Marketing based diets are sold en masse. They often come in the form of multi-level marketing (MLM) products, like Optavia, Medifast, Shaklee and Herbalife.
You’ve seen hundreds of these come and go.
Here’s the problem: These plans are not individualized to the customer and offer little more than short-term gains for most people.
There’s always going to be some success in a small pocket of individuals, which is always pushed across advertising. Those few successes are what you’re paying attention to as they tend to speak about their diet protocols with a religious fervor.
Who doesn’t want that kind of experience?
You’ll hear the same “It worked for me!” exuberance from those who have tried a fad diet and found success, like going keto, Whole30, 75 Hard, or simply going gluten-free. (Not sure what some of these are? You aren’t missing anything.)
Maybe you’ve heard the joke “How do you know if someone is vegan? They’ll tell you.”
That joke can be said of any diet protocol. If it works for someone, you’ll know. But just because it works for them, doesn’t mean it will work for you.
These people are inadvertently (or knowingly) doing the marketing for MLM companies and fad diets. And what happens with a fad? People and businesses quickly realize the gains they can make if they sell a product and label it “low carb” or “keto friendly.” These companies understand all of the buzzwords and marketing strategies to elicit an emotional response from you – their target audience.
They’re also keenly aware that these fads come and go, so when they get a winner, they know that time is of the essence. Push hard on marketing, get successes, push those to the top, and “make hay while the sun shines.”
What these companies understand is that people want to get sold.
If you Google “How to lose weight” you’re looking for a solution to try and make your problem(s) go away. This is how fad diets and MLMs spread.
Everyone wants to believe there’s a magic pill, supplement or regimen that’s going to be that “thing” that fixes them.
Here’s the deal though: If it’s not tailored to you, flexible and easily executable, you probably won’t see the results you’re hoping for.
Here’s are some common elements on MLM sites that should make you wary:
They charge significantly more than similar products on the market.
They cite an in-house study as proof. I don’t care if it’s “doctor-tested” or formulated by scientists, true studies will be double blind and randomized and available for publication by having others peer review the data.
They hand-pick testimonials and list them on their site. These will be business-positive messages that look true. Remember, these companies have complete control over their messaging and want to make you feel good about what you are reading. Non-ideal testimonials are still there for a reason, ie “I didn’t lose weight right away, but once I did lose, it really worked!” – these are there to soothe the doubter in you.
Guaranteed results. No diet that is not personally made for you, should be guaranteed. There’s no magic bullet. What they’re guaranteeing is that if you follow everything step-by-step, and still fail… they’ll give you your money back. They’re banking on many more people not bothering to get their money back, and they know most people will simply give up.
The MLM experience: recruit more people under you – to sell more products – to keep paying you for what they sell. Sellers beget sellers. It doesn’t mean the products are good or going to work. It also doesn’t mean they won’t work. However, you will feel compelled to use these products because of your investment and might even talk about it in a positive light.
Here are some common elements that make up a fad diet:
• You start hearing about it everywhere, including TV and magazines.
• The diet will require you to cut out whole food groups in their entirety, or near entirety (ie, keto eliminates nearly all carbs, Whole30 eliminates dairy, grains, legumes, added sugar, among other things).
• The diet will require you add specific things to your diet that necessitates a purchase, whether offered by the original proponent of the diet or not (ie, Bulletproof Diet requires MCT oil and “Bulletproof” low-mold coffee, as sold on their site ).
• They promise rapid results for everyone.
• They are hard to execute in real life. Cutting out whole food groups or having certain supplements available will not always be feasible. These diets assume you have all the time and money in the world to focus on them.
There is one exception to fad diets that I do believe has a place in good nutritional health: fasting.
This fad doesn’t require you buy anything or eliminate whole food groups, it’s merely about the timing of when and how often you eat. Again, I am not recommending it for everyone, but fasting is a valid/successful nutritional protocol for many people.
Hopefully this will help you wade through the noise to find where your personal nutritional and fitness balance lies and understand that it doesn’t have to be the hot new trend to work for you.