Public service announcement time: Any company that claims that the key to weight loss requires you to give up eating actual meals in favor of whatever product the company is trying to push on you is lying to you. Straight up. Liars. Each and every one. There is nothing more infuriating to me than watching some commercial pushing the latest “use this instead of eating real food” product on unsuspecting people. The “secret” to losing weight is not a shake mix, it’s not a pre-packaged batch of chemicals some company tries to pass off as a meal, it’s not a pill or a bar or a cookie. The only “secret” is to eat real food, in as close to its natural form as possible, with an emphasis on fruits and veggies. That’s it. That’s all.
So what sparked this fresh burst of outrage? I was watching television yesterday, and ended up seeing, on repeat, a commercial for a product promising “easy weight loss.” I won’t name the product, because its makers should be ashamed of themselves and I am sure as shit not giving them free publicity here, but it was a shake-based product and one of its major selling points was that it was only $10 for a two-week supply of the product. Let me repeat that. Ten dollars. For a two-week supply. As I watched the commercial for the fourth or fifth time, I found myself wondering just what in hell this crap was made of, to be sold for so little. Curious, I Googled the product. And buried deep within their website, I finally found the ingredient list. Want to guess what it was made of?
Sugar. Seriously. Three of the first five ingredients were three different types of sugar (and the fourth was canola oil). And their “program” has the customer drinking this crap twice a day instead of eating real food. And the most frustrating, saddest, most infuriating part of all of this is that SO. MANY. PEOPLE. are going to call that stupid phone number and order this ridiculous product because, here in the U.S., we’re not taught any better.* I know I wasn’t – I tried every weight loss product ever to have an infomercial before I gave up and resigned myself to being fat. I truly believed fat was my fate, because I’d tried all these products and “failed” at all these programs. What I didn’t realize at the time (and what I’ve since learned, thanks to discovering plant-based vegan eating) is that I wasn’t failing at all of these stupid products and programs – the products and programs were failing me, because none of these weight-loss schemes provide the nutrition our bodies need to be healthy and well.
No one talks about nutrition. Nutrition isn’t taught in most of our public schools, it’s not talked about on television or in any other public forum where large numbers of everyday people who aren’t intentionally seeking out information will encounter it. Although the public conversation around what we eat and how often we move has improved slightly in the past few years, the conversation still defaults to panic and scare tactics around “the obesity crisis,” instead of having a deeper conversation about what to eat and why to eat it and how to prepare it. We don’t know how to read labels (or if we do, we don’t know why we should care), and we don’t know where our food comes from or how it’s produced (or why we should care about that stuff, either).
People, if a commercially-prepared weight loss product costs $10 for a two-week supply, it’s not real food. Might someone using these shakes temporarily lose weight? Maybe, sure. Especially if the relatively low-calorie shakes are replacing fast food or other, higher-calorie pseudo-foods in someone’s diet. But – here’s the key – that weight loss? It’s not sustainable. It’s not sustainable because no one is going to stay on a product like this for an entire lifetime. It’s not sustainable because even if a person had the willpower to stay on something like this for a lifetime, the product has no nutritional value. Nutrition = health. Nutrition = life. Without proper nutrition, we cannot be healthy and well in any way that matters. Readers, to borrow the immortal words of Nancy Reagan, when it comes to diet products, “just say no.”
*Obviously I’m talking about the majority experience here, individual experiences probably vary.