Sunday, October 18, 2009

Buyer Beware - LA Weight Loss & Herbal Magic

Have you ever wondered if popular weight loss programs are actually effective?
Have you questioned how healthy their methods are?
Have you doubted the claims that you can lose 10 pounds in a week?
Have you wondered how they’d melt away that spare tire?

My research group for a recent Buyer Beware project asked ourselves these exact same questions, about the legitimacy and potential health risks posed by weight loss programs. We wanted to see what programs like Herbal Magic and LA Weight Loss would offer us as potential clients, and then assess their selling methods and their program’s chance of taking off the weight for good versus a healthy style of living. Our proposal states it best. Amanda, Tammy, Melissa and myself conducted:

A comparison of the selling tactics at both Herbal Magic and LA Weight Loss centres to determine whether or not each business is operating legitimately. Also, to determine whether or not each company is up front with pricing, product, and program information. The overall goal is to prove to consumers that using a weight loss program such as Herbal Magic or LA Weight Loss is not the healthiest way to lose weight, and that each company is intentionally deceptive in order to make money.

Appointments were set up for us to go to a consultation at Herbal Magic in pairs, at LA Weight Loss as a “bridal party”. We wanted to see what they were really saying to women and men trying to lose weight and whether or not they were pressuring people into joining to fulfil their bottom line. We also created posters put up around the Red River College campus advertising our need for testimonials about either of the programs; we offered a short, confidential survey where former/current customers could tell us about their experiences.

All four of us participating in the consultations are definitely at healthy weights; therefore it would be wrong for the centers to put us on diets of any sort.
The results were not surprising, but disturbing nonetheless.

First we learned as much as we could about their supplements, their evaluation process, and what results they claim we could achieve.

My precursory belief that someone’s BMI is an indicator of how healthy they are was blown out of the water. More specifically, Body Mass Index is a number calculated from a persons’ height and weight used as a screening tool to determine whether an individual is underweight, average weight, overweight, or obese. I was fascinated by Melissa’s research on our own/classmates Body Mass Index; I have a BMI of 21, and the potentially "healthy" weight range is between 18.5 and 24.9.

The problem arose when we asked four healthy, physically fit looking male classmates to participate in a BMI calculation. All were considered “overweight”. Keep in mind that all four guys are muscular, and muscle adds to total body weight. Looking at their height and weight below, it’s easy to picture how the BMI can give you a quantitative sign of your health but how in reality the numbers don’t prove anything.

• Emmanuel at 5’1 and 130 lbs
• Steve at 5’7 and 177 lbs
• Mike at 5’10 and 175 lbs
• Neil at 6’ and 200 lbs

Regardless of what the media portrays in advertisements for weight loss companies and products, there is a limit to how much weight a person should lose in period of time. A Registered Nurse explained that, “1 to 1.5 pounds a week is the standard amount of weight a person should lose. Anything over that is not healthy for the body.”

During our consultation at LA Weight Loss, it was made very clear that on their 1200 calorie-a-day diet I could lose as much as 7 pounds on the first week.
The maintenance period for both programs ran close to a year, and it quickly became clear why. You lose the majority of your “goal weight” baggage rapidly because the food you would normally be eating is literally cut in half. The rest of the time is spent adjusting your metabolism.

According to a survey respondent, after losing their goal weight over 2 months they quickly gained it back when the money ran out and maintenance fees became too much to continue paying ( $900 for Herbal Magic, $700 for LA). They gave us a great insight into how both programs push customers’ “goal weight” over the top when an infamously hard to lose last 10 pounds refuses to go away. They were put on a “cleanse” (a diet made up of liquids like meal replacements) and the last few inches hanging on melted away.

Side effects of stopping rapid weight loss programs can include gallstone formation, gallbladder disease, dehydration, digestive problems, and lack of nutritional balance in body which must be gradually fixed.

When Tammy asked to see the supplements to check of a supplement at Herbal Magic to compare her list of allergies to the ingredients, the information was noticeably lacking. The problem was that neither Herbal Magic nor LA Weight Loss provided details upon consultation about their supplements. Herbal Magic provided a leaflet containing names of the products and descriptions, and listed some non-medicinal ingredients, but no medicinal ingredients.

LA Weight Loss would not even provide a leaflet, and needed an individual to sign up for the program before learning more. Both Herbal Magic and LA Weight Loss products have been renamed to fit with the overall glorification of the weight loss program, and include titles such as “Lean Extreme,” “Platinum 2000,” and “Gluco-Shield.”

Our visits to the centres opened my eyes the most to how persistent and obliging the consultants are, disregarding your overall health for the goal you want to achieve:

Herbal Magic: They measured my wrist and compared it to my height in a BMI-style calculation. I did not qualify to go on the entire program, as I was within my “healthy weight range”. I pressed that I needed to lose the weight (5 pounds) before Amanda’s “wedding” in December, and our consultant said I could go on their WM-4000 Ultra supplement which works just as fast. I was able to escalate the amount of weight she could lose from 5 lbs, to 7, to 10 without the consultant mentioning that would bring her below her healthy weight range.

I would still have to pay $700 for a year. Each time I would come in for a weigh-in (an advised three times a week) I would have to pay an undisclosed amount. When I inquired what would happen if my money ran out, I was told after some pressing that “the supplements would be out of my system in ten days”.

LA Weight Loss: Measured on a scale, I was told I could lose 10 pounds. All four of us were told we could lose 10 pounds. Despite our very different body shapes, we were all told we could lose 10 pounds and LA Weight Loss could help.

For a food journal of recipes, it would cost $200. The diet information restricts you to 1200 calories. It has a portion on how to feel better about yourself, as well as a restaurant guide. The entire program would be in the range of $750, not including supplements and protein bars.

The consultant spoke about the 52-week plan with a restricted diet that allows one portion of milk, two starches, two proteins, two fats, two fruits, and two vegetables (an augmented version of the Canadian Food Guide, which could never meet the recommended daily intake of the actual guide). There are certain vegetables that a person can have unlimited amounts of, such as celery.

Liquor was welcome, but we would have to tell our consultant so they could factor in how much extra carbohydrates and/or fruits to take out of our allotment.

The consultant told us she saves up her fruit credits through the week so she can have sangria.

At this point I started to get wary. I asked about my medical problems, including a mild heart problem and recurrent lung infections when my immune system is low.

Should I get my doctor’s approval before starting the program?

I was told it wasn’t necessary to contact my doctor.

She would cross-reference my medications with dietitians.

Not only is not consulting a client’s doctor dangerous, it’s irresponsible and makes the company liable. It made me feel unsafe and as if LA Weight Loss was going to make me succeed at any cost.

Children as young as 12 can start the program, with parent’s permission. The body’s metabolism can take up to the age of 18 to regulate, therefore it was our opinion that no child under the age of 18 should be allowed on any such program.

The conclusions I drew from our experience can be summed up in points I believe all potential customers should think about before beginning a program that will drastically change the way your body metabolizes food:
• Both programs lock you into a $700+ commitment.
• LA Weightloss = $200 down payment
• Must be on the program for a year maximum.
• Uses coercion to sell products and programs.
• Unethical by playing on people’s insecurities.
• Dangerous to overall health by not considering pre-existing medical condtions (LA Weight Loss)
• Overall health compromised by the goal to get the customer down to their desired weight
• Results not long lasting

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Some People Call Us Crazy/Singing Out Loud Like We Do Here On The Street

In the crush of the ever-rolling ball of work piling up for Red River College students, as we reach the beginning of the trench that consists of midterms and larger end of term assignments, I figured it would do some good to blow off steam on a music post.

I'm not musical by nature. When it came time in junior high to audition for instruments, I was the kid who was unable to play anything. I played triangle. I played it well.

There are no "bad" musical genres to me; I prefer certain sounds over others. I find this a handy approach when picking what I "like" over what I do not. For example, I enjoy dancing to techno because I'm a fan of having a driving beat in a song but when I dance for the sake of dancing I'm not a fan of having any lyrics behind it.

I was born and bred by a blueswoman, so I have to give credit where credit is due. From the time I could walk, I would dance with my mother around our house to whatever John Lee Hooker album was playing. She was one of the founding members of the Manitoba Blues Society, so I have some large boots to fill if I want to even talk about a driving love for music. She gave me the love of Colin James, Billie Holiday, Sam & Dave, John Hammond and so many more artists integral to the blues and soul scene of a hundred year span. This is a forewarning of the little inklings of blues that work their way into all of the artists I enjoy today.

I take lyrics and metaphors in songs very seriously. My favourite singers are singer-songwriters who's writing is either steeped in hidden intentions through cleverly phrased words, or clearly worked in.

The most important element highlighted in the artists I'm hoping to introduce to readers (or reintroduce to your surprise and delight) is voice. The style of singers tend to I fall in love with regularly ranges from folky dirges to bluesy lamentations. If their voice seems to soothe over the lyrics like it hasn't taken enough out of them personally to come to fruition, I don't form a connection with it on a deep enough level. I trip into songs where the lover is never able to fully bring about their idea of love, and the subject of the song is always an outcast somehow. I like the struggle; the struggle of the words out, the struggle of the characters in the song, the struggle of the idea to come through. Often I find, after research, that the songs I'm attracted to come from people who have come from unturned stones.

Paolo Nutini: He made his first demo, getting him signed to Atlantic Records in May 2005, shortly after his 18th birthday. He dropped out of school at the age of 16 to become a roadie, born the same year as myself in 1987. He sounds like a old man out on the moors. What's fascinating about him to me is how unlikely it is to hear such a classically Scottish voice getting radio play in North America. His beautifully pale features are accented by his father's Italian descent, ad his style is notably hard to nail down at this early stage in his career. The more contemporary Last Request and his Sunny Side Up album's No Other Way suffer a huge dichotomy, not to the detriment of his very individual voice however. His raspy voice makes the waver in his chords even more fantastic. His style was unlike anything I had heard outside of Celtic music. I remembered it over the course of a few years until I was able to search him out. A sign of a noteworthy artist is memorability based upon a specific instance in which you're struck by them.

Paolo Nutini doing incredible cover of Trouble So Hard.

Ray Lamontagne: My favourite singer. His style comes off as so earnest, his voice constantly on the brink of an emotional breakthrough but always contained to the point of frustration. His guitar playing is the rock through all of his songs, the majority of his tracks on all three albums he has produced solo efforts. He performed on Saturday Night Live on March 7 of this year; despite being in front of a television audience of millions he looked no less sedate and heavy-lidded than he does in the video above. Gorgeous. He's so soft spoken and his lyrics seemingly come from a place where he's reckless.

According to his biographical information left here and there, he spent his childhood reading fantasy novels in the woods and ditching high school as a disinterested party to the process. He worked a job at a shoe factory in Lewiston, Maine, where he worked 65 hours a week until abandoning it all to become a singer. I have no real desire to know anything about him. He's uncomfortable talking about himself, and the fact that he loves to write songs is what I'm interested in.

I frequently step into these type of tall tale-sounding stories, as truthful as they may be. I like to hear those sorts of stories retold in song, so I suppose those types of lyrics can only come from a life interestingly/hard lived.

The breathiness lends itself so well to a rugged frontier blues style heard in one of my favourite songs, Crying Shame (Henry Nearly Killed Me).

Martin Sexton: Martin Sexton is the king of hard lived. All of his songs hit very close to home for me. I've been listening to him since I was 8 years old, and his album Black Sheep has been with me through many different stages of my life and changes in taste, but never has his soul-sound gotten away from me. His album Black Sheep will be around when I get my first apartment and will be in my house, I guarantee.

He's humble. It's a quality which comes across only if it's earnest. His music comes from the road. He has a huge musical soul to house all of his rambling life experiences. He sang classic rock and roll in his migrated home of Boston, where he lived on the streets and sold 20,000 copies of his album In The Journey out of the trunk of his car. He recorded it on an old 8-track in a friend's attic. His popular song Candy was about a prostitute he knew from frequented corners where he'd sing.

I saw Martin Sexton for the first time this year, my mother for her third. I chose a classic Martin Sexton-style live performance to demonstrate what I love about him because when I sang with him at the beginning of Black Sheep I teared up.

Martin's the best live performer I've ever seen and hope to see. It's tragic when "mainstream" musicians don't perform to their album standards, but Martin's so filled with different influences and powerful harmonies that hearing your favourite song is welcomely different every time you hear it. His solo performances are stronger than hearing an entire band at times and if you're a fan of his music it's phenomenal to hear him riff live.

When looking for new and interesting musical experiences, my own have taught me to look toward the raw and unpolished, the old and the new. I'm always pleasantly surprised with what I find.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I Can Do Zat

"I can do zat!"
Pavel Andreievich Chekov saved my blog.

I am under the impression that I have fixed my Blog.

I was having a major problem where the comment code couldn't be reached, but I changed the dimensions and according to the lovely people who sent me advice I'm pretty sure I've fixed the issue.

Link: There, I Fixed It