Fat chance

Suffering somewhat from the after-effects of Easter overindulgence, I thought I would visit a weight-loss clinic and see what they could do with a hardened case of bonhomie, a marked preference for the fattier things in life, and a strong aversion to exercise of any kind. 

I had rung them up previously, and had been assured the program was thoroughly scientific and that there was no hard sell. With a grain of salt clutched firmly in my hand, I set out to have my no-obligation, 45-minute free health assessment. 

The company in question had recently moved premises, so I found them with some difficulty, as they were now perched on the second floor of a shopping complex and approachable by a discreet rear entrance. As I walked in, I was greeted with the sight of a rubber model of 15 kilos of fat and two pleasant ladies who appeared to be in charge. 

I was handed over to a man who was going to be my personal weight-loss consultant. He was a cheerful man, of average education and well into middle age, and he endeared himself to me immediately by agreeing with everything I said. With my innate sense of superiority thus confirmed, I sat down and was treated to a computer-based slideshow of the clinic’s program. 

My consultant gave me the beef on low-GI foods, all of which I already knew. He told me that I would be introduced to a simple physical technique which would help me burn fat faster. “Chewing”, I said. He looked a little put out, but continued undaunted. 

He told me that his company had invented the term “metabolic syndrome”. I let this one go into the net. He also hinted that his company had pioneered the concept of “insulin resistance”. By this stage I was taking an unhealthy interest in the program, and begged him to go on. 

Taking my measurements, he entered them into the program. “Now Philippa,” he said, “at the other end of this computer is one of our medical consultants. She will be processing this information as I’m entering it, and she’ll send back the results and your personal weight loss goals and program immediately.” 

I watched as he entered figures into a perfectly normal computer program which would automatically generate results based on the figures entered by him. Sure enough, the figures which came back were the ones he predicted the ‘medical consultant’ would give me. 

And then came the costs. I was to pay nearly $1000 for the privilege of having a blood test, and for visiting these people once a week for encouragement for the next three months. I baulked a little at this, but there was a discount for up-front payment. He looked downcast, and said, “It’s just that I’m chasing my figures for this month, and I was hoping …” He then offered me another discount for up-front payment, bringing the total cost to around $800. 

I said I would think it over, and made good my escape. As with gym membership, there is a tendency for good resolutions to evaporate, so many people simply give up attending a program like this after a couple of weeks. This translates into good money if you can get these people to pay up front. There is nothing illegal about this, but it is a sad reflection on our present day and age. And if you get it wrong, your franchise can go belly-up – as has happened with this company in several states. 

But the low-GI thing certainly works, and it’s equally rewarding at the supermarket checkout. And you can have a blood test for free if you ask your GP nicely.

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