MOST NIGHTS before bed, my old roommate Ann would brew a cup of tea and we would sit on the porch, chatting. I would shake my head at her mug and drink ice water. This was in Thailand, where I could barely stand a warm shower. But one evening, it got chilly, and I asked her to make me a cup, too.
“Really?” She grinned, pulling the biggest mug off the shelf. “That’s a great idea.”
We sipped our tea together, watching the neighbour’s kids playing in their driveway. The tea was gross, if I’m honest–a Thai herbal brew that tasted of celery salt. But she sipped hers happily, and so I tried to do the same.
That night, I got up hourly for punitive trips to the bathroom. It felt like my intestines were armed with knives and were trying to cut themselves free from my body. Pain and toilet and more pain.
Ann found me the next morning, pale and whimpering on the couch. “I might be allergic to something in your Thai tea.”
She was calm, “oh, I did give you a lot, for your first time. It’s a diet tea.” She looked at my stomach. It was, admittedly, flatter. “Didn’t you know?”
Thanks roomie, for the huge dose of laxatives.
She might have enjoyed these products, too.
From East Asia, diet soap
The Claim: Aoqili‘s popular fat burning soap contains elements of rare and powerful (unnamed) aquatic plants, which enter your skin through osmosis to remove excess fat and body fluid. The company claims that study participants lost 20% of their body weight through bathing alone.
Really? Its main natural ingredients are seaweed powder and aloe, so I’m sure the stuff is perfectly effective, you know, for washing. You can’t wash away fat with soap and more than you can wash bad memories out of your brain with shampoo.
From Japan, weight loss sunglasses
The claim: If you wear blue-tinted sunglasses, all your food will look dull and gross. According to the product’s website, blue is the least appetizing colour on the spectrum, so your food cravings will fizzle right out. Also, it’s a calming colour, so you’re less inclined to stress-eat.
Really? My stomach has outsmarted my brain countless times. It could identify a brownie a la mode in green light, orange light, no light at all. Unless you get matching blue noseplugs and mouthguard to block out the other senses, the effectiveness of these shades is questionable.
From South Korea, slimming face roller
The claim: Also popular in Japan and Taiwan, the face roller tones and melts all that stubborn face fat that’s keeping you ugly. By kneading your cheeks with plastic spikes every day, you can achieve the coveted Korean “V-line” face shape.
Really? As a teacher in Korea, let me say that few things are more distracting than the sight of your teenage students writing careful notes with one hand and face-rolling the heck out of their raw red cheeks with the other. I’m pretty sure that if fat could be burned by pressure alone, office workers would all have tiny bottoms from sitting all day.
From the UK, the diet patch
The claim: These patches are comprised of natural ingredients that fight fat and control cravings. The problem is that other weird diet drugs, when taken orally, are neutralized or destroyed by that party-pooper liver of yours. The diet patch allows these active ingredients to enter directly into your bloodstream without your meddlesome liver filtering any foreign toxins.
Really? This might be the laziest weight loss product on the market. Yes, the site gives a comprehensive roster of natural fat-burning herbs contained in the patches. Still, any semblance of credibility is dashed by product success stories where folks claim to lose weight when “my haphazard eating and exercise habits did not change.”
From Mexico, the magnetic diet ring
The claim: The two magnetic terminals on either end of this coiled ring trigger acupressure points that stimulate weight loss. This ring is featured heavily on Mexican infomercials, where vendors claim you can target weight loss in your abs, arms, or glutes, depending on which finger dons the ring.
Really? I don’t debunk the merits of acupressure, but I doubt it can remedy obesity singehandedly. Anyone losing weight on this plan is probably doing so because the ring is a constant reminder that yes, you’re on a diet. No, don’t pick up those cookies. Yes, pick up that cucumber. Atta girl.
From Australia, pranic nourishment
The claim: Iconic “breathatarian” guru and advocate Jasmuheen has published a dozen books on the lifestyle of pranic nourishment. Her plan claims that people can sustain solely on prana, the energy of sunlight, and an odd nibble here and there. She has survived on approximately 300 calories a day for the past 14 years, stating famously that “my body runs on a different kind of nourishment.”
Really? Australian 60 Minutes challenged Jasmuheen to demonstrate her “pranic nourishment” on their show. After 48 hours, the supervising medic observed signs of high blood pressure, stress, and dehydration. She claimed that these symptoms were from the polluted city air. Mm-hmm.
At least three deaths in Australia have been linked to Jasmuheen’s breathatarian teachings.
From China, weight loss socks
The Claim: Calorie Off weight loss compression socks and pantyhose can burn over 400 calories an hour. The wavy patterns in the fabric create friction and compression, which tones your legs and burns away your unsightly leg flab. The fabric also features what translates ambiguously as “natural plants ingredients slimming extract.”
Really? Hold up, you can’t just sit around watching YouTube while wearing the socks, Jacko. Wearers are advised to walk for 50 minutes daily to attain that 400 calorie burn. Depending on your weight, a brisk walk could burn around 400 calories no matter what brand of socks are holding in your calf-fat.
From the USA, a horseback riding simulator
The Claim: The OSIM igallop simulates the exercise of horseback riding, working your abs, hips, bum and thighs. The constant motion encourages balance and coordination by activating your natural instinct of not falling off of stuff.
Really? I thought it was an SNL sketch at first. Still, I suppose it is exercise. My neighbour’s dog does a similar workout every day with a couch cushion. His abs look pretty good.
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Anne Merritt has lived in Canada, Europe, and Asia. She teaches ESL, writes, haggles, hikes, and wears sunscreen fanatically. Her work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, GoOverseas.com, and The Compass. Check out her blog.