Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The tempting world of diet shakes...

Me looking muddy, healthy and happy! (and clearly never was and never will be a size 8)
You know the dream, mum working from home, makes great income while still being there for the school run?  So, one way that "mum entrepreneurs" are earning much-needed cash these days is by acting as direct sellers for diet companies. Herbalife, The Cambridge Diet, or LighterLife might sound familiar? You sign up for a monthly direct debit and they promise to send you a bag of shake mix and a box of "nutritious cookies". The mums who sell the stuff look great and, I mean, who doesn't want to look half their age and fit into a size 8?

So where's the catch? Well I guess I was momentarily tempted because I assumed that once that ideal target weight is reached you would stop the direct debit and start eating like a normal person. But oh no...how would they make money out of you then? No, no...now you need to maintain that rather improbable weight (should you ever reach it and you didn't just plateau after half a stone like most people do). The shakes, the cookies, the bars, it all carries on. Ad infinitum. Because if you do resume your old eating habits, of course, the weight will just pile back on again. And yes, that includes the women who sell the products.

I am just deeply uncomfortable about this whole thing. Women peddling stuff like this to each other as though slimness is the key to happiness. Business is booming for these companies but both their long-term weight loss claims and business practices are controversial, locking both sellers and buyers into a programme which puts their health and finances at risk. Mums who want to work from home are easy targets to lure into moneymaking schemes. Mums with young children are vulnerable to diets promising quick fixes, women often with low esteem at times of huge physical and emotional upheaval.

At the end of the day, no matter how tired or insecure we're feeling, we all know deep down that eating better and exercising more is what we really need to do to be healthy and positive about ourselves. But who has time for that when there are kids to chase after and leftovers to snack on? It's easy to throw money after a dream of youth and perfection, as though your life will suddenly become more glamorous if you weigh less. 

It's a tricky thing, body image. On the one hand, I just want all parents to totally embrace projects like the Beautiful Body Project and The Body Image Movement. Let's accept who we are. Yes we did weigh less before we had kids but the fact is, we did have kids. Our bodies have been through a lot. Why torment them in trying to look like we're 21 again when, frankly, we're not. Even if you do get your magic pre-baby weight back in time for that wedding or beach holiday, you will still have the stretch marks, the bags under your eyes and the frown lines like everyone else.Why not accept your mummy body with pride in everything it is capable of?

On the other hand, I think there's nothing wrong with trying to get to your, let's call it, "fit weight". You know, you exercise a couple of times a week, you can fit into your jeans without having to hold your breath, you have crisps, biscuits and ice cream sometimes but not all the time. Anything which involves cutting out food groups or entire meals fills me with suspicion.  Personally I like a bit of "low gi" eating - I don't trust anyone that says hunger good, porridge bad!

But let's not get fixated. Let's be happy with who we are. Let our kids see us cooking, eating and exercising. And save the direct debit money for something really fun. Because that is the really healthy, sustainable way to be...and you never know, you might end up feeling happier too.


  1. I have a friend who has gone into selling Isagenix which is a pyramid scheme protein shake business. She has essentially been brain washed into a cult. She behaves so differently and is quite unethical in the tactics she uses to try and sell the products. I actually see it as a real social problem.

  2. Yes I know a few mums who do it now. Not sure what the solution is, I'm hoping more companies will be exposed for dodgy tactics but more and more seem to be popping up. There is a campaign on facebook now so there is definitely increasing awareness at least