[Elle:] The Anti-MLM Coalition recently received a message from an Australian-based reader by the name of Mica (not her real name), who wishes to share her experience of when her Mum joined Isagenix. Here, she speaks frankly about the tremendous pressures it put on her as a teenage girl, when already struggling with self-image and body confidence.
Before we begin Mica’s tale, what do we know about Isagenix?
Founded in 2002 by John Anderson (Master Formulator), Jim Coover (President & CEO), and Kathy Coover (Executive Vice-President), Isagenix is an Arizona-based multi-level marketing (MLM) company.
Isagenix sell dietary supplement products such as protein shakes, weight loss supplements, diet snacks and meals, as well as cosmetics. Interestingly, they also sell “Wealth Creation” product bundles to their independent distributors.
In investigative article ‘Isagenix Under the Microscope‘ by Australian consumer organisation CHOICE, reporter Kate Browne says the company’s “nutritional cleansing” product makes claims which are not supported by science. The report also describes instances of unqualified independent distributors providing medical advice about the products, which is prohibited by the company. As typical of MLM products, the report notes that Isagenix weight-loss products are similar in content to much cheaper store-bought alternatives.
Dr. Harriet Hall, MD of Science-Based Medicine published a lengthy, but interesting, critique of Isagenix in the Skeptical Inquirer Volume 35.1, January/February 2011. In ‘Defending Isagenix: A Case Study in Flawed Thinking‘, Hall noted that claims made about the products are “false” and misleading, and that “…the amount of vitamin A in these products is dangerous and goes against the recommendations of The Medical Letter [on Drugs and Therapeutics]...”
Naturally, Dr. Hall received quite the backlash from Isagenix loyalists, one questioning “…whether I am really a doctor and says I have a small brain and a big mouth…” amongst other such comments, which have been presented in her critique – do take a look when you get the chance.
With this brief introduction in mind, we present Mica’s MLM experience to you.
Before reading Mica’s story, please remind yourself that all views presented in this blog are as told to us by the authors, and simply reflect their own opinions. Your own personal experiences with MLM companies may differ, negatively or positively.
Take it away, Mica.
[Mica:] Thanks for letting me tell this story, Elle.
For one year, my Mum was an Isagenix rep. She joined to help my Dad lose weight, but she ended up taking the products daily instead of eating; when I would bring it up with her, she would go on and on about the nutrients. It got to the point where my mum would eat one meal a day that wasn’t an Isagenix shake, and she watched my Dad to make sure he did the same.
She would encourage me to drink a ‘fruit tea’ (made with their ‘Ionix Supreme’ tonic) to “help me sleep and to help with my nerves and breakdowns” (which I now know is anxiety disorder, but my Mum still doesn’t fully believe I have) and to take their ‘IsaLean’ meal-replacement shakes instead of eating lunch on weekends to “help me lose weight“. Understandably the tea did nothing (it probably made my anxiety worse) and the shakes were so disgusting I ended up eating very little to avoid drinking them.
My siblings were encouraged to also drink the shakes to help them stay healthy “because of all the nutrients.” When we were hungry we were told to “drink a shake” instead of actual solid food (my younger brother was only ten at the time, it couldn’t have been healthy for him). She also recommended my brother take the same tea I did to help his (then-undiagnosed) attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) but he hated it, so she never pushed it.
The time my Mum was part of the MLM caused my body confidence to hit it’s lowest point – Mum would constantly pressure me to drink the shakes, always telling me it was “to be healthy.” I was only fifteen at the time; being pressured to drink weight loss shakes (not that my Mum believed that they were for weight loss), well, it made me believe that my Mum thought of me as overweight, when I truly wasn’t.
Mum wasn’t a seller for long, but she had a downline of mostly friends (I’m from a very small country town) and was very passionate about it for the time she was selling. The lady who brought her into the scheme is still selling and my Mum still purchases the products, but just the shakes now (not the teas and supplements she pushed on us).
Her downline, as far as I know, has also stopped using the products as it’s not that different to every other weight loss shake on the market. I don’t know how much money my Mum lost, she managed to hide it well, but she certainly lost some. We had a huge box of shakes in our office for about a year after she stopped selling.
One evening we were watching a show called The Checkout, where they had a skit about Arbonne called Door Knocking, and my parents thought it sounded like the biggest scam ever. When I said “it sounds just like Isagenix” Mum got quite offended.
Two years later, the same show had a piece on MLMs called Opportunity Knocking, and mum’s response was, “I wish this had been on three years ago“.
I had been calling it a pyramid scheme the whole time so at least she realises now that it is. She still uses the product – I think because she doesn’t feel comfortable buying weight loss shakes in public (my mum is very thin, most likely with some body issues herself) but she doesn’t sell or push it on us anymore.
This is my little experience with an MLM. Thankfully my Mum didn’t lose too much money or alienate anyone, but it still changed her and made me realise I will never get involved in an MLM. I just thought I would share my story, as a daughter of someone who got involved in an MLM and the effects it had on me.
[Elle:] Thank you, Mica, for kindly sharing your Isagenix experience. If you have any questions for Mica, please add them below and we will ensure they reach her.