Friday, January 30, 2009

Notes on things shaped like pyramids.

So I’m sitting in weekly meeting #2 of The Challenge. The speaker at the front of the room is conducting a question-and-answer session. The current topic is, as always, one of the sponsors who is mentioned in nearly every email and handout.

You don’t have to use them, the speaker assures the crowd. But they’re so much easier that going it alone! Gawd forbid you sit down with charts and all that complicated stuff, when you can just measure scoops of powder and get all you need from “whole food” powder shakes.

There is a display of the products set up, and little anecdotes: You know, Kyle and I are just so busy when we get home, too busy to cook – so I just mix up a little shake, and voila! Dinner is served. All I have to ask is: Peanut Butter, or Chocolate?”

They talk a lot about toxins built up in our bodies that simply must be cleansed.

They talk about this a lot, even though there is nothing to support it in the medical literature. If you cleanse out the toxins, they say, you'll feel so much better. You'll lose weight. It. Will. Change. Your. Life.

I look around the crowd, earnest, hopeful faces. I hope future happiness isn't hinging on “whole food” powders, as they write checks to a promise to change their lives.

So why am I doing this? Well, the structure, and the proceeds go to charity. It's a contest, also, where your before-and-after pictures and essay are judged, so I joined for fun and, well, "the challenge." I have gotten some very good information about diet and exercise from the book they gave me and the handouts that is separate from the constant push to sell the product.

My stuff is from Kroger or Costco, including the 6-8 glasses of Crystal Light I drink despite dire warnings that Splenda is just one atom away from pool treatment and will just make me so toxic that nobody, not even me, will be able to stand me and Baboo may immediately divorce me. Or something.

I look around at the couples who are talking. They are clearly interested in the pitch. Some are disappointed when they find out the prices - Introductory programs are $200, $300, and up. I can't afford it, their faces say. That hopeless look makes them an easy target for a good pitch man to move in for the kill:

We give you the opportunity to earn money immediately every time you personally enroll an Associate with us. We offer you a one-time Product Introduction Bonus of $10-$80 for each new Associate you personally enroll, when they order an optional Product Introduction Pak at time of sign-up (within 60 days for a President's Pak).

Cheap, simple changes are easier to maintain. My weekly resistance-training plan and eating tracking is on SparkPeople, using my body weight or resistance bands. Since I can't run right now; I'm power-walking several days a week during lunch, with a longer hike on weekends. I've divided up my eating into 6 small meals a day and increased my protein intake and eat the bulk of my calories in the first half of the day. When I gain weight, it's because I ate too much and moved too little. Simple.

I notice a pretty, but very large woman sitting alone. She looks in her checkbook and then back up to the stage, considering. She's going to do it, I think. She's going to spend a couple hundred or more on this stuff.
Oh, do I know that naive, desperate feeling.

They couldn't say it if it weren't true, could they, she might be thinking, it must work...I want so badly to be thinner. I know I would be happier if I were thinner...

She looks hopeful. I’m hopeful for her. I hopeful that she eventually figures out that to feel better about herself, she doesn’t need all those white plastic canisters up on stage.
Canisters that are, ironically, stacked in a pyramid.



  1. That's the sad side of the diet industry. It can prey on the desperate ones looking for the easy fix.

    You're providing a thoughtful viewpoint that makes an interesting read.

  2. You should start your own seminar series! The Hard Way, by Misty Pilgrim - featuring lots of exercise and less food than you are accustomed to eating, you overweight loafer.

  3. I wish I could have some time alone with that woman...and just meet her for walks about three times a week.

    Wah...I hate this.

  4. Isn't this something?

    My health club, while full of wonderful attributes, is under management where the goal is to sell, sell, sell.

    Services, gadgets, food, suppliments, trainers, programs, etc.

    They almost make you feel bad if you are just going to the gym to work out.

  5. I believe the diet industry (as it is known) rakes in something like 8 billion dollars a year. Billion. You only need afraction of a percent of that action to be rich. Being correct is clearly secondary.

    I hate MLM (multi-level marketing) almost as much as I hate bogus crap about toxins. You are providing a great public service to continue bringing this up all the while linking to the truth. Go Misty!

  6. Misty:

    That was profoundly upsetting. I am, for once, at a loss for words.

  7. I guess I'm part of the diet industry, in a round about way (I am a personal trainer and weight loss coach) but stuff like this just makes me mad. It is SO ingrained in our psyche, too!

    When I tell clients things like "If you always do pizza night on Friday, keep doing pizza night on Friday, let's just talk about how to fit it in"


    "The only supplement I ever 'push' is calcium for women if I don't see you taking in enough dairy. I want you to get your vitamins from your food"

    or GASP

    "If you like diet soda, drink diet soda! If at some point you want to ween off it, we can do it then. Let's focus on small sustainable changes."

    It boggles their minds! What? Eat less, but eat things I enjoy? Move more, but do something I enjoy? How can THAT possibly work?

    Sadly for some, it doesn't. They want it NOW, not tomorrow and they don't look beyond that to see that the best way to maintain weight loss and fitness is to lose in a healthy sustainable manner, and find activities you enjoy and want to keep doing.

    I used to do a unit on Quackery in my Health class (when I taught high school health) and it was one that kids REALLY got into (sex ed. was definitely first, but I think this was second). I always felt good about making them a little more consumer aware. I would have loved that PDF file. I'll bookmark it and share it with clients.

    You are doing exactly the right thing! You're, undoubtedly, very very fit. Balance, patience, sustainable'll happen. That's how I lost weight. No magic powders. Just tools that helped me manage my intake, and exercise.


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...and I, I have a goal.

Dear Diary, For the first time in 7 years I have a goal. It takes a lot to get me motivated.  I am the demotivation queen.  The princess...