Review by SueW
Greer Childers, now at the age of 71, and obviously greatly "enhanced" by plastic surgery and botox, has reappeared in infomercial land with a "revolutionary" (she claims) new program. Having a lot of problems with not honoring requests for returns from those who found her programs less than effective and with the FCC closing her down for falsely advertising weight loss without dieting, she seems undeterred in her ambition to sell product. Her new program called "Abdonda" is probably the first one which has some history of being somewhat effective to tighten one's abs. But it's far from new. Cory Everson wrote about a similar technique in her book on Exercise, published in the 1990's (Cory was one of the first Ms Olympia's). It's called "vacuums" and you pull in your abs tightly and hold for a few seconds and then let it go. Cory pointed out that you can do these anywhere - in the car or at work. Greer calls these "vacuums", deep (aerobic) abdominal breathing and suggests doing them for 7 minutes a day, emphasizing her usual sale closer - that you can do these standing up and that's all you need to do. But the fantastic weight loss results, the testimonials in the infomercial give are likely, not from doing vacuums but rather from strict dieting. It isn't really clear and if you look at the number of CDs offered in Abdonda, looks like the program is more complex than they would like you to think on the infomercial. Also the infomercial does mention it teaches you "a way of eating" but does not specify much about it. This is the first infomercial Greer has made, which admits dieting is necessary for weight loss.
The interesting thing about Greer Childers is despite numerous challenges to her claims, she's been around for 20 years and is probably making a good buck from sales of her devices and programs.
The following history of Childers' various programs, challenges from customers and the FCC, makes interesting reading.
Greer Childers, a pixie-ish blond, first appeared on the scene in the mid 1990's. In her 50's, she claimed that her svelte look was due to a program which she claimed to have basically invented, called "Bodyflex". This program consisted of something she called "aerobic breathing" ("that's what you really do when you do cardio", she explained, saying you could get the 'fat burning' effect without cardio if you did the breathing correctly). And about 15 or less minutes of sit-ups, crunches and other light calisthenics a few times a week.
Her claims in the infomercial were rather amazing... "lose 10 lbs in 7 days" she claimed and so easy, without starvation and heavy exercise (while she was giving this line, later infomercials ran small print that the weight loss would only happen if the person went on a "reasonable" diet) .
Her book was a bit more candid about the origin of her program, "Bodyflex". She had apparently taken a class in Pilates in California and adapted some of the techniques to Bodyflex. Newly divorced and broke, she desperately needed an income and this looked promising.
She had muscular thighs and legs and said she had run enough miles to run around the world. But she never said in the book that she had STOPPED running to keep off her weight and likely she hadn't.
I joined a yahoo group called "bodyflex" - but found all the people there who attributed their weight loss to Greer's few calisthenics or aerobic breathing, were also doing other types of cardio and dieting.
I put my first article about her up in 1999 (latest revision - April 2011). She was an interesting character, whether her claims were true or not. My article drew a certain amount of complaint from a group of fans of Greer's. To date, only one lady who wrote to me, claims a large weight loss using Bodyflex ONLY and there was another letter from an individual who said their mother lost some weight with it but did not do the exercises (the elderly mother was disabled) however, increased her lung capacity greatly. She seems to have a small group of fans on the web who said her program has worked for them, some of whom become very irate at the suggestion that it might not be as effective as Greer claimed it was. One physician opined that the deep breathing was probably a healthy practice but that she had seen no evidence that breathing alone would cause a weight loss i.e. that just didn't make medical sense.
Several of the letters I received about this program were not positive. Some said that they had tried to return the program but the company was near impossible to get a refund from. Others said they had worked for her and with her and knew the lady from whom she um...lifted her aerobic breathing program and that Greer had never obtained permission for this nor had she paid the lady any royalties while going to the bank from her infomercials.
According to at least one unhappy customer whom we shall call Margaret, the body bar was not sturdy at all. Hers broke and it took her years to get ANYTHING from the company. Since the program had not worked for her, she wanted her money back (as Greer promises in the infomercial) however, after about 5 years of bugging the company she got only a new "bodybar". Margaret gave it up as a lost cause.
A channel on Russian Fit TV apparently featured the Bodyflex program but it was removed from youtube. One lady in answer to a "Yahoo Question" said she had tried the BodyFlex w/o for a month and had seen no result but she thought it might be of some benefit to someone who was not "fit" if they stayed with it. This lady switched to Weight Watchers and Leslie Sansone cardio to get the desired results (Leslie has moved to Facebook but still advocates her walking program).
Interesting enough but the story grows even more intriguing.
In November 2003, the FTC announced they were suing Ms Childers and group for false marketing claims.
In part, that complaint read:
The FTC asked the court to issue an immediate temporary restraining order for all defendants, except Greer Childers, to prohibit them from making the challenged false claims, and freezing their assets, and require an immediate accounting. Defendant Greer Childers has stipulated to the entry of a temporary order that prohibits her from making the challenged claims, freezes certain of her assets, and requires an accounting. The FTC also is seeking preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, including redress for BodyFlex purchasers.
According to the FTC, the BodyFlex infomercial has been among the 10 most frequently aired infomercials in weekly U.S. rankings, and has aired over 2,000 times from February through September 2003 on national cable channels such as Bravo, The History Channel, and Home & Garden Television. The defendants have spent approximately $22 million to promote BodyFlex through the infomercial, according to the FTC.
The defendants have sold BodyFlex for $39.90, plus $14.95 shipping and handling (totaling $54.85) directly to consumers through their toll-free number or Web site. The product also has been offered for sale on third-party Web sites, such as www.tvproductsonly.com.
The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the complaint was 5-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, in Los Angeles, on November 7, 2003.
(FTC File No. 032-3212)
The above case apparently settled out of court the following year, with Greer and her company, being ordered to contact all Bodyflex buyers and offer a refund.
FTC Settlement papers September 2004 from FTC site
Greer disappeared from infomercials for a while again and then appeared back on TV in 2006 but this time, with a brand new program and no mention of the "aerobic breathing" or "bodyflex" which she had previously stated was the "only program that had ever worked for her".
The new program was called "Shapely Secrets" and included "7 secrets" of weight loss which promised to give you, according to the testimonials, (again all claims were made by customers and not Greer) a loss of 10 lbs and 10 inches in 7 days. However as this very claim was being made, small print flashed at the bottom of the screen which stated "typical results are 1 size and 6 lbs in 14 days".
Greer now 61 years old looked wrinkle free in the infomercial. She still had the long flowing blond hair and the face that says "you have to believe me - would I lie to you?"
The exercise with "Shapely Secrets" was done "standing still", is 7 minutes long and appeared to be, from the brief description given, some type of "isometric exercise" The small print on the infomercial told us two muscle groups are worked - the arms - triceps biceps etc and the thighs etc.
One comment on a website stated that the "Shapely Secrets" workout, albeit only 7 minutes was a "no fun" w/o and the writer preferred traditional cardio. Another said that the program had not worked for her but she was having problems getting a refund for the DVDs. A couple of other commenters said they loved the program and had lost weight with it. Several commented that isometrics was nothing new and that there were several places on the web you could learn those for free. There are 20 pages of comments on this site, probably worth reading for those contemplating purchasing any of Greer's programs (which are essentially the same with different packaging.)
On the Shapely Secrets website Greer claimed the 7 minute isometric exercises are much more effective than traditional exercise as proven in 5 university studies but she gave no cites to the studies.
Her website also displayed the following disclaimer:
*RESULTS VARY. TYPICAL RESULTS ARE 1 SIZE AND 6 POUNDS IN FIRST 14 DAYS.
RESULTS BASED ON 7 MINUTE EXERCISE AND 7 SECRETS DIET/LIFESTYLE PROGRAM.
Notice - there was a diet involved with the program. To the average American, quick weight loss without doing much and only 7 minutes of exercise done "standing still" is attractive and isometrics does work especially accompanied by a calorie restriction diet. Greer does have her small group of enthusiastic supporters although it seems most folks lose interest after a short amount of time. If you order her program[s], be aware that her company has a bad track record for processing returns so don't count on getting your money back if it doesn't work for you.
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