When Kevin Trudeau was sentenced to ten years in prison recently, a lot of people scratched their heads. Sure, he had peddled and promoted a lot of nonsense in his day, from celebrating “natural cures” like homeopathy and “energetic rebalancing,” to recommending that his readers stop taking their prescription medicines. He had even tacitly encouraged parents not to vaccinate their children: “Vaccines are some of the most toxic things you can put in your body,” he said.  But this is America, where we don’t just send people to jail for saying things in books and on infomercials … do we?
But it wasn’t selling snake oil that put Kevin in the slammer. In fact, it wasn’t even the “natural cures” books for which he became so famous. It was his relatively forgotten book,The Weight Loss Cure “They” Don’t Want You to Know About.
In his infomercials, Trudeau had called his weight loss plan “easy” and said that those who followed the plan could “eat whatever they want.” A judge found that he had “…misrepresented the contents of his book [and] … misled thousands of consumers.”The courts were especially sick of him because they had dealt with him a number of times and had previously barred him from making outrageous claims about products in infomercials (at the time, he was selling a calcium product and saying it cured cancer). Trudeau had carved out an exemption for his books, only to exploit it. He was charged $37 million in refunds to his readers, which he refused to pay, saying he was flat broke. The court knew he wasn’t because he kept buying things like $180 haircuts. This time, when he went back to court, the judge threw the book at him.
When I stopped by Trudeau’s Ojai, California, home to visit his estate sale for Skeptical Inquirer, I found about thirty copies of that very book in his den. I went home with one copy for $3. I wanted to see what fantastic weight loss secret was so good that Trudeau was willing to risk his livelihood. And here’s what I found out.
It’s Not “Easy” Unless You’re a Masochist
“The most common myth is that to lose weight, and keep it off, you must eat less and exercise more.” —Kevin Trudeau
Trudeau’s weight loss plan is long, grueling, and so confusing it might as well be a Dante poem. You, the dieter, will be doing the treatment for approximately ninety-six days, then following a maintenance routine. The plan itself is divided into four stages. But even these stages are not clear: part four contains elements of the diet plan itself as well as the maintenance program; at times he contradicts himself by saying you should have only one massage a week, then later saying that you should get three; at one point, he says you must always eat six meals a day, then later he recommends six meals a day “plus breakfast.” Not only is the diet not simple but the reading isn’t either. A graphing calculator may be recommended.
During the thirty-day preparatory phase, you will be drinking one gallon of water a day infused with coral calcium, eating only organic food, swallowing various kinds of oils, sunbathing naked for twenty minutes a day, going to bed at 10 pm sharp and rising at 6 am, getting fifteen colonic irrigation treatments, drinking several types of tea daily, taking filtered showers, doing a liver cleanse, doing a heavy metal chelation cleanse, doing a yeast cleanse, taking nine separate supplements, sprinkling hot peppers and cinnamon all over your food, avoiding trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, MSG, nitrites, farm raised fish, microwaves, carbonated drinks, fast food, ice cold drinks, lotions or creams, “electromagnetic chaos” (such as cell phones and TVs), air conditioning, fluorescent lights, and all drugs, including prescription medicine. And that’s just the beginning.
And although Trudeau claims his program is neither a diet nor exercise program, you will be lifting weights daily and spending one hour a day walking and twenty minutes a day on a rebounder. Simple, right? Phase one is a breeze.
The forty-five-day second phase is when the real treatment begins. You, the dieter, begin using the secret ingredient: taking injections of human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG), a hormone that women produce while pregnant and excrete in their urine. If injecting yourself with a part of pregnant women’s pee isn’t “natural,” I don’t know what is. You will also be eating only 500 calories a day, for all forty-five days. Lest you think that that is what might make you lose weight, Kevin assures you that that’s not so. If you only restrict your calories but don’t take the injections, he says, you will still retain fat in all your trouble spots; the hCG makes all your weight loss even out, making you trim and perfect, a veritable Cameron Diaz. “Reduced calorie dieting is not only ineffective, but causes more physical problems,” says Trudeau, seemingly ignoring that his diet is, in fact, restrictive.
In addition to the injections and all the not-eating, you will be doing most of the items from phase one, in case you missed all that tea. Worried that you’ll be hungry if you eat a quarter of your required calories for a month and a half? Don’t be. Kevin says that “Hunger pangs will last no more than five to seven days.”
Phase three, which lasts twenty-one days, is much like phase two, except you ditch the injections and you get to eat “as much food and any type of food you choose”! That is, except for any sweetener, any starch (bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, you name it), fast food, trans fats, nitrites, or cold drinks. No big whoop.
Finally, you reach phase four, the final phase in your diet plan. For all your hard work, you are rewarded with a ton of procedures and cleanses, clearing out virtually every organ of your body with “liver cleanses,” “colon cleanses,” and the like. You will be getting intravenous chelation therapy, completing Scientology’s full body fat cleanse program (more on Scientology later), and avoiding GMOs, any food that’s not organic, and any “name brand food.” In fact, you’ll be going through a whole list of rules that will basically govern your every moment from when you get up to when you go to bed at night. And how long does phase 4 last?
The rest of your life.
Bizarrely, Trudeau still claims that the diet is not restrictive: “The whole concept that you have to count calories, eat certain foods and eliminate others, [and] count fat or carbohydrate grams is completely unnatural and unnecessary,” he says.
Good news, though: Kevin Trudeau recommends drinking alcohol every night, which seems to be the only way to get through his lifestyle.
It Costs Over $18,000 to Complete Trudeau’s Diet Program Once
Besides it taking ninety-six grueling days to complete phases one through three, the basic treatment costs over $18,000. That’s over a third of the average household income in the United States, or 195 trips to Disneyland.
But of course, Kevin doesn’t tell you how much everything costs; he simply recommends the products and lets you find them yourself. And what on Earth can you spend $18,000 on in a little over three months? Here’s a sample:
|30 gallons of Volvic spring water||$773.25|
|Various brand name supplements||$1,017|
|24 colonics sessions||$1,800|
|At-home colon cleanses||$210|
|Instrument (which you must learn to play)||$70 for a cheap ukelele|
|Spectrum brand Vitamin E||$240|
|Leonard Caldwell stress reducing CD||$50|
|Rebounder exercise device||$100|
|Breathe 2000 Deep breathing courses||$1,750|
|Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard||$16|
|18 Thai massages||$630|
|Daily infrared sauna sessions||$1,215|
|eWater Shower filter||$170|
|Jack LaLanne juicer||$150|
|Q-Link pendant to block electromagnetic energy||$100|
|Scientology full body fat cleanse||$5,200|
On top of recommending over one hundred products to use during treatment, Trudeau requires that all adherents eat “100% organic food,” for the rest of their lives, adding untold amounts of additional cost.
My final estimate for the treatment comes to $18,525.64, plus the cost of food. Oh, and maybe a plane ticket to Europe, but more on that later.
It Costs $1,679 a Month to Do the Maintenance Plan
Maintenance on Trudeau’s program seems nearly impossible to fit into one’s schedule, with all the supplements, food products, and avoiding every modern convenience since the invention of shoes. On top of that, he requires a nearly spiritual devotion to his own philosophies:
“Deprogram yourself from all the posthypnotic suggestions and subliminal messages that are stuck in your brain... Ideally, you should read immediately upon arising at least one page from one of the recommended books [including Trudeau’s own works], and read at least one page just before retiring.”
But if time didn’t prohibit you from maintaining the program, cost will. It will run you a whopping $1,679 a month (plus the cost of organic food) to follow Trudeau’s program, and it will last for the rest of your life. That’s almost double the average monthly rent in the United States. Here are just a few things you’ll be buying until you’re dead:
|100% organic food||$Forever dollars|
|5 colonic treatments||$375 / month|
|1 gallon of Volvic spring water a day||$309.30 / month|
|Infrared sauna treatments||$200 / month|
|Various brand name supplements||$280 / month|
|Yoga classes||$100 / month|
|Liver cleanses||$40 / month|
|Shower filters every few months||$107 a piece|
You might wonder what Kevin’s incentive for promoting these incredibly costly name-brand products is. According to him, “I have no financial interests in anything recommended in this book … I am not compensated in any way, directly or indirectly, by any company, or for any product mentioned in this book.” Presumably this does not count his own books and paywalled website, which he mentions a total of twenty-three times.
You Might Have to Fly to Germany
So you’re going to try Kevin’s diet, but you don’t know any pregnant ladies who will give you their pee. What do you do? Well, Kevin insists that you use injectable hCG, and that can be tough to get. It’s officially approved by the FDA as a fertility treatment but not approved for weight loss, though some doctors and clinics will prescribe it off-label. But what if your doctor won’t prescribe it to you?
Kevin has the answer in his FAQs.
“Question: My doctor says this won’t work and is not safe.
Answer: Find another doctor.”
Trudeau suggests leaving the country.
“I, myself, went to Germany, got a prescription, and received enough hCG injections to do the entire six-week protocol. I then legally returned to the United States with the prescription and the hCG, and finished the protocol in America. It is my understanding that this is a legal option.”
You May Get Caught up in Scientology
Trudeau repeatedly encourages his readers to take Scientology courses or to get Scientology treatments or Dianetics counseling (Dianetics is a therapy program and school of thought promoted by Scientologists). We are told to “Use Dianetics for psychosomatic and emotional ills,” urged to cleanse toxins out of our fatty tissues using Scientology’s pricy Purification Program, and encouraged to read five Scientology books listed as “recommended reading.”
Trudeau’s devotion to the mysterious Hollywood religion runs deep. In 2010, former employ
According to the FDA, the biggest risk of hCG
ees released memos Trudeau had sent to his staff, rambling about office policies including keeping one’s desk spotless and drinking more juice. He also suggested that all employees take Scientology or Dianetics courses and offered to reimburse 50 percent of the cost of any Scientology event. Side question: how much is half your soul worth?
You Might Get Sick-centric diets is the severely restricted calorie intake, which may cause gallstone formation, electrolyte imbalance, and heart arrhythmias. But the agency has also received reports of pulmonary embolism, depression, heart attack, and death after using the injections.
But the toll of Trudeau’s plan may be even higher. After all, he encourages all of his readers to stop taking any and all medications, from aspirin to HIV medication and insulin:
“…non-prescription and prescription drugs are the number one cause of illness and disease,” he says.
And “every time you take even the smallest amount of even the most common medications you are causing severe damage to the human body.”
And when it comes to choosing a new doctor, he says:
In other words, one who doesn’t practice medicine.
You Probably Won’t Lose Weight in the Long Term
The Weight Loss Cure turns out to be a lot like my high school boyfriend: a lot of promise, and not much to deliver. Trudeau claims you can expect fantastic results:
“I lost six pounds the very first day,” he says, of doing the program himself.
Or, perhaps sensing he’d gone overboard, he scaled it back:
“You lose approximately one pound per day.”
Then he pulls back again, saying that during the thirty-day preparatory phase,
“people should lose between five and thirty pounds.”
And what’s the truth? According to the FDA, hCG has been underwhelming in studies. Any weight loss people experience is likely because of the severe calorie restriction itself, rather than the injections. And like any highly restrictive weight loss plan, the pounds will probably pack back on (and then some) when you return to eating your usual diet. But Trudeau claims that because the hCG is burning up stored fat, the user doesn’t feel hungry at all and can sustain the program longer. Of other diet programs, Trudeau says,
“The problem is during the diet, exercise, or weight loss program you are usually hungry, grumpy, fatigued, have food cravings, need to use super human willpower, and feel deprived and miserable.”
His diet, he holds, is just the opposite. I asked a former hGC user named Amanda how the injections faired against Trudeau’s statements.
“This was not my experience at all,” she said. “It was miserable … The hCG diet required more super human willpower than any other diet I had ever tried (and believe me, I’ve tried them all). I was on the diet less than a week before I stopped.”
Nicole, another woman I spoke to, tried hCG drops and a restricted calorie diet for three weeks. When I asked how the diet worked out for her, she was more blunt.
“It was horseshit,” she said.
Trudeau might argue that if you aren’t following his protocol exactly, with all the right foods and products in place, you aren’t doing it right:
“It is true that hCG should never be used to treat obesity alone. It must only be used as part of the [my] protocol,” he states.
Yet that exact protocol is nearly impossible to follow, and when researchers have tried, the results came out the same: hCG was no better than restricting alone. When I asked Amanda if she would recommend hCG to a friend who wanted to lose weight, she replied,
“No. Absolutely not. I see why people fall for it though … I was desperate for a miracle and wanted to believe.”
You Can’t Trust this Guy
In the end, it seems that the book is not a viable weight loss program unless you eat it, stopping up your gastroinestinal tract and making it impossible for you to eat anything else for a week.
And as for Trudeau’s claims, can you really trust a guy who says things like this?
“Arby’s makes a sandwich with something it calls roast beef. It is not roast beef at all. They actually had to payoff [sic] politicians to rewrite the laws which allowed them to call their artificial man-made product ‘roast beef.’”
Trudeau summed up his confidence in the weight loss “cure” this way:
“If the contents of this book were ever put on trial … any judge or jury would come back with a verdict exclaiming that without a doubt all the concepts, methods and protocols outlined in this book are accurate, sage and effective!”
I guess I’m just not that judge or jury.