Diet Companies Say the Darndest Things – Diet Cards

Final Biscut says I thought nothing could be more difficult than this outfit obviously I was wrongThis installment of my ongoing series – where I publish the conversations I have with people who ask me to write about their diet products – ends with one of the most ridiculous would-be-hilarious-if-it-wasn’t-horrible emails I have ever received.

Today’s conversation is with with the creator of “A deck of cards with one goal, to help you lose weight. ”

In his original e-mail he wrote:

My name is Mike, I’m launching [my weightloss product] on [fundraising site] next week, a truly unique (seriously!) way to lose weight without dieting or pills. It would be great for your audience to have another helpful article on the topic of weight loss (and casually mention the product). Of course, I could write it for you (if you like). I’m thinking something like:

-What if everything you knew about weight loss was wrong?

-Hey fatty, always hungry? Here’s why…

-How to eat more calories and weigh less

Let me know what you think!


p.s. I’d be happy to send you a freebie sample, just let me know your address and I’ll shoot one your way!

I checked out his fundraising website.  It started with the usual call-a-body -size -an-epidemic obesipanic, then admitted that 90% of all diets fail.  In the product description:

  • It’s a great way to lose weight, anytime and anywhere.
  • The durable 100% PVC plastic cards will ensure your cards will last as long as your weight loss does.
  • It’s for any age group
  • You won’t be starving yourself
  • It’s a fun way to lose weight by yourself or with others
  • Absolutely nothing extra is needed for you to lose weight. No meal plans, no pills, nothing.
  • Shoot, they’re less than $20, when was the last time a weight loss program was less than $20!?
  • NO hype, just an honest, easy and fun approach to weight loss

After I got control of my eye-roll reflex I replied:

I’m interested in publishing this, but since, as you also mentioned, 90% of diets fail, I’ll just need to see the evidence that your product has a better success rate.



Mike sent back:

Hi Ragen

Thanks for writing back, and your interest. I have 4 people undergoing an 8 week test. The 8 weeks will be completed tomorrow at midnight. Even though every participant lost weight, it’s impossible to compare this to the millions of people every year that try diets and fail. Would you like me to do a writ-up of the study that was done with the 4 participants?

Knowing, as I do, that  almost everyone loses weight on almost every diet short term and almost everyone gains the weight back long term, I remained skeptical. I replied:

I apologize, I’m a bit confused.  On your [fundraising page] it sounded to me that you are saying that your program will succeed where 90% of diets fail (the research showing that most people experience weight loss in the short term and gain it back between years 2-5) Am I misunderstanding your claim or is there another differentiator that I’m missing? Sorry for my confusion.


Mike sent back:

You are misunderstanding the claim, I’m not associating my product with  diets at all


At this point I began to suspect that Mike subscribes to the MST (Magical Semantics Theory) The idea that if you call a diet something else (“fun way to lose weight”, “approach to weight loss”, “lifestyle change” etc.) then it will work better.

Gotcha, so then what differentiates this from a diet, and what makes it more likely to be successful?

Mike tries to help me understand:

Hi Ragen

On this page [that I will not be linking to] there is a video that will explain the cards a bit, but to answer your question, the intent of diets is to change your eating habits with the goal of losing weight. The intent of [my ridiculous weight loss product] is to change the behaviors that cause someone to make better weight loss decisions. So there are no calorie restricting diets. With [my ridiculous weight loss product] you get points for making good decisions that that contribute to weight loss, and you subtract points for making bad decisions. So the goal is to get more points this week than the prior week. If you consistently get more points week after week, you are changing those influential behaviors that cause weight gain.

I hope this answers your question.

Wow, that’s crystal clear in the way that is the exact opposite of crystal clear.  Let’s try this a different way:

I understand, but I’m still coming back to my question about the evidence that this will actually lead to weight loss.  How did you choose the behaviors to encourage that will lead to weight loss – is there some research on successful weight loss that you are basing this on that is different than what the diets and so-called lifestyle interventions that fail so often aren’t using?  I’m trying to understand your angle.

And then there was this:

Well if you want evidence, I am concluding the small study which I told you about earlier. Where’s the evidence that Jesus turned water into wine? Where is the evidence that global warming exists? This is theory, & I never said in any of my writings that this is proof of weight loss. The premise is these cards teach you how to eat and behave better regarding weight loss decisions. The cards came from a lifetime of knowledge, consulting with a couple dietitian and nutritionist, and online research and reading scientific studies.


Let’s review:

Mike, a self-described “health and fitness expert” describes his product:

“It’s a great way to lose weight, anytime and anywhere.”

“Absolutely nothing extra is needed for you to lose weight.”

“It’s a fun way to lose weight by yourself or with others”

“NO hype, just an honest, easy and fun approach to weight loss”

Then, when asked to provide evidence for the weight loss he is promising, he says “I never said in any of my writings that this is proof of weight loss” and besides I don’t need evidence because Jesus, Global Warming, and four of my friends.

That actually happened, and people (to whom he only spouted his MST-based marketing and who never got to hear about how his project is related to Jesus and Global Warming) funded his project. This is where we’re at in our discourse around weight and health.  Actual researchers are being honest that intentional weight loss almost never works, but Mike with his GlobalWarmingJesus It’sNotADietIt’sADiet hypothesis of weight loss can convince people that they should give him money.  And that’s why the “Diet Companies Say the Darndest Things” feature exists on this blog – because it’s time to start telling the truth – when it comes to weight loss cards, you might as well be playing roulette.


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46 thoughts on “Diet Companies Say the Darndest Things – Diet Cards

  1. All I keep thinking is the Simpsons Episode…

    “Now this is NOT a Pyramid Scheme. Our model is a TRAPEZOID which guarantees a return investment within two hours!”

    There is nothing new under the sun. Not a Jesus quote, but it is from the Bible.

  2. ddin’t richard simmons do a card thingie about a millyun years ago? i probably still have mine somewhere. it didn’t work as described. imagine that.

    plus, i resent the ‘hey fatty, always hungry?’ comment. asshat.

  3. Yes. Richard Simmons did a card-based diet. I think it was loosely based on diabetic food exchanges. My mom put me on her own version of thst diet when I was 9 (using monopoly money to buy calories) because she thoughtbI was getting fat when I started to develop. For years, when I would see that commercial, I felt like I was going to vomit.

    I sometimes wonder if I would be fat today if my mom had not started the damage to my metabolism and intuitive eating at such a young age.

    1. Yeah, it was called “Deal a Meal”, and my mom bought the deck as well when I was 9. She didn’t force it on me, but she used it to plan more nutritious meals. It worked, in that aspect. Losing weight? Not so much.

    2. Courtney… in the past few years I’ve started to realize I’m pretty angry at the way I was treated as a child. I also wonder… I am fairly sure, given family body composition, I’d still be considered “fat,” but I suspect I’d be a lot LESS fat had they just left me the hell alone.

      1. Yeah, I probably wouldn’t be hollywood-thin, but I am certain I wouldn’t be the size I am now. My guess is that I would have settled around a size 12-14, where the women who don’t diet in my family settled.

        1. Same here. If I’d never done calorie restriction and had always eaten what I wanted and stopped when I was full (instead of when I was still hungry), I strongly suspect that I’d have stabilized somewhere in the size 14-16 range. I’m angry too, but trying not to let it take up much emotional energy.

          1. Me too! Just realizing now how much anger I am carrying around about this and other things and how much it’s affecting my ability to enjoy movement – feeling so tense all the time!

          2. Yep, ditto for me too. Pretty much exact same story, but my mother and grandmother had me (along with themselves) on a diet from about the age of 6-7. 😦 And of course I continued dieting up until about 2-3 years ago. Wish I’d known at 18 (or much earlier) what I know now!

      2. I suspect I’d be less fat, and TALLER. I truly believe all the diets as a child stunted my growth. OK, we’re all short in my family, anyway, but my sister is taller than I am, and her diets didn’t start until she was a teenager. She had more growth years before the malnutrition set in.

        1. Huh. I never thought about my height. My mother and her mother & sister were all 2-4 inches taller than my adult height, and my dad was very tall. My paternal grandmother was my height. I just assumed I got it from her. Now that I think of it, I was a half inch from my adult height at 14, and I really started severe self-imposed calorie restriction around that time. It never occurred to me that I may have dieted myself out of a growth spurt.

          1. Last year at a speakers’ series event at my old college, one of my former profs was giving a lecture about invasive species and extinct animals. At one point he made the comment that biologists have known for literally centuries, that if you ate more as a child, you could be a couple inches taller as an adult.

            This was astounding to me, as they already knew this, but doctors and medicine have yet to catch up.

      3. Lucie, I’m also furious about how I was treated as child in regards to dieting. I’m trying to let go of the anger, but it’s not working for me at all.

  4. But we can actually prove that water can be turned to wine because Gallo and Two Buck Chuck. Perhaps that doesn’t do much to prove that Jesus miraculously spiked the punch at Cana, but there is at least proof that the process can be accomplished.

    These cards, a few weasel words, and an eight week test on four tame guinea pigs… not so much.

    Biscuit is right. And I have to say that outfit is damn ridiculous.

  5. Every time I tweet one of your blog postings, I get 4-5 new “fitness expert” followers. I wonder how many tweeting this will net me and how many I will decide to block?

  6. In all fairness, he lost me back at “It would be great for your audience to have another helpful article on the topic of weight loss (and casually mention the product).” Because if you’re going to offer me a “helpful” article on weight loss, you might as well be offering me a pair of unicorns for my personal nutritionist and trainer.

    Come to think, I’d probably go for it if it were unicorns. I mean, who doesn’t want a unicorn? That sounds way more attractive than another diet-not-diet from a profoundly stupid d-bag who thinks I’m going to respond positively to a literal “hey, fatty” and an implied “you’re only fat because you’re too stupid to figure out how to eat”.

  7. I simply and absolutely love the fact that people obviously never read the stuff on the blogs where they want to promote their “products.” If they DO read, we’re in even worse shape because non-comprehension. EPIC fail.

  8. This line… “but Mike with his GlobalWarmingJesus It’sNotADietIt’sADiet hypothesis of weight loss can convince people that they should give him money” made me snort laugh. It’s really sad that he’s able to get money from people, but the line was just hilarious, and I needed a laugh today, so thanks, Ragen.

  9. Wow. I couldn’t even finish the post before I had to reply to this guy’s stupidity.

    Asking Ragen Chastain to advertise a weight-loss product is like Bic pens asking Ellen Degeneres to advertise Bic For Her pens.

    Then, there’s the “trial.” FOUR people for EIGHT WEEKS. Oh, yeah, that’s a really good trial there. Why, every single result will be statistically significant. If one person “succeeds,” that means a 25% success rate! And such a short term, too. Gaah.

    OK, back to reading the post.

  10. Aside from the Richard Simmons card game, the fat day camp I was sent to as a kid had its own card game, too. The cards depicted glamorous-looking thin adults doing various jobs, and we had to play to collect the jobs we wanted to have more than we wanted to eat.

    No, really. That was the premise.

    To mix it up a little, the next diet card game should be a Magic: The Gathering knockoff. The black, white, red, and blue alignments are replaced by the four food groups, and the lands are gyms and restauraunts selected for alignment by their “healthiness.” The necromancy cards let you raise fully-grown zombie attack cows from a burger to serve you for as long as you- you fatty, you- can refrain from eating it, the duplication cards net you exercise reps, but *only* of trendy trademarked exercises performed with the goal of weight loss, and the Yawgmoth stand-in would be a thinly-veiled expy of Ronald McDonald.

    …I need to stop giving them ideas.

    1. You could do this satirically, but it would end up being like the movie Bamboozled. People wouldn’t understand that you were creating satire and they’d end up seriously adopting it.

      What a shame. The nerdy trainwreck-lover in me would have to own a set of cards, for sure.

      1. Given we live in a world that now thinks *diet baby formula* is a good idea, I believe someone could make a metal sculpture of a hairy butt and spin a pseudoscientific tale about its magnetism and specially-shaped gravitational force pulling fat off your body, resulting in weight loss, and consumers would take it seriously and buy it.

    2. I would buy multiple packs of this game, just so I can load up on the black cards and zombie attack cows and take down those “healthy” gyms and restaurants.

      And, of course, I would play it with my fat friends, at McDonalds, while munching on actual burgers.

          1. Leaps out of the way of the herd of shambling, lurching cattle collectively moaning Moooooooooooooooo!

  11. I actually had to stop myself from laughing while drinking water so I didn’t choke while reading how idiotic he sounded.

    I have seen the deal a meal cards and to this dyslexic they looked a lot like those flash cards you use with kids to help their spelling before you learn they are dyslexic and that is why they are having so many problems.

  12. Well, dang. I guess I missed my chance. I could have sent you a copy of my book, and asked you for a subtle, or not-so-subtle, plug in your blog. I would not have made any exaggerated claims, either. It even has a theme of body acceptance as part of the story.

    Alas, 20/20 hindsight.

  13. Hmm… So this piece of epic garbage fail on a massive scale has some cards that will give “points for making good decisions that that contribute to weight loss, and you subtract points for making bad decisions.”

    So this fraudster is an all-knowing being that knows what a good/bad decision is for each and every individual person that does his program (aka–diet)? And why do I feel that the “good decisions” will be things like—taking the stairs, exercising not-for-fun-and-enjoyment, eat more fruit and veg, don’t drink soda, no bread, no caffeine and make sure to buy from a natural food store that sells all organic fresh produce.

    I bet if I wanted a hamburger I’ll get more good points if I have a plain turkey or get the most points for a veggie burger. Feeling hungry? Well… have a sandwich for bad points or drink water until I feel full for lots of good points. So basically same diet bullshit thinking fat people are stupid and don’t know how to take care of themselves and so we need a point system. I always looked at Deal-A-Meal as just giving fat people something to do–shuffle little cards around to take their mind off of being hungry, or that never ending headache that miraculously goes away when you eat.

    My cards for gat people would look a bit different and would really be directed at a different set of people. My cards:
    1. Give people job-security. Full-time salaried with a pension and benefits.
    2. Pay people a living wage so they can live where they work and not have to commute 4 to 6 hours a day every day.
    3. Make employers accountable to their employees and not engage in vulture capitalism.
    4. Create a safe environment and infrastructure to maintain parks and paths for those who enjoy doing outdoor activities.
    5. Have a variety of safe, fresh foods available to communities.
    6. Have safe childcare available for those who need it.
    7. Dismantle systemic system of oppression against marginalized groups of people and not tolerate the “protect the abuser” mentality that poisons our culture.

    Well.. you get the gist. Those things would help to make not just fat people’s lives better, but a lot of other people as well. And it has nothing to do with believing fat people are stupid and should eat something that the person who decided doesn’t know fuck-all about that person, what their allergies are, their lifestyle and their life at all. In long—Mike go fuck yourself you vile garbage monster.

    Thank you for taking this fraudster to task. You wield a mighty teaspoon indeed!

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