Feature Article

Deception in Geelong.

Money, health and happiness; three things majority of the population would love to attain simultaneously. Well, apparently you can have it all, according to the multi-national company ‘Herbalife’. Individuals can make money, become healthy and happy just by joining, and it’s all “for free”, or is it?

Twenty percent?” “Exercise!” “Eighty percent?” “Nutrition!” “One Hundred percent?” “Grateful!”
These are the words, and the philosophy, you would hear if you walked into Geelong Lifestyle Centre on Monday evenings, and, Wednesday and Saturday mornings, these are the days where, what started as a small community ‘Fitclub’, is now a well renowned, and not so well liked, bigger ‘Fitclub’.

Fitclubs are run all over the world, however the one run here in Geelong is only about two years old. It began with only a few oblivious members, most of whom are no longer part of the community as they became aware of what was really happening under the surface of a few free workouts and cheap, discounted nutritional products.

‘Fitclub’ is an initiative of a larger corporation called Herbalife. Herbalife International is an American founded, multi-level marketing company that markets, develops and distributes weight management and nutrition products all over the world and is estimated to have made $477 million dollars just last year. http://www.herbalife.com.au/

This marketing structure means that money is made, not only through profit on products, but by independent distributors recruiting other distributors, these are called their ‘downline distributors’. It is because of this system that Herbalife International has been under investigation, since March 2014, by the U.S Federal Trade Commission for implementing a pyramid scheme.  http://www.factsaboutherbalife.com/herbalife-unmasked/

“A pyramid scheme is a business model that involves promising participants payment or services, primarily for enrolling other people into the scheme, rather than supplying any real investment or sale of products or services to the public”. http://www.scamwatch.gov.au/content/index.phtml/tag/PyramidSchemes

“They suck you in by praying on your insecurities and disadvantages”, Olivia Jane bluntly states.

Jane, is a twenty six year old personal trainer from Geelong and was previously one of Herbalifes ‘Fitclub’ coach. She first heard about the company through a “fitclub’ scenario in Melbourne, where she attended the workouts as she was quite impressed that there was something as beneficial as free workouts going around the city.

“I found out about ‘Fitclub’ through Facebook. Someone had posted something along the lines of ‘looking for 10 people who want to change their lives and regain their ideal body, comment for more information’. I was really eager to see what this was about, so I commented and was told where to, and what days and times to be there”.

Jane attended several ‘Fitclubs’ before she was approached by one of the coaches and asked if she wanted to be a representative of Herbalife and help ‘change peoples lives’.

“At the time, I thought, what an amazing opportunity, fitness had been a passion of mine for years and what better way to give back to the community”.

It did not take long until boxes and boxes of Herbalife products turned up on her doorstep and she was asked to promote, sell and distribute the nutrition side, and then not too much longer after that, the coach that had recruited Jane asked her to try and recruit a few more people to become coaches because Jane would gain some money out of it, and so would the first coach. This was when she started getting skeptic about what was really going on behind closed doors and did some research into Herbalife, and what she found was nothing she could have imagined.

“I found copious amounts of hate pages, warning websites and a whole lot of stuff against Herbalife. I decided to get out before I got too far into it”.

Jane left Herbalife after that and will tell anyone not to go near them. She has started her own personal training business and is doing quite well for herself.

An anonymous, current Herbalife Geelong coach attempts to justify and reconfigure what ‘Fitclub’ is all about. “We’re all about a healthy, active lifestyle down at the centre, changing peoples lives and seeing results is what its really all about”.

However, when asked how she gets paid, she is unable to look anywhere but at her phone and begins to stammer as she quietly says “Oh, um, that’s um, the nutrition side of things. We get paid for each product we sell and how many people we are able to recruit, but, but, it’s not about that, we don’t push the nutrition”.

Yet, at the centre their philosophy is ’20 percent exercise and 80 percent nutrition’ and they have a section of the room specifically for nutrition, called the “nutrition station” where they encourage people to refuel after about 15 minutes of working out.

A fitness first couple have owned Geelong Lifestyle centre since late 2013 and have been running ‘Fitclub’ and recruiting more coaches week by week. They also promotes their own personal training business on a board inside the centre. However, they were both unable to be interviewed for this article.

John Bourke is an advocate against Geelong Fitclub (and Herbalife in general), who runs a Facebook page exposing all of Herbalife’s secrets, he aggressively stated; “They just keep growing, with no care for the truth or the people they are misleading”. “Over in America, the same thing happens, but they are targeting poor latino communities who are unable to pay for any form fitness oriented activities. Here, in Geeling, in our own town, they are going even further and targeting their promotions at young mothers by saying they are a kid friendly environment. It’s absolutely disgusting”

Bourke will, at any cost, try to ward people off anything fitclub and Herbalife related so that innocent, unaware people become educated of what is going on behind closed doors. https://www.facebook.com/herbalifeunmasked?fref=ts

“So while, on the surface, ‘Fitclub’ may seem completely harmless, if not super beneficial, there are hidden agendas that those who join are completely oblivious too, and this deception is happening within our own community and we need to put a stop to it”.

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