This product is an absurdity

Hotshot starry tv trainers who can make people lose 800 pounds in a week turn out to be peddling quack “weight-loss pills” that are both useless and harmful. How sleazy.

Both trainers have created standalone sites — and — to sell their supplements. By taking this under-the-radar path with their diet pills, the trainers are using the fame and trust they’ve gained from their time on the Biggest Loser to market weight loss supplements to a consumer base eager for a quick fix that “really works.”

There is little proof that either pill “really works” at all. Michaels has faced four different lawsuits from consumers claiming her supplements either didn’t work or were dangerous. All four suits were dismissed, and it wasn’t clear whether the ingredients singled out in one lawsuit — Chinese rhubarb, Irish moss powder and uva-ursi — posed a major risk to consumers. But Lynn Willis, professor emeritus of pharmacology at Indiana University, says that Michaels’ Total Body Detox and Cleanse supplement is ineffective:

“This product is an absurdity,” says Willis. “It’s completely bogus that this would detoxify the gut. Someone takes a laxative and they lose two pounds of water weight, but it will come right back.”

Ah the old “detox” nonsense – the stuff you can get in Prince Charles’s overpriced boutique Duchy of Cornwall shoppppes. Also in Boots, also in the chain drugstore near where I live.

Adriane Fugh-Berman, associate professor at Georgetown University, agrees:

“Supplements like this are laxatives and diuretics, and they don’t have any place in a rational weight loss regimen because they can dehydrate people and leave them short of electrolytes,” [she] says. “And supplements have side effects.”

That doesn’t stop Michaels and Harper from continuing to claim their supplements are different from all the rest. Harper’s site boasts claims of two double-blind, placebo-controlled studies that confirm the effectiveness of his active ingredients, but one of the studies was funded by the makers of Harper’s pill, neither is named or linked to, and only one can be found online. According to an indepedent supplement review website there are several flaws in the study: the caloric intake of the participants was not monitored or restricted, which means there is no way to tell how many calories each participant in the study consumed on a daily basis; the study wasn’t performed on Bob Harper’s supplement, but on a different product; and four out of the five co-authors have ties to the company that makes the diet pill. Despite this, Harper claims on his page that he’s “tired of good people like you getting ripped off by scam diet programs and products that just don’t work,” and that his really does.

Blegh. Really sleazy. That old advertising bluff – all these other quacks cheat you and I’m tired of it, so here’s my totally authentic shit that I wouldn’t dream of selling you if it weren’t 100% totally 100%.

The Duke and the Dauphin are at it again.


  1. NitricAcid says

    I lost 800 pounds in a weekend a few years ago. I was in London, and I had a few drinks before going to the casino. Big mistake.

  2. Acolyte of Sagan says

    I get so angry at the whole weightloss industry; it’s all one big scam, and all the industry does is play on people’s greed.
    “Yes, you really can carry on stuffing shit down your throat AND lose weight, and no excercise required, so get in that bucket (who the fuck eats food out of buckets?) of fried chicken, your six-pack of beer, three litres of cola and a ton of chocolate: sit your lardy arse in front of the TV, pop our pills and watch the weight drain away”.
    If you want to lose weight, it’s no big secret how. Eat less. Eat better. Move more.

  3. says

    How sleazy, and how utterly predictable. The “supplement” industry bought off Congress and President Clinton to deregulate the industry, and people have died as a result. It needs to be reined back in but, sadly, everyone is making far too much money to worry about the people who are being permanently harmed as a result.

  4. says

    @Acolyte of Sagan # 2 – There are three secrets for guaranteed weight loss. I normally charge $69.99 for the course, but I’ll tell you for only four payments $19.99. And if you act now, I’ll throw in this magnetized rubber band, absolutely free!

    Oh, what the heck. The secrets are:

    1. Get more sleep.
    2. Get more exercise.
    3. Eat smaller quantities of a larger variety of healthier foods.

    Everything else is just detail.

  5. says

    Gregory in Seattle @4: At some extreme point, secrets #1 and #2 conflict. Either your sleep time will cut into your exercise time, or vice versa.

    Two weeks ago, I hit my goal weight, having lost 105 pounds in 15 months. It was entirely #2 and #3 for me. Since both sleeping and exercising take away time from important things like commenting on other peoples’ blogs, I couldn’t get more sleep while also carving out time to exercise.

    Oh, Acolyte of Sagan @2: The occasional big bucket of movie-theater popcorn will do no one lasting harm, generally. Popcorn in a bucket is excellent. (Emphasis on “occasional.” Meaning “rare.”)

  6. says

    I have a friend who’s a professional body builder who competes nationally. She has (so far) turned down lucrative diet pill gigs. The way they work: they find someone who knows how to get in and out of competitive shape, photograph them, then pay them to carb out for 5 months and put on 20-30#, photograph them again, and pay them. Then it’s up to the body builder to drop the weight again if they want to. The “actual unretouched photos” in the ads? They forget to tell you which one was shot first.

  7. says

    DaveW @7 – Yeah, there’s a lot you can do with lighting and posture. But if you really want to illustrate a ‘cut’ physique you can’t do that without switching from flat to angled lighting and it’s going to be pretty obvious.

    I do think that the ads my friend is being recruited for are not for the home diet supplements as much as they’re for the “will make you look shredded like a pumped-up muscle blossom…” all natural steroid growth enhancer bulk up your muscles market.

  8. sailor1031 says

    “…but one of the studies was funded by the makers of Harper’s pill”

    This is how the pharmaceutical industry operates too. You and I might think there was something amiss here – possible conflicts of interest and all that. Fortunately for the health of all of us, the FDA is more clear-sighted than we. The common practice is for Pharma companies to do their own studies which are then merely rubber-stamped by the FDA. Not surprisingly a number of new, and very expensive drugs which have been approved in this way are proving, mirabile dictu, to be largely ineffective at best and downright dangerous at worst. Oh and FDA doesn’t require a drug to demonstrate anything more than that it is more effective than placebo. It isn’t just the supplement hucksters that are huckstering.

  9. says

    so get in that bucket (who the fuck eats food out of buckets?) of fried chicken

    In fairness, you take the chicken out of the bucket, put it on a plate, and then eat it.

    Picking on packaging is pretty silly. Most people eat things that came from boxes, bags, styrofoam trays wrapped in plastic, etc. on a regular basis. It doesn’t really say anything about the value or content of the food. Focusing on the packaging seems like snobbery.

  10. jamessweet says

    Irish moss is used by homebrewers to clarify their beers. Supposedly it helps the sediment condense out of solution when you add it near the end of the boil. There is some controversy over whether it actually has a real effect or not, but it’s cheap as hell so a lot of people use it anyway.

    Apropos of nothing. I just saw “Irish moss powder”, and I was like, “Hey!” 😀

  11. rnilsson says

    I think you mispelled Douchy of Cornwall shoppppes:

    Prince Charles’s overpriced boutique Duchy of Cornwall shoppppes

    Those sell real effective weight loss products, don’t they?

  12. says

    I have a twisted love-hate relationship with Jillian Michaels.

    Like, I hate The Biggest Loser, with a deep and enduring passion. It’s yet another Humiliate Fat People show, with added Dangerous Medical Advice to go along with the buckets of shame. I think it should be off the air, and the fact that they advertise it as a show to watch with your kids–that they want kids on the show to participate!–seems to be sliding up to child abuse.

    I also hate the fact that she sells those stupid supplemements. I saw them in the store, while I was buying weight loss pills for myself (not for the “weight loss”, for the pep, I was exhausted and I developed an addiction to OTC weight loss pills, not a good thing). When I saw them in the store, I was, like, really Jillian? Seriously?

    But I like her books. One in particular really helped me. Suprisingly, while they do have some psudo-science fluff, a lot of it is basic comon sense and lifestyle change, and it helped me out. Didn’t lose a ton of weight (however, I don’t have a lot that I can lose), but I felt healthier. The advice was sound, not dangerous or extreme, helpful.

    And I love love love her workout videos. Not the biggest loser crap. But the ones she does independently. I’ve gained a lot of strength after being sick and in bed for so long, I can work at my own level and build up, and she’s fun to listen to, encouraging without being obnoxious. Very hard to find all of that in a workout DVD.

    So. Love/hate. I don’t want to support her at all, because I think that what she does on The Biggest Loser is awful and the supplements she’s stuck her name and face on are worthless at best and at worst dangerous. But I still grabbed the book when it was 2.00 at a thrift store, and rent her videos from the library or Amazon sometimes. I…am a hypocrite.

  13. says

    @ 2, 4 re: weight loss

    Unfortunately, it’s a lot more than eat less/exercise more. A lot more. And saything that it’s that simple tends to translate as seeing fat people as either lazy or stupid (or both). Having been over 300lbs for most of my life, I can say that’s absolutely not true.

    Many people have medical conditions, might not even know it. I have a condition (PCOS) that makes my body believe it’s always pregnant (one reason I rarely get periods) and stores everything I eat, mostly around my waist/thighs. (You can usually tell a person with PCOS: if she’s young, has excess facial hair and/or skin tags, and a lot of accumualated belly fat, that’s a good sign.) I’ve been on a diet since I was ten. Nothing worked. Before I had weight loss surgery, I had to keep a food diary (to prove I could follow a diet). I was taking in an average of 1000 calories a day–no meat and dairy, I’d been a vegan for years, a vegetarian for most of my life–and still wasn’t losing weight. And that’s just one of many conditioins that do similar things.

    Which is the other problem. People who diet regularly, especially from a young age, often take in very few calories, but they have fucked their metabolism so bad from years and years of dieting. There are studies that prove this. It’s a lot more than just volume. Fat people often eat a lot less than their skinny counterparts, but slow metabolisms keep them from losing weight, usually a result from dieting.

    So movement? That’s important. Very important. But what can you do when you’re 340 lbs and walking a block is enough to knock you out for the rest of the day? You can start slow and build up, but there will always be a limit, where size keeps you from being able to use the machines, or do exercises that will damage your joints. It is very, very hard to be able to do the level of exercise you need at that size.

    I was a “healthy” fat girl. No choloesterol problems (again, vegan), no diabetes, good blood pressure/pulse, lung capacity, worked out at least three times a day (yay, Curves). So I had weight loss surgery on advice from my doctors. Now I am permenently disabled, can’t work, all my levels are a fucking mess, 15 surgeries in two years, and I’ve spent more time in hospitals than I have at home. (My intestines ruptured, one of the risks they don’t tell you about.) I would have been a lot better off not having the surgery. They can’t say for sure, but it’s a good bet I would have lived a longer, easier life if I’d stayed fat.

    The other thing that complicates the eat less/exercise more issue is money. It is very very hard to lose weight if you are poor. For a couple reasons: a) you don’t have the time or money to join a gym if you’re working two jobs and barely making ends meet. And even if you work 16 hours a day, they *type* of work–even if it’s physical, like running around after kids–isn’t going to help you lose weight, it doesn’t count. But you’re still in pain and physically exhausted after a long day, in no shape to hit the gym, even if you *did* have the money. b) you can eat less food, but you can’t get healthy food, which is more important. Speaking as someone who lives off of food stamps and has most of her life: your ability to get fruits and veggies is limited. Very limited. Mostly, you eat processed foods. Even eating a small amount of processed crap will still make you fatter than eating a much larger quantity of healthy, fresh fruits and veggies. And, again, severly limiting your food intake *will* fuck up your metabolism.

    I’m not saying you’re totally wrong: in general, sleep, eat less, exercise, those are good tips. But they aren’t magic bullets. They don’t always work. And most fat people are trying. Believe me, fat people know all the diets, all the advice. Every time they see a doctor for a cold or a rash, they get the weight loss lecture. Well meaning friends tell them about the miricle diet that their uncle lost 200 lbs on. And they generally want to lose weight, too, so they’re always searching as well! Probably the biggest reason they’re so vulnerable to these crazy pills and unscientific diets is that they have tried the “eat less/exericise more” plan. They know it doesn’t work. But it can’t be the diet plan that’s defective–the doctor is the one telling you about it, it’s in the bestselling books and infomercials! No, you must be the defective one. And that is a shitty feeling.

    Because eventually, you will start to believe the image everyone has of you. You are fat. You are lazy. You are stupid. You are worthless.

    Easy prey.

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