BY the close of 2015 I'd encountered at least three people who claimed to have completely changed their lives.

I was recently approached by a Herbalife distributor, a former reality TV star

They hadn’t found God or sought counselling, got a personal trainer or a drastic new haircut, but instead found their new perfect body and career and raison d’etre in diet companies with pills, protein shakes, detox teas and a significantly large social media following.

To celebrate their new life, these people began a relentless assault on my social media feeds:

‘Need to get back into shape, L’Oréal? I just bought my [enter fad diet] and I lost 5 pounds in one week! I know of a brilliant new product that can help you lose weight and change your life for the better. Should I send you the details?’

These people had not only become hardcore dieters and positivity-pushers but ‘distributors’. What's quickly becoming clear is that these new diets are not just a meeting or two a week with a few pink shakes as meal replacements... this is Weight-Watchers on acid.

Buy your chosen diet product, take a picture and document your weight loss. If it works the companies may want you to become part of the team, flog some of their products and make yourself a few quid. No wonder thousands of people are jumping on board.

This digital diet (or ‘Instagram diet’) has introduced a new phenomenon of dieting; one that is very visual, very imposing and at times very expensive. While all the selfies, 'fat-to-fit' before-and-after photos are positive enough, is this stuff really working? Below we've asked questions of five of the largest digital diet companies.


5,777,000 Instagram posts 

I was recently approached by a Herbalife distributor, a former reality TV star, over Twitter to try their three-day fat loss trial, or ‘learn how to earn an extra £500-£4,000 a month part time helping others get fit & healthy’. Safe to say alarm bells rung. Yet Herbalife has seen unprecedented success both in the US and the UK. Back in 2014, The Telegraph reported that the company ‘boasts revenues of more than £3bn worldwide’ through selling diet products such as meal-replacement shakes and vitamin supplements.

Herbalife focuses on four main areas: weight management, fitness, targeted nutrition and personal care. The meal replacement shakes are rich in protein and calorie controlled with approximately 220kcal per serving. The current healthy face of the company is Cristiano Ronaldo alongside a massive succession of sport stars, celebrities and regular folk. However, due to Herbalife's active recruitment of millions of 'distributors' over the world, there's been criticism that Herbalife is just an elaborate pyramid scheme.