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Yilan, Taiwan
I'm a Social Studies teacher and single mom from Colorado and have lived here for 9 years. Taiwan is an excellent base for us explore Asia, while living in relative (gun free) safety, while benefiting from a cheap and efficient national health care system. The people are amazing too. I have friendships that are 14 years old and I'm always making new ones.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Cult of Herbalife

I can't really explain the hold Herbalfe has on Taiwanese people,  or anyone for that matter - its like a cult.  They have these enormously popular events and like all pyramid schemes they try and get their friends and families on board. Herbalife merchandise is everywhere here, and so are these little "nutrition clubs and shops". Although I've been invited to these, I always found an excuse not to go.

Everything about Herbalife seems shady, from money laundering in Mexico, and S. America by the drug cartels, to consumer protection groups claiming fraudulence, to the New York Attorney General investigations; it's not a community I want to be apart of.

                             Betting on Zero (2017) documentary, full version here or Netflix

Last week, I went to this Indonesian grocery shop in Yilan City looking for some frozen tempeh and tempeh starter. I got lucky (or so I thought), I also bought a stone mortar and pestle (for 400 NT) and bought some delicious and not overly sweet homemade, SE desserts.

Unfortunately, next door was a Herbalife shake shop and the owner was (and continues to be) pretty intense. I was on my lunch break so it wasn't like I had loads of free time. He had suckered me in with my pity,  he "needs practice" using his BMI machine. Sure fine, I can spare 5 minutes- what a mistake!

I didn't even know Herbalife was an American company until I came to Taiwan. I have a very good Taiwanese friend who started selling their products a few years ago. There's no doubt she cares about people, that she believes in her product and that drinking one of their nutritional shakes can really help people who have zero healthy habits. When I lived in Tainan I totally had a shake for breakfast and maybe even lost 1 or 2 kg (my body is pretty adept at maintaining the same weight "number on the scale" regardless, its the muscle/fat ration that can go up or down). With her VIP membership I could get Herbalife products at a significant discount and in fact she made me a member for free in the hopes that she could help me score some extra income as a single mom (totally illegal for me with no work permit, an ARC and a contract).

Anyways, I bought shakes and tried the tea for a couple of months but never renewed my membership, let alone tried to push the product on others. At the end of the day, I really didn't believe in the product- especially after I googled the English version of their ingredients and shit my pants.Their protein shakes in Taiwan are all soy based and to me soy is not only a cheap filler  (animal feed), it's also a known hormonal disrupter (having had a postnatal thyroid imbalance and being told by my Dr to avoid soy unless its fermented.) I prefer whey or better yet, pea protein. Their products also are highly processed using fructose, artificial flavoring, MSG, carageenan (which is a carcinogen) and trans fat oils. Studies from Switzerland and Israel both found Herbalife products to have high amounts of lead.

Says Grell, “If a consumer taking each of these products as a part of Herbalife’s

Weight Management Program, which is entirely possible, the individual would be
exposed to 23.179 mcg of lead per day, or forty-five times (4,636 percent) more
than the maximum exposure. Ironically, it is a health and nutrition company that
appears to be selling a product that amounts to nothing more than a lead cocktail.”
(Christopher Grell, co-founder of the Dietary Supplement Safety Committee and lawyer specializing in dietary supplement litigation. The alert can be viewed at the Fraud Discovery Institute’s website.

When I moved to Yilan, I started working out at one of these "boutique clubs" (only TRX/weight/combat classes, no weight room) and they provided a complimentary Herbalife shake post-class.  They tried to sell to me once and when I tried to tell them about soy, they never pestered me again. They often held small meetings, "nutrition clubs" to attract more followers.


Personally, when it comes to a clean and healthy protein shake, vegan pea protein is the best.  If any of these Herbalife people bothers to read the label (which I didn't at first because it was in Chinese and I assumed Herbalife sellers knew what they were talking about), then you know this is like cancer and diabetes in a powder. As for replacing Herbalife's fat burning teas, old-fashioned Oolong or Matcha or Yerba Mate is just as effective (in my opinion). I never tried Herbalife's shampoos or skin care line, but there are plenty of options available in Watsons that are organic, with zero parabens, coloring, or fragrances without following the herd and losing your money in the process.

That aggressive Herbalife shop owner would do himself and family a better service,going next door to the Indonesian shop, buying tempeh (fermented soy, 80 NT a cake) and frying that up for dinner.

More Resources:
Cult Education
Herbalife Suspends 'Cult' Distributor
Is Herbalife a Pyramid Scheme?
In Memory to Friends and Family Lost
An Unbiased Review of Herbalife

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