8 weeks of diet and exercise programs provided they adhere to the program.

Will the product work? Will I see some benefit to taking it?  If you stick with it then you could possibly see some positive changes, but will it last past 8 weeks?  Will it create any sustainable healthy habits rather than reliance on a specific product each month?



2 thoughts on “Smoke and Mirrors

  1. James Westphal

    Great thoughts I believe we all have fears I myself fight the fear of failure at times but how we handle those fears is how we each suceed and fail. I believe many of these supplements as you stated feeds on those fears. Recently a proties supplement company locally was shit down on three different occasions for selling protien powder that was nothing more than cake batter..


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