Multi-Level Marketing and Fitness
Multi-Level Marketing and Fitness avatar

Get Rich Quick, Get Fit Quick – Really?


Those who know me, know that I am an entrepreneur.  I like having my own businesses.  I’ve started both traditional businesses and have been involved in a few MLMs (Multi-Level Marketing).   I believe MLM opportunities are good for the right people with the right personalities… if they get in at the right time.  But, do MLMs have a place in the fitness industry?  Apparently so, it’s a multi-billion dollar industry.  But the odds of you succeeding at making money AND/OR helping you become physically fit are heavily against you – both health-wise AND financially.  For this article, I am purely focusing on those products that claim to improve your health through juices, energy drinks, shakes, supplements, and at-home exercise programs.

MLM Business Model

There are various types of multi-level marketing business models offered by some very large companies as well as small, aspiring companies wanting to grow up to be a big company.  These companies have products ranging from vitamins, health & beauty items, nutritional shakes, and juices to household goods, cleaning supplies, legal services, communication products and more.  Perhaps the most notable MLM companies are Amway®, Mary Kay®, and Avon®.

MLM companies offer you the opportunity to become a distributor for a nominal fee of a few hundred dollars.  You are usually then required to purchase a certain dollar value of product for yourself each month on a program commonly known as “auto-ship”, where product shows up at your door and the money is withdrawn automatically from your bank account.

Your job, besides ordering product for yourself, is to convince others (family, friends, neighbors, etc…) that it’s in their best interest to do exactly what you are doing.  You recruit distributors and earn a small commission on what they buy for themselves.  As they add distributors, you also earn a small commission on what those people buy.   And, as you build this “down- line” of distributors, you can earn monetary bonuses and other perks.  The goal is to exponentially build a mega network of down -line distributors to the tune of thousands or tens of thousands.  At that point, you will earn a monthly residual income so large that your brain and bank account could explode.

Yes, there are people that reach this level.  I personally know of three or four people that are crazy rich because they have taken the time to “work the plan”.  But, I know hundreds and hundreds more that have gone bust, losing not only a lot of money but have lost friendships and even their marriages over the failure of an MLM business.

Juices, Shakes, and Workout DVDs

Now, let’s talk about MLMs and fitness.

“Fitness in a Bottle” is what some people call them.  Juices, powders, and shakes made from exotic berries and other “healthy” ingredients, hand-picked by natives in rain forests are preserved, packaged and sold at 10 times what it actually takes to manufacture them.  These concoctions often contain “secret” ingredients that claim to be full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and other things that we are, admittedly, too damn lazy to put into our bodies on our own – you know, those hard to find staples like good ol’ fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein?

What are we thinking?

We, as fat, lazy, naive Americans, somehow believe that a miracle juice or a collection of at-home exercise DVDs are going to magically transform us into the model of health.  We’ll have boundless energy.  We’ll sleep better.  We’ll never again have high blood pressure or back pain.  We’ll get rid of stress.   And, we’ll lose all that weight we’ve put on over the past ten or fifteen years.

You see, our thought process becomes distorted by thinking these products are truly miracle cures for what ails us.  Sure, there are just a few people that actually adopt a healthy lifestyle and see results.  They get the fact that they also need to exercise and make dietary changes.  But the majority of the people involved in these MLMs believe that 2 ounces of wahoo wahoo berry juice is an anti-venom for that big beef, double bacon cheeseburger meal, somehow  reversing the 2,000-calorie meal fermenting in their gut. 

And when it comes to the at-home, intense workout programs on DVD… many of us think that we still have that same body at 40-something that we did when we played high school or college sports.  Our mind tells us we can do it, but our body has been dormant for a decade or two and we immediately start working out at such a high intensity without even having a physical checkup from our doctor, that we a) injure ourselves, b) give up after a couple of weeks, or c) have a heart attack or stroke.  While these programs are right for some, they are not good for the majority. The adherence rate for these programs over the recommended time period is extremely low.

Been there, done that!

You see, I bought into all of this – a few of times over my adult life.  Most recently, after tossing away more than $3,000 on “product” in one year, the only health benefits I got were lifting and moving 12 lb. cases of bottled wahoo wahoo berry juice from one room to another – which, by the way, caused back problems.  Besides straining my back, I strained relationships with friends and family members trying to coax them into a long-shot, money-making scheme.  I lost sleep worrying about how I was going to sell AND drink all of this juice stacking up in my living room.  My blood pressure went up while my savings account went down.  And… I gained weight to the tune of about 30 lbs. during that year… partly from drinking too much wahoo wahoo berry juice.

Shhhh… I’ve got a secret.

Today, as a certified personal trainer, I see how ridiculous this pipe dream was and how ineffective and harmful it can be to the 95% of those who will fail.   What I do see very clearly is how you can improve your health, not with the wahoo wahoo berries and other “secret formula” products, but with this amazing secret…  exercise and good nutrition. 

“Really?  You mean all I have to do is get off of my butt, exercise and eat healthy?”

Yep, that’s my “secret” plan.

“But, how will I become a millionaire and buy a mansion, a vacation home, five new cars and travel to exotic destinations?”

Uhmm…. maybe you can put in the necessary time and effort to get yourself healthy, look good, work hard, and earn a promotion or start your own successful business like millions of other individuals have.  Who wants to hire or promote someone who is out of shape, overweight and doesn’t take care of themselves?  Sorry, but I’m just being honest.   It happens. It’s happened to me on more than one ocassion.

You see, over the past year, I have worked hard to make positive changes to my health with nothing more than implementing a simple plan of exercise and good nutrition.  There’s no special juice or shakes I have to buy – or get others to buy.  In just a couple of months, I was able to get off of a number of medications which were costing me about $120 per month.  I invested this money in my gym membership and a personal trainer.  I also invested in myself when I decided to pursue my personal training certification so I could, instead of scamming people to part with their money for my benefit, encourage others to invest their own money into the improvement of their own mind and body.  The success rate of people improving their health long-term with exercise and good nutrition is ten times greater than the percentage of people making a profit in an MLM.


Are there exceptions out there – opportunities that make sense?  Maybe.  But I’ve yet to find one that I can fully endorse or buy into.  The closest one I’ve seen is Beachbody®.   But their fitness products are based on home fitness programs presented on DVD.  Unless you are laser -focused and able to adhere to the program over the recommended time period, you are going to fail.  These workouts are intense.  And, some of these programs try to sell you supplements and vitamins, many of which may not be good for your body if you have certain conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid problems, cancer and others.  As a personal trainer, my scope of practice does not and cannot allow me to recommend or sell supplements.  This should be handled by doctors, registered dieticians and others aptly trained and certified.

The Verdict

In my opinion, MLMs do not have a place in the health and fitness if they position themselves as a replacement for regular exercise and eating healthy for the rest of your life.  This includes wahoo wahoo berries, gritty health shakes, and exercise programs that are too intense for your current level of fitness and promote the use of supplements.  Yes, I know, it’s a multi-billion dollar industry.  But that says a lot for how gullible we are in believing that the “Fountain of Youth” and the “Pot of Gold” actually exist.  Statistics show that less than 5% of people involved in MLM businesses experience success.  That means that a whopping 95% will fail.

No, I am not saying that some of these products aren’t good for you.  I actually like the wahoo wahoo berry juice – as a dietary supplement.  I’m only saying that too much faith is being put into most of them as being “miracle” cures for poor health.   When people put 100% of their faith in these products, and most do, they become even more discouraged when they don’t see the results they were promised and wholeheartedly believed they would reverse the affects of leading an unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle accompanied by poor eating habits.  Many people even lose faith in the benefits of exercise and eating healthy.

If you have an few hundred extra dollars laying around  each month, why not join a fitness center or invest in some home workout equipment and then hire a personal trainer and/or nutritionist.  You’ll learn how to exercise correctly and make the right kinds of nutritional choices that will get you back on the path to a healthier, happier you – for life!  We can only make the necessary, life-changing physical and mental changes to our body by exercising daily and eating the healthy things that God put on this earth for us to consume. 

To those five percent of successful MLM’ers living off of the 95% who are channeling money up your downline, I say “Bravo! Well played!”  For the rest of you…“Caveat Emptor!”

By the way… I still have seven cases of 2008 vintage wahoo wahoo berry juice stacked up in my basement if anybody wants to buy it… anybody… going once, going twice…

To your health!

This entry was posted in Business, Injuries and Conditions, Miscellaneous, Motivation, Nutrition, Product Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Multi-Level Marketing and Fitness
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  1. Aundray Russell says:

    I get where you are coming from, but you are saying that MLM does not have a place in fitness, when in reality it’s not MLM that doesn’t have a place its the actual products being promoted, right? Example Beach Body existed before they were MLM, so based on your article one would assume that beach body does not belong in fitness, being able to make money in MLM is always just the bonus to the product.

    Body By Vi, which is a shake, of course you need to exercise to get results, but what doesn’t have a place in fitness, the product or the making money part? It’s easy for us as personal trainers to knock these companies, because they take away from our clientele, but truth is, you and I know that these products should be used for dietary supplements not as a magic potion like some use it for. But if you as a personal trainer was able to implement a system like this into your program the proper way you could make a lot of money off of the products, no different than gyms do when they sell their shakes.

    It sounds to me that you were not successful as an Multi level Marketer so you used this as an opportunity to put down the business, the business works for those that work it. Same as fitness. You cant get in shape off of a shake, you have to put in the work, in MLM you cant get successful just talking to a few friends and family. It’s a business if you dont treat it like one, you wont make any money.

    • Brian Koning says:

      Here’s the crux of what I said..

      “In my opinion, MLMs do not have a place in the health and fitness if they position themselves as a replacement for regular exercise and eating healthy for the rest of your life.”

      The key word here is “if”. There are a lot of good opportunities out there and it does take a special kind of person to succeed at MLM. I’ve had moderate MLM successes and some dismal failures over about 25 years. I’m all for MLMs and believe in some of the products out there. BUT… I don’t believe that MLM has a place in a personal training business such as mine. Personally, I would never bring Body By Vi, Beach Body, or anything like that into my business and push it off on my clients. Some of those programs are actually direct competition. If they want to seek those products and opportunities out on their own and get involved from a business standpoint, then that’s their decision. But, I am a converted purist when it comes to exercise and nutrition. Work out. Eat healthy. Don’t trust magic potions.

      We know that 80% of the equation to weight loss is eating healthy, while 20% is exercise.

      I have a local competitor who operates a small training studio. He sucks at marketing. He’s up against the wall and could lose his business. So, he just signed up for Body By Vi and is ramming it down his clients’ throats. Now, they not only overpay for personal training from an uncertified trainer… but they are also drinking the kool-aid believing that he can turn them into millionaires. And… he initially poked fun at the people who brought him into the Body By Vi business and said he’d never, “stoop so low as to resort to multi-level marketing”. Desperate times, desperate measures.

      As an ACE-certified personal trainer, it’s against the Code-of-Ethics to promote any type of nutritional program or supplements without proper degree or nutrition certification. I could actually lose my certification.

      I am in total agreement that to be successful at anything, you have to do the work. I am laser-focused on helping my clients reach their fitness goals through exercise and basic nutrition. My business is growing exponentially right now and people are getting great results.

      Thanks for the debate!

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