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Snake-oil salesmen get you to buy what you want to buy

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Ellis County Press
I've always enjoyed Hollywood's colorful depictions of snake-oil salesmen.

You know the ones. Smarmy. Offering a one-size-fits-all cure for whatever ails you.

And people are buying it.

I like snake-oil salesmen because they are so universal — there are endless real-life, modern-day applications for the model.

Think about it.

My favorite is weight loss.

'This man lost 90 pounds substituting a S— F— shake for lunch every day,' the deep-voiced announcer explains.

'And he kept it off for three years! Now he runs in the Boston Marathon!'

It never seems to occur to anyone that running miles and miles every week has anything to do with his new physique.

A new prescription drug will help you leave a little food on your plate after every meal. Of course, people with addictive tendencies should use caution - the drug can become addictive.

Hello! Aren't we all addicted to something? I'm addicted to chocolate for pity sake!

Even around the proverbial water cooler, people are peddling diet myths. A glass of wine every day and you'll lose all the weight you want. Eat more carbohydrates. Eat no carbohydrates. Breath deeply to speed up your metabolism. Exercise in the morning. Exercise at night.

The county extension service even got in on the act, sending out a press release called '10 Hunger-Free Ways to Eat Less.'

Everything from 'just say no' to 'use a smaller plate so it looks like you have more food.'

We need the government to tell us this?

A number of years ago, I had a successful diet year, dropping 30 pounds a just a few months.

Around the office, I was somewhat of a celebrity.

Christmas came, and with it the usual onslaught of tempting goodies.

The office skinny person stopped me in the hallway.

'You're looking so good these days,' she said. I was still twice her size, mind you.

'Thank you,' I said, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

'I'm trying to lose weight myself.' Clunk. 'I just can't seem to stick to a diet.'

'Yes, yes it's hard,' I said. What else could I say?

'Just this morning, one of the students gave me a great big box of chocolates,' she moaned. 'I don't know what to do. I guess if I just allow myself one piece a day it won't be so bad.'

Let me remind you here, this person was almost offensively slim. Not that I wouldn't have traded places with her in the blink of an eye - but let's face it, she could have taken on milkshakes intravenously for weeks without ever tipping the scale into the triple digits.

'Oh, no,' I said innocently. 'That's not the way to handle it. If you eat one piece a day for 30 days, say, you blow your diet for an entire month.'

'Really?' she said, eyes wide.

I set the hook. 'Yes, a whole month, that way. No, the thing to do is just to eat them all at once. Just blow the whole day, then get right back on your diet tomorrow.'

'That makes sense.' She nodded and strode purposefully away with a gleam in her eye.

Sometimes I'm tempted to feel a little guilty about the conversation. But I usually overcome it.

By the way, it's a proven fact there are no calories in chocolate chip cookie dough. And if you let the brownies sit out a while after you cut them, all the calories will escape into the air.

Just try not to be standing too close.

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Nelson Propane

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