Beware The Snake Oil

Regardless of where you are with your physical health, there are people out there who claim to know the secret. They swear up and down that they and they alone know the path to a healthier you.

Yesterday on social media, I encountered one of these guys. He’d made a joke and, though skeptical of what he was selling, it was the kind of joke I respect. As a result, I mentioned being skeptical of the program, but jokes like that made me really want to give it a try.

After all, I tend to believe there’s more than one way to the Promised Land.

The guy, however, wasn’t getting that. Instead, he launched into a bit about how I apparently didn’t know him and his program was the very best, yadda yadda yadda.

I simply replied that no, I wasn’t familiar with him before yesterday, but my skepticism had its place in the old saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” I also added that was open-minded, though. After all, not everything that seems too good to be true actually is. Sometimes it’s not as good as it seems, and a handful of times it’s just true. It’s rare, but it does happen.

Now, bear in mind that this guy had shared a screenshot of a review of someone saying they’d lost 60 lbs this year with this very program. Since 60 lbs over a 12 month period is quite an accomplishment, 60 lbs over 9 months is extraordinary.

Didn’t matter. I got the internet version of a scream about how he didn’t care what I thought. When I questioned the hostility, I was not-so-politely invited to perform anatomically improbably sexual acts upon my own person. I blocked him at that point.

What a way to market a book.

Now, even without that interaction, I’d be skeptical. I’m not going to link to the book for two reasons. One, I’m not going the bastard’s marketing for him. Two, I don’t need to set up some kind of an internet beef with a guy who clearly has anger management issues.

But I will say that I spent a bit of time looking at his book’s Amazon page and there were so many alarm bells going off before the interaction…

First, we’re talking about a book that’s now been out about a week and has, as of this writing, almost 160 reviews, all five-star.

For a weight loss book.

Literally, no one has had a chance to put this stuff to work since the book’s been published, but they’re getting great results? Hmmmm…fishy.

Now, it’s possible this guy has a massive following elsewhere and that’s where he’s already outlined these principles, so that’s where these results are actually coming from, but no mention of that in the book’s blurb.


Then, let’s address the fact that many–not all, buy many–of the reviewers have absolutely no Amazon history at all. None.

Yes, they’re verified purchasers, but it still sounds off. Very, very off.

I ran this past some friends of mine who are also involved in publishing, and it had everyone cock their heads in confusion. The fact that as of about 1:00 AM Eastern, he was getting a couple of reviews per hour is just weird. Is it possible, sure, but it’s weird.

Now, let’s couple that with his reaction to admitted skepticism?

Folks, if you’re making extraordinary claims, you need to be ready to present an extraordinary defense. Let’s ignore that my bio on that social media platform has men writing for PJ Media, Townhall, and Bearing Arms, marking me as a member of the media. Let’s also ignore that he seems to lean the same direction politically as I do, so his hostility had nothing to do with politics.

What transpired led me to believe that what he suffers from isn’t a desire to help people become their very best, but a narcissistic need for devotion from adoring fanboys. He had an opportunity with me to market, not just to me but to anyone following either conversation. He could have gotten into the science of his program with a few links, or an invitation to check out the book and, if I didn’t like it, take advantage of Amazon’s generous return policy. Any number of things.

But he didn’t.

Further, since I am a member of the media, either he was too stupid to look at my bio–which is a warning flag with someone who purports to have discovered some secret–or he was just too arrogant to care. Neither is an endearing thing. After all, if he’d have convinced me to try it–and I was already leaning toward checking it out–and I’d have gotten results, I could have presented that fact to tens of thousands of people.

Not that he has any obligation to kiss my rump or anything (and I’d have preferred he not), but he probably could have responded with something other than hostility to someone expressing a bit of skepticism. Especially when they also said they were open-minded.

But it looks like his ego couldn’t handle doubt.

When it comes to fitness and weight loss, though, there are a lot of charlatans out there. With sky-high obesity rates, Americans are looking for a fix, and far too many of us want something easy. After all, we tell ourselves, we’re busy people. We can’t afford to waste our time doing a whole lot of work. We need something that takes 10 minutes a day or something.

If there’s a market, someone will provide. That’s the beauty of the free market.

However, while there are a lot of legitimate people trying to legitimately help people, there are also those who see a market and will try to exploit it.

Some people may be marketing things in good faith, believing that they’re actually helping people get healthy while making a few bucks, not realizing their product is crap.

Most of the others, however? I personally think they don’t really care. They’re in it for a few bucks and they don’t really care if anyone gets any healthier.

The one thing both these groups have in common, however, is making extraordinary claims. They present their products as the latest and greatest in fitness and weight loss, and you can lose unwanted pounds in just minutes per day.

They’ll throw on a testimonial from someone who said they lost 60 lbs with this product, but no mention of how long, what else they were doing, nothing.

It’s an extraordinary claim, even if they put a disclaimer that the results aren’t typical. With an extraordinary claim, you should expect to have to make an extraordinary defense.

If you couple fitness hucksterism with something else I’ve noticed in both fitness and personal defense, you get a real problem.


In fitness, people want gurus. They want one guy who knows all to tell them what to do, and because of the hucksterism, there are those who will happily provide themselves as that guru.

This creates a perverse incentive for some who have a narcissistic need to be adored to step up and provide all these people need in a clever package, so long as no one ever questions anything.

Sounds kind of like a cult, and for a good reason. It’s not there, but probably not for lack of trying.

All of this, however, is designed to separate you from your hard-earned cash. These snake oil salesmen don’t care who you are, what you want, or how little you earn. You either fork over the cash or you suffer. They don’t really care.

What happens next, however…well, this has run on long enough. I think I need to do a part 2.

Author: Tom

Tom is a husband, father, novelist, opinion writer, and former Navy Corpsman currently living in Georgia. He's also someone who has lost almost 60 pounds in a safe, sustainable way, so he knows what he's talking about.

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