Dan Murphy: Gimme An Info-Break

Plant-based foods diets are now infomercials. ( FJ )

We’re used to the exaggerated claims made by late-night hustlers selling us some fabulous new appliance. But when it comes to online diet plans, this one begs the term ‘outrageous.’

There are two quintessential American inventions that we created, and the world embraced.

One is the franchise system. Now, most people associate the initial evolution of this concept with hotel chains and department stores. But those ubiquitous Howard Johnson’s and Sears & Roebucks that dotted the commercial landscape last century were company-owned stores.

The emergence of the “independent franchisee” began in the 1950s with fast food restaurants and soon spread to virtually every other consumer retail sector.

And eventually, the rest of the world.

The other distinctly American contribution to the enlightenment of humanity is the infomercial.

These over-the-top, super-energized sales pitches were once confined to late-night hucksters selling new and improved! versions of household appliances, cooking utensils and must-have time-saving gadgets no family could possibly live without.

Over the last several years, however, the infomercial has morphed into various online come-ons for personal services, self-help starter kits and DIY programs — all without losing the basic premise of the infomercial concept: The product/service/program being hustled WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE!

And you’ll thank the sellers later.

Unbelievable benefits

A recent entry into the Most Ridiculous Dietary Program sweepstakes is an online course hawked by the husband-and-wife team of Beth and Scott Putnam. The pitch for their course, “The 21-Day Plant-Based Plan for a Lighter, Happier You!” (suggested “donation:” $50) faithfully follows the tried-and-true structure of the classic informercial.

It starts with skepticism.

“People around the world who eat more whole plant foods and less animal-based products tend to be healthier overall,” Scott Putnam explained. “[But] even with all the evidence, I'll admit I was a bit skeptical about whether all of the benefits achieved by others would actually work for me.”

Next — surprise! — a revelation: This diet really IS miraculous!

“I believed there was no way I was going to feel full and that I certainly would never enjoy the taste or flavors of a diet based only on plant foods, but I could not have been more wrong!” Scott revealed. “Within the first day, I felt different ... much better. Weight started coming off, I had more energy, and longtime aches and pains simply disappeared.”

Okay, if you’ve sat through more than a couple such info-testimonials, you know where this one’s going, because the miraculous results (within one day!!) are only the beginning of what you — yes, you! — will experience on this fabulous 21-Day Plant-Based Plan.

After some blah, blah, blah about researching one’s family medical history, and more background noise about weaning the family off “all animal-based foods” (including seafood and eggs), the Putnams launch into the heart of their pitch: a detailed list of benefits too good to be believed.

Unless you become a true believer and purchase the plan, of course.

Here’s a sampling:

  • “The first thing I noticed was that the chronic hip pain I had struggled with for many years was gone.”
  • “I felt an increase in mental clarity and slept better within the first week.”
  • “By the end of the second week, I had tons of happy energy and started losing weight.”

And remember, you’ll start losing the weight on Day One!

After just three weeks, the whole family was “loving the delicious fresh foods” and was “happily eating together,” presumably for the first time in memory.

After six months, Scott said he lost 65 pounds, was training for a half-marathon race, and he and his wife became certified plant-based nutrition consultants via a certification program through Cornell University.

And they just knew that, “We had to share our knowledge and experience with others!”

For the low, low price of just $50, you, too, can lose weight, free yourself from all those aches and pains that have plagued you for years and change the trajectory of your entire life. “Students” purchasing the program receive delicious plant-based recipes, a weekly shopping list for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for 21 days, along with “daily lessons to support and sustain this new lifestyle.”

The only thing missing is the final closing pitch, “But wait — there’s more. Now you can double your order! … just pay separate shipping and handling.”

That, and a serving of credibility at least as substantive as all those plant-based recipes.

The opinions in this commentary are those of Dan Murphy, an award-winning journalist and commentator.

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