Remember: "Soylent Green is people!"

Mine is a long street with dozens of houses, but in the cul-de-sac where I live, I have at least two neighbors involved in MLM, get-thin-quick schemes.

I was approached by each on two separate occasions. One was selling that Ardyss International “Body Magic” thing, a severely restrictive undergarment that claims to shrink you at least two dress sizes in just minutes. I wanted to support my neighbor and attend her “party,” but the going price for the thing was nearly $200.

I wish I would pay $200 for a girdle on steroids.

My other neighbor cornered me in the grocery store, and I almost agreed to attend his “meeting.”  He is so good at selling I felt terrible about turning him down. But I did. I had to. He was selling some kind of  “nutritional supplement” that causes people to lose weight rapidly – without diet or exercise. It took 10 long minutes, but I was able to extract myself from his aura. See, I’d already attended two other MLM schemes in his home over the past nine years, and regretted it both times. I go to be nice and neighborly, and leave resenting him for wasting my time.

Like Amway, Mary Kay and Pre-Paid Legal, an MLM seller’s success depends on how many underlings they can amass to promote and sell the products for them, creating something of a downline or hierarchy. Unlike Amway, Mary Kay and Pre-Paid Legal, a lot of MLMs aren’t legit. I don’t know or care whether Ardyss International or the nutrition company is legit; I don’t believe in either magic underwear or pills or anything that excludes healthy eating and exercise.

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The truth is, though, most of these products eventually let customers know that changing their eating habits and exercising more will, in fact, make a much bigger difference in addition to their always-overpriced items.

I fully understand the need for magic. I wish there were a magic weight-loss pill, but there isn’t. There are, however, all kinds of  healthy nutritional supplements different people swear by – people whose opinions I trust. I’m interested in trying something new. Like wheatgrass shots – as in drink, not needle. The ones I’ve seen look gross. (Remember “Soylent Green is people?” No? You’re too young, then.) But they’re supposed to be great for energy and the immune system.

I am intrigued.

I’ll try just about anything, especially if it’s made from natural products and has a track record I can research and understand.

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But I’m not looking for any kind of “fix” from a package or bottle. The simple truth – and I’m not a fan of it, either – is that there is no substitute for healthy eating and exercise. I don’t even like the word exercise – it’s attached to all sorts of bad memories, like tuna, grapefruit and iceberg lettuce.

Yet there’s nothing magical about it. Maybe that’s why it’s such a hard sell.

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring. ~ Carl Sagan

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Leslie J. Ansley is an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur who blogs daily for TheRoot. She lives in Raleigh, NC.