meal replacement weight loss program for children as fundraiser

I was recently approached by someone who was exploring a high school music fund-raising program. The students were to solicit donations that would go to a company called Visalus that would then donate weight loss food replacements to poor children and part of the donation would go back to the school. I've since discovered that this is a widespread program, called "Feed the Children."

This, naturally, stood my hair on end.

I promised to run this idea past experts, and I've reached out to a number of them. But I thought I'd also let you all "weigh" in and will share your comments with the parent committee. For some reason, they don't find my frothing at the mouth entirely convincing.

I'm also aware that this blog post will then come up when any parent googles this program and Visalus, and I'd like to offer a discussion here on the question of diets for kids, meal replacements instead of food and kids promoting dieting for poor kids.

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  1. Is it alright that I didn't watch the whole of this video? I kind of got the message.

    Look, let's be quite clear about Visalus. Visaulus is a marketing company, set up in 1997 by two marketing men. It has no scientific base to its "programme". Its "health" claims about its products are purely anecdotal and it appears to operate on a pyramid selling type of model. This is an example of direct selling and a dynamic CEO.


    Just in case no one heard me last time - diets don't work. A lifestyle change may but a company that sells you a "maximum weight loss" package including a "nutritional shake" containing 90 calories (which you get to take with a supplement pill of 10 calories for a meal!) is not selling you a healthy lifestyle - it is setting you up for failure.

    To be honest, trawling through the website I am hard pressed to find enough nutrition for a growing child contained in its packs but will keep looking.

    This is a selling exercise. Diet companies who sell this kind of product RELY on repeat business. The cynical side of me thinks that they are working on the "get 'em young" principle by feeding children with one of their "nutritional" meals in the hope that it is a habit these children will continue to have for the rest of their lives.

    This is a truly dreadful idea, Laura. This is a cynical marketing exercise which, to my mind, is in danger of exploiting children.

    If your parents want to fill the coffers of a very rich company to make themselves feel better, that is up to them but have they thought this through?

    If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

  2. I'm confused: children/parents pay a company to send their diet products to disadvantaged children? I must be misunderstanding? As an aside, doesn't research show that a 'backing off' attitude helps young people achieve their genetically healthy weights much better than dieting regimes?

    Children with meal replacement drinks? Heartbreaking.

  3. I delved even deeper:
    Multi Level Marketing aka MLM at it's very worst.

    Awful abuse of a fundraiser to sell their highly suspect, potentially dangerous product. Shocking.


  4. Yes, I'm sorry to say it is JUST that: raising funds to provide diet products to OTHER children.

    And yes, dieting for children is absolutely not supported by the science. Family meals provided and eaten with adults who take responsibility for wholesome, delicious food -- and an active family lifestyle -- are considered the cutting edge in developing healthy eating and metabolism.


  5. I can't believe people out there still think some fucking meal replacement drink is going to "CHANGE YOUR LIFE".. yeah, okay... because of course, a sugar-y protein-filled drink is the key to a "HEALTHIER FITTER YOU".. uh-huh.. so what did the other companies selling this crap do wrong if people are still not HEALTHIER AND FITTER? Ugh, I want mandatory critical thinking classes, starting from middle-school.

  6. I find this concept completely appalling as well as ineffective. I realize that the intentions may very well be good but that does not change the fact that there are much higher risks for negative ramifications. First off, having high school students fundraise by collecting diet products is very inappropriate. Second, there are so many other ways that students could be encouraged to support the disadvantages that don't include inappropriate means and that would potentially be beneficial for all parties involved i.e. donating canned food items, collecting winter accessories, blankets, coats, etc. to donate to the poor, serve meals at a shelter over the holidays, etc. I must admit collecting diet aids to donate to overweight disadvantaged children would never cross my mind! Bottom line is DIETING DOESN'T WORK, IF IT DID YOU''D ONLY NEED TO DO IT ONCE and it wouldn't be one of the leading money makers in our society. As indicated above, research shows that balanced intake, family meals, not deprivation is what is shown to be most effective. Poverty impedes families being able to spend time together and limits access to balanced and adequate nutritional food items. I am at a loss due to be so disgusted!

  7. Soooo much spillage. Sooo many delicious fruits jumping splashily into overflowing glasses of creams. Abundance!!

    Or a little cup of a milkish drink?

    The other interesting thing to me is that they offer two kinds of meal replacements: one is a 'shake' and the other is a cookie. Sweet much?

    I wonder how many schools are dumb enough to fall for this?

  8. I am in an argument with my sister-in-law and a company rep about this very issue right now. Absolutely ridiculous.


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