Honestly this is a topic I’ve ruminated over writing about…for a very long time. Should I waste my breath in writing this article is the plaguing question? Am I treading on unsteady social territory? But as I’ve seen many of my wonderful friends become enthralled in this business, here I am…writing this article and about to go public with it.
SO WHAT IS ISAGENIX?
“Substitute the word ‘Isagenix’ for your choice of other MLM companies such as Herbalife, USANA Health Sciences, Juice Plus, Mannatech and YOR Health and the article will read the same” says Professor Tim Crowe, Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian and author at Thinking Nutrition.
Isagenix is another US-based company that supplies dietary supplements and “solutions to transform lives.” Isagenix has made its way down-under to Australia and to numerous countries around the globe. In a nutshell, they supply nutritional cleansing products, meal replacement shakes, weight loss supplements, protein shakes, diet snack bars and a way to “create wealth.”
The company utilizes a business model called multi-level marketing (MLM) to distribute and sell its products. This means individuals are invited to become sellers of Isagenix’s products and establish distribution networks among family and friends, while the company pays a sales-based commission. The success of Isagenix relies on this clever business model, testimonials and shoddy science.
WHY IS ISAGENIX SO ATTRACTIVE?
Isagenix offers the opportunity to “be your own boss,” to run your own business, but not be alone! You will be supported all the way by them. You are also helping people, right? And bonus! You can make a lot of cash doing it? With that said, why wouldn’t you want to be involved?
EVERYONE’S NOT AN EXPERT!
Before I got started on my “official” nutrition journey. That is, enrolling in my postgraduate nutrition course at Deakin University. I was a science graduate with an interest in nutrition. I was applying for mostly “sciency” or “technical” jobs, but couldn’t help notice the advertisements for “wellness experts,” “no experience necessary”. I gullibly submitted one application for a “health and wellness coach” position, ignorant of Isagenix at the time, instead thinking my strong human sciences background and extensive history of working as a dance “coach” would put me in good stead. It was then that the bombardment of calls and emails, and mail begun!
I was never one who enjoyed being sold too and boy these people could sell! They were persistent with repeat offenders contacting me again and again after I’d already kindly declined their offers to join the Isagenix tribe. At the same time, I could see how lucrative and appealing partnering up with Isagenix could be. I was unemployed. I was struggling in a bustling over-supply of science graduates. And these people were offering me a way to make money. And it sounded so easy, fun even? And, the best part, I didn’t even need an expensive degree in nutrition or a fitness qualification!
BUT DOES IT WORK?
Of course it can! But anything can work if it involves cutting down calories and becoming more physically active. Frequently, the “Isagenix movement” goes hand-in-hand with casual exercise meet-ups. Often this is where it starts! You are invited to undertake a fitness class, to join a program to lose weight or tone up, and then you are offered a sample of Isagenix’s products before being sold a life-time supply. Quite literally, there is the monthly direct debit option.
“But…there’s nothing magical about them at all” says Dr. Tim Crowe. “There’s nothing new here…it’s a supplement diet that is basically very low calorie (VLCD) and these have been around for years.” When compared to other similar products on the market, such as Optifast, or even real food, the cost of Isagenix is comparatively high. Isagenix Australia General Manager Angus Love states in an interview on A Current Affair that the meal replacement program costs around $500.00 per month, providing up to 2 meal replacements daily.
Isagenix is not just about weight loss, it’s about making money and Isagenix’s sales-reps are highly convincing. More recently I was approached via social media by a young girl who I’d met during my “youthful modelling days.” It started off as a casual chat about my involvement as a competitive dance coach and budding-nutrition scientist, but quickly became an opportunity to inform me about the wonders of the Isagenix “system”. It literally blew my mind to hear the conviction in her words. How Isagenix changes lives, helps to release the toxins from our organs and blood, that whole foods today are riddled with GMO’s, pesticides, herbicides and are nutritionally-bankrupt – hence, the allergies and obesity crisis! Oh my! Upon hearing this, it’s easy to be convinced that Isagenix is the only way! Our bodies are toxic. Our food supply is toxic. Without Isagenix, I would be doomed? Right? Wrong!
Let’s face it, Isagenix’s distributors don’t make a dime if they don’t sell any products and recruit new clients – just something to be mindful of if ever approached by Isagenix in any of its disguises. Or perhaps, I’ve just seen a totally different side? But honestly, I’m not that passionate about it… I just would never consume these products myself, nor would I give them to my family or friends. End of story…but as a budding-nutritionist…
WHAT ABOUT THE NUTRITIONAL QUALITY?
It didn’t take long for me to decide to steer clear of Isagenix when the calls, emails and text messages started pooling in. Just a quick look at their long lists of ingredients, I knew I would never be interested.
Let’s take a quick look at their IsaLean™ Bar Chocolate Cream Crisp; Evaporated cane juice syrup, chocolate coating 19% [sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, milk fat, soy lecithin, natural flavour], whey protein isolate, calcium caseinate, maltitol, almond butter, cocoa whey crisp 7% [whey protein concentrate, corn starch, cocoa], non fat dry milk, Vitamins and Minerals [potassium chloride, dicalcium phosphate, ascorbic acid, zinc oxide, niacinamide, d-alpha tocopheryl acetate, potassium iodide, vitamin A (palmitate), manganese sulfate, biotin, copper gluconate, ferrous (ii) sulphate, riboflavin, sodium molybdate, pantothenic acid, sodium selenite, thiamin mononitrate, folic acid, pyridoxine hydrochloride, cholecalciferol, cyanocobalamin, chromium picolinate], humectant (glycerin), mineral salts (potassium chloride, dicalcium phosphate), sunflower oil, natural cream flavour, natural cookie dough flavour, gum arabic.
If you’ve checked out my previous blog post “How to read food labels?” you would have already noticed the main ingredient is sugar, as it is listed first under the name evaporated cane juice syrup. It is then listed again as sugar and maltitol (a sugar alcohol). Indeed sugar comprises 28% of the bars total ingredients. Next my eyes dart through the long list of ingredients – soy lecithin, corn starch, sunflower oil, natural cookie dough flavour (what is that anyway?) and then to the even longer list of strange chemical names that the nutrition scientist within me says look familiarly like vitamins and minerals. But the vitamin A (palmitate) implies a synthetic derivative.
As a nutrition scientist, one thing I’ve learnt is to be skeptical. Sometimes synthetic can be better. Take the example of folate. The synthetic form is called folic acid, which you’ll commonly find in supplements and the pregnancy formula I’m currently taking. Folic acid is actually more bioavailable than the natural form of folate found in foods! Nevertheless, I’m still feeling overwhelmed with this extensive list of ingredients? Does it not overwhelm you? And we’ve only just looked at one product! It is also known that not all of Isagenix’s formulations are TGA approved. Honestly, why not just eat real food!?
SLIMMING IT DOWN.
Yet if you’re still prepared to join the Isagenix bandwagon, most experts agree that the weight loss programs work! Well, at least short-term. There is a chance it’s not sustainable long-term and that you’ll probably gain the weight back and more when you stop. As for the distributors or sellers, their conviction convinces me that they’re truly caught up in the product’s propaganda and themselves convinced of the wondrous health claims made by Isagenix.
In the meantime, I’ll still be here posting my healthy messages, studying nutrition, studying science, helping where I can, staying real, while steering well clear of Isagenix and other MLM schemes, while probably coating my body’s internal organs with toxins because I’m not ‘cleansing’ my body and drinking my detox shakes. Just eating my real nutrient-depleted food and enjoying the sunshine.