I received this reader question after my recent article Does the Sensa Diet Really Work? was published:
I have a friend who started the ViSalus Body by Vi shakes in August. I went with her to the “Body by Vi Shake party.” Then I sat, with several others, through the “Body by Vi 90-Day Challenge” DVD, which talked nothing about the actual diet but how to get friends to sign up so you could get your shakes for free. To me, it sounded more like MLM (multi-level marketing). There was nothing about a diet plan to follow for the meal(s) when you weren’t drinking one of these shakes. They only talked about how to get a BMW and donating these shakes to low-income children.
Of course, now my friend, who has been drinking two shakes a day since August and has lost six pounds, is pressuring me to sign up through her for these shakes. When I sign up, I need to sign up for auto-ship to have the stuff shipped to me monthly – so she can get credit for my monthly orders. I keep asking, what are the ingredients in this powdered shake mix and all the nutritional supplements? I also ask, what is the diet plan I should be following?
There are no answers, and I can’t find anything on the Internet that talks about the actual ingredients in this shake mix. I’m only finding comments about what a great company ViSalus is and that I shouldn’t believe any of the bad reviews I read. Problem is, I can’t find any reviews on the actual product itself.
So I was wondering if you had done or heard anything on the ViSalus Body by Vi shakes? I have a feeling my friend is wasting thousands of dollars.
Here’s how I break down suspect product promises…
1. First things first
Robyn’s friend is proof that there will always be someone who can lose weight with any given diet product or program. One reader wrote me that she lost 20 pounds on Sensa. Of course, there’s also an open class action lawsuit against Sensa Products for false advertising.
So whether it’s Sensa sprinkles, ViSalus shakes, or the next big diet craze, it’s important to remember that the question shouldn’t be simply: Does it work? You should also consider: Is it right for me? Is it worth the money?
2. Listen to your gut
Based on the following red flags Robyn cited in her email, her gut seems to have already determined that the Vi shakes are a questionable investment at best:
- Rather than letting the product sell itself on store shelves or websites, ViSalus recruits average consumers to sell its shakes – and rewards them for pushing the shakes on others.
- The pushing involves parties.
- Instead of talking about the product itself, an informational video reminds recruits what they get out of selling it.
- Robyn feels her own friend is pressuring her to buy in.
- The friend doesn’t want Robyn to try the product with no strings attached. She wants Robyn to hand over her credit card for automatic monthly billing.
- Robyn has repeatedly but unsuccessfully sought details about the product itself.
- Robyn has been told not to believe bad reviews of the product.
- Robyn’s friend spent “thousands” of dollars to lose six pounds.
3. Do your homework
First, since I hadn’t heard of ViSalus before, I started with the basics. Googling for “ViSalus Body by Vi,” I found BodybyViShape.com and learned the product line is essentially a meal-replacement plan whose foundation is a shake with different “mix-ins” (there are also cookies).
For people like Robyn’s friend, this weight-loss product is also a business opportunity, similar to Mary Kay Cosmetics, for example. In fact, in that informational video, ViSalus co-founder Nick Sarnicola promises recruits “a six-figure income from home” if they can get enough people to buy in – and those people get enough others to buy in.
Next, I found the shake label by Googling for “ViSalus Body by Vi ingredients.” It has more than 30 ingredients: powdered proteins, amino acids, and vitamins, for the most part. I don’t eat foods that highly processed, but I can see how someone could lose weight this way. Each serving has only 90 calories.
But here’s the hitch: The product bears a “Supplement Facts” label, not a “Nutrition Facts” label. That means the FDA considers it a supplement rather than a food. And supplements are meant to supplement a healthy diet, not replace it.
So the answer becomes: Would you trust your health and credit card to a company whose questionable business plan encourages people to pressure their friends to buy in indefinitely so the company can automatically bill them every month?
The bottom line
ViSalus Sciences’ shakes remind me of Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson’s recent article about 6 Proven Ways to Make a Dishonest Living. One of those ways is to promise to cure what ails: “Create a product that promises a quick fix to a common illness, and you’re in business,” he writes. “Don’t worry about people reading the label – just create a catchy ad.”
If you decide to fall for ViSalus’ catchy ad, just be sure to clear it with your doctor first.
Karla Bowsher worked in health care for 10 years before going into journalism. She covers health, consumer, and retail issues. If you have a comment, suggestion, or question, leave a comment or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.