The Miracle Makers — A Showdown

I believe in miracles…. I really do. There are days when I’m feeling short of one; you know, like when you’re in an ordinary day lockdown and even the glories of GoT fail to inspire you to stop the ennui from creeping right back in. What do you do?

Well if you’ll take my word, just hit the supermarket. No, we’re not going to pay the Retail Therapist an expensive visit to stir our spirits. Instead, let’s just look, shall we? I mean there are so many miracles everyday just waiting to be found. And in this case, you don’t even have to try too hard. A casual stroll down the beauty aisle and there you are! Age-reversing, sun-defying, youth-revitalizing, mane-restoring, and all said adjectives in the English language…. Enough to lure you into needing a miracle, even though you were feeling pretty to begin with. And if you happen to stop momentarily to consider, a seemingly sweet saleslady, in coral lipstick and a perfectly coiffed do, will magically appear, flashing her fake eyelashes at you. A short greeting exchanged, she embarks on this unctuous routine that’ll ease you into selling your soul. Well…right before showing you a tainted mirror with all your freckles, dark circles and not-so-fine lines coming to life, hissing “Help Ussss!”.

OK, bad idea. Let’s move ahead.

You hit the food and drink aisles…More marvels beckon. Colon-happy, Oryazenol-enriched oils that lower your cholesterol, protect your heart and what the hell, you may even live longer. Low-fat nutty cereals, gluten-free snackies, slim milk, slimming teas with perky, happy women with Rihanna-like bods on the packaging, that only reaffirm that it’s time to kiss those love handles goodbye. Probiotics for your guts, cereal bars for your stamina, and so many other healing food and drinks touted for giving you all the goodness of nature. And while they’re at that, you just might look like the lean, mean sexy beast that you are meant to be.

But hey, that’s funny. I’d say the average shopper looks more like this. (No offense, whoever you may be.)

Well, maybe they don’t have a damn clue about what they’re doing even when eight out of ten products are screaming at them, “Hey you forgot to take your youth… in a tiny tube”, “How about those tight abs you’ve always craved for…in a cereal box”, and “Get Cleopatra’s silken tresses…in a bottle”.

So it really begs the question, “Are these products, with all their tall claims that make the ‘Water into Wine’ miracle seem meh, really that good? We continue to be bamboozled by super-human, glossy marketing pitches, all of them that come with some sort of expert “stamp of approval”. As gullible as we humble earthlings are, we fall into their trap.

Sure, the pressure of looking your skinny best with that enviable exuberance of springy feet and glossy mane scales a new height in the beginning of the year. And yay, if that’s motivating you to spend an extra 20 minutes in the gym, cut down on processed foods, load up on superfoods, and try some fat-melting, sweat-slicking power yoga, even in a steam room, if you must. But nay, if that’s tending you towards popping magic weight-loss pills with processed antioxidant juices and shaking violently for a good half of your day in a massage belt strapped to your waist.

So, based on some good research and personal experiments, here are some super-products…busted, especially for all you crash-dieters and Hair-and-Skin Santa seekers:

Take it if you will.

1. Weight-Loss Drinks:

Case Study: Herbalife

Of course, this wonder shake has all the ingredients worthy of a blockbuster— it’s got all the celebrity endorsements, a fancy-pants ‘slim-fast’ inspirational script and that utopian illusion, completely disconnected from reality — the one that makes you feel like you’re working your way to losing weight. Instead of a cumbersome 3-course meal, you get to relish a delectable protein shake. (Small Disclaimer: In the bargain, you may end up looking like someone who could gulp down a cow with that wholesome shake….practically all the time.)

But that’s not all that’s wrong with it.

Herbalife has been rich in controversy right from the beginning. The earlier version of Herbalife, before 2002, contained Ephedrine, a powerful stimulant that can stave off hunger and rapidly burn fat cells at high risks of heart disease and blood pressure problems. The Ephedrine alkaloids used in Herbalife were way beyond the prescribed limit suggested by FDA, hence Herbalife had to discontinue the use of Ephedrine in its supplements.

Does that mean it stands as toxin-free as of today? Not quite. The recent Herbalife shake formulae have abundance of caffeine, Fructose, artificial sweeteners and Soy Protein — allegedly extracted from Genetically Modified Soy (GMO), found in all Herbalife shakes (as well as in packaged tofu). GMO is known to disrupt hormonal balance in women, cause thyroid problems, and also increase risks of cervical cancer and heart disease.

Want to know more about Herbalife? Read it here.

2. The Gluten-Free Way:

“Is this gluten-free?” “How can you wear that lipstick? I mean aside from the fact that it makes you look like a drag queen, it’s not gluten-free!” “Drop your cereal bar right now! You imbecile, it’s got gluten!”

Gluten-free’s all the rage right now, everywhere, from powder rooms to secret snack cabinets. So I had to ask, “What is Gluten anyway?” Gluten’s a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, one that gives these grains an elastic texture. The association of gluten with a high-carb diet is the reason why most people are switching to a gluten-free diet. Naturally, when you cut down carbs, you feel healthier. However, there is no scientific evidence that going gluten-free promotes weight loss. Where Gluten’s actually harmful is in cases with Gluten intolerance and celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that damages the small intestine.

I think it’s essentially a good thing if you cut down on carbs by avoiding gluten-containing products such as cakes, cookies, and doughnuts. But what really happens with people who decide to go Gluten-free is that in their attempt to dodge the Gluten-ous bullet, they ingest a whole new gamut of gluten-free processed foods. Eventually, the phrase “gluten-free” ends up as another ruse to draw consumers into eating other versions of processed crap, full of xanthan gum and other food additives.

3. BB Creams and CC Creams

The longer the name, the more promises it can hold. Pore-shutting, skin clearing, UV-punching, cheek sculpting; you name it. But now they are saying no need to wipe off your make-up at night girls! Your chalky makeup meets the plump goodness of your skincare regime to create an SPF, antioxidant and vitamin packed, all-round skin treatment. Hello Blemish Balm and Color Control Creams!

The new-age Blemish Balm creams are light-wear make-up that give good coverage and are a better bet than pancakey foundations. And the steeply priced BB creams in the market (for example, a Chanel or a Bobbi Brown) do have high SPF, oil-absorbing qualities and anti-aging ingredients; some even have ground pearl and gold to add radiance to your flawless, air-brushed look. A great option for women on the run or us lazy ones, I’d say.

But do I really think that one cream, even though at a price of four, can sculpt away wrinkles, cushion hot UV blows, and firm my skin over time?

The answer’s No. The visual effects of these creams vanish once they’re off your skin. And the point is these creams will be applied like make-up — you dab them in little dots, which really means you’ll not put a sufficient amount of these creams to be completely covered. Hence, you’ll need to layer it with a good sunscreen. Beats the purpose then, doesn’t it?

Bottom Line: A sophisticated BB or CC cream may be a good day option when you want a fuss-free, air-brushed look that’s meant to last but does it replace your everyday skin-care heroes? Maybe not.

4. Hair-Fall Defending Shampoos and Conditioners:

If you whispered in my ear, ever so coyly, in the middle of the night, “There’s an antidote to hair loss found in a rare species of trees, growing up in the Himalayas,” I would’ve immediately layered up, got my hiking shoes on and headed towards the mountains. Needless to say, I’ve tried almost every over-the-counter product that even remotely suggests reversal of hair loss. I’ve used countless serums, shampoos, conditioners, vitamins…

And I’m still fighting hair loss. My hair may have looked fuller and felt softer after using one of the expensive, salon-recommended formulae but it didn’t really do anything to reduce hair loss. So, as much as I hate saying this, the only piece of wisdom I can give you is that there’s no such thing as a hair-loss reversal shampoo and conditioner. There are a multitude of reasons for hair loss, anything from stress to low estrogen to crash diets to genetics and you can never be quite sure what’s causing it. If you think your hair is falling out at an alarming rate, see a dermatologist specializing in hair loss.

And personally what’s worked for me is switching to a sulphate-free or an organic shampoo and conditioner, as they’re less harsh on the scalp. You may even try minoxidil as that is one of the popularly known cures to hair-loss. But be sure to consult a doctor before using it.

5.Weight-Loss Massage Belts:

I’m sure you’ve seen those ads. Models with toned bodies sporting a massage belt strapped to their waist. Looking happy as hell. Why wouldn’t they be? I mean all you have to do is lie on your couch, watch TV, and shake those fat cells off your body. Good vibrations right there. And anyway, it’s not like you’ve worked your way up to gaining weight, why would you want to work all the way down? Plus who has the time to hit the gym these days.

Vibration training using an electronic stimulation device is the real deal, when done using a high-quality equipment with proper supervision and when it’s supplemented with exercise. It can really help in maintaining your muscle tone. But strapping a massage belt to your waist through a Game of Thrones marathon and letting the machine do all the work for you will not only fail to deliver results but it can also cause serious injury and health problems, including hypothyroidism and hormonal imbalance.

So before you sign up for any of these fads or gimmicks, make sure you do your research. While money can buy you love, it may not necessarily buy you health and fitness.

Agree or disagree? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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