Nutritional Cleanses and kids

Published 2.26.2015; reformatted 6.28.2016
This rant, and that's what this is, was occasioned by a Facebook (FB) post of a college friend of mine. This college friend in the past year has become a fan and seller of "nutritional cleanses," and thus pollutes my FB timeline with success stories of clients and "inspirational" marketing blurbs for the product she sells. To be clear, I don't know precisely what the damn product is or what the brand even is, because I've never asked. Nutritional cleansing is a SCAM. If you have a functional liver and kidneys (and I am in that lucky group of humans) NO other cleansing is required by the body.

So a FB friend is involved in pushing scammy products onto other adults. I'm disgusted by her career choice (she's newly an empty nester and clearly seeking some sort of meaning for her life now that her prime mommy days are past) but I ignored the posts and/or rolled my eyes about some of them. That is, until last night when I was confronted with the before and after pictures of an 11 year old girl.

Note: I did not snap a screen shot of the offending post because not only should 11 year olds not be marketing fodder, their images should not be exploited in rants either. So there is no hard evidence of this heinous FB post.

The post was a split screen photo of the child before and after the "cleanse," and the accompanying text was congratulating her on losing 25 lbs in 3 months. I will note for completeness, though it really doesn't change any thing in terms of my argument here that though the child looked maybe a tad chubby in the first picture (in that pre-puberty way girls often have) she was by no means hugely fat. In both pictures she was wearing a school volleyball uniform, so that child was not completely sedentary.

25 lbs in 3 months

That's a lot of weight in a short period of time for a kid of any age. But a pre-pubescent one? When I first saw it I was horrified and flabbergasted at the "likes" and positive comments that had been posted below it. That's the typical response to all of these marketing posts, so perhaps the people responding that way didn't even read who the client was. But I did. I didn't blast the post the way it deserved, because I figured she'd just delete the comment. Instead I noted how uncomfortable the post made me. I asked if a girl that young should be losing that much weight that fast, and whether or not she was under a doctor's care. It was too mild, really, given the wrongness of the post.

Still, it had the desired effect of drawing attention to the inappropriate message of the post.

Eleven year olds NEVER need to "Cleanse" their diets

Once I had noted my discomfort, suddenly others on her friends list, began to share their misgivings. Indeed, most of those women knew what "nutritional cleansing" means (basically fasting and meal replacement shakes it turn out), and objected in stronger terms. Fasting allegedly was not part of the regimen imposed on this poor child, but clearly calorie restriction was part of it because there is no way to lose 25 lbs in three months at any age without calorie restriction (I am ignoring the nonsense often spouted about the energy balance in the fatoshpere for this post)

Of course, others came out and defended the use of the "nutrition packed shakes" instead of food for their own children. No one addressed the doctor issue, and my friend's only comment was that the shakes were better than Coco Puffs as a snack (false dichotomy if ever I saw one!) At some point, my friend clearly recognized that this marketing missive was backfiring and deleted the post, which I found out when I tried to post the following under my original response and the others that had followed:

I come to this discussion as the mother of a (now professional) ballerina. I know the importance of good nutrition, as well as the pitfalls of childhood weight changes. And being in the ballet world, there was no way to escape the weight issue, particularly as she passed through puberty. I echo the eating disorder concerns expressed here. My primary concern remains the very rapid (slightly more than 2 pounds per week) weight loss of a very young girl, seemingly without medical supervision. In my home, we chose always to address the weight/nutrition issue with real food, not shakes, cleanses, or supplements, because there is no shake, cleanse or supplement that is a long term replacement for real food. A false dichotomy is being asserted here. The choice is never only industrial processed crap or (also industrially processed) nutritional cleanses/shakes/supplements. Interventions based on real food seldom result in marketing posters, but the lessons learned there can be applied anywhere for a lifetime. I don't expect to change any minds, but this is my perspective.

I wish I'd had the opportunity to publish the above before the post was pulled. As I noted above, I could have grabbed a screen shot at that point to document the post's existence, but simply closed the window instead because eleven year old girls should NOT be the subject of marketing before and after campaigns— even if the point is to discredit those campaigns.


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