The Herbalife Weight Loss Products Review is a blog post where I’ll walk you through the Herbalife weight loss products and whether or not they are worth the money. As an Intuitive Eating Dietitian, I’ve got your back with what the science really says about health, weight loss, and weight loss products.
Is Herbalife the product you can’t stand to miss...or is the marketing too good to be true? Let’s settle in and see how Herbalife weighs in against the facts and bust some myths, shall we?
What is Herbalife?
Herbalife is a weight loss program that includes Herbalife products. Herbalife was founded in 1980 by Mark Hughes, a salesman and entrepreneur whose formal education stopped at the 9th grade. Herbalife has grown to be one of the leading distributors on the market today. Herbalife's goal is "to provide good nutrition through Herbalife Nutrition Clubs, health information, online support, educational materials, and ‘innovative’ herbal formulas.”
The Herbalife diet consists of shakes and other products designed to help you lose weight...at least in the short term. Herbalife is about as far away from Intuitive Eating as you can get.
New to that term? Let’s take a quick detour to go over what Intuitive Eating is.
What is Intuitive Eating?
New to Intuitive Eating? Intuitive Eating is the absolute opposite of a diet. Instead of depending on external cues for what to eat and when, you build trust with your own body and eating. Plus, it is far healthier than fad dieting.
For a full into, this post is for you: What Is Intuitive Eating? A Beginner’s Guide. If you’re ready for freedom from the protein shaker bottle and high bills, join us in the SociEATy. I can’t wait to meet with you!
Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming. Herbalife: healthy product or just another fad diet?
Herbalife main programs
The main Herbalife product is their protein shake, called their Herbalife Formula 1 shake.
The suggested use of this low-calorie shake is to mix two scoops with an 8-ounce glass of fat-free milk. When made with milk, the Herbalife shake provides:
- 170 calories
- 17-24 grams of protein
- 3 grams of fiber
- 415 mg of calcium
Since an 8-ounce glass of skim milk provides 80 calories and 8 grams of protein, it is a bit less impressive that you’re reaching 17-24 grams of protein with the shake.
Now...they market this as a meal replacement or snack. If I were a toddler, or perhaps a bunny rabbit, this might be enough nutrition and energy to sustain me longer than four minutes. But since I am a grown woman, the idea of 170 calories filling in for a meal is laughable.
If you drink this for breakfast you’re setting yourself up to overeat at lunch because your body will be screaming for more energy by then! It’s not your lack of willpower. It’s your biology trying to keep you nourished.
As a liquid meal replacement, these calories are even less satisfying than if they were solid, say in a half-sandwich or granola bar. One appeal of any meal replacement is fewer decisions in a day, but they just end up backfiring in the end most of the time. More on meal replacements here: Is A Meal Replacement Diet A Good Fit For Me?
When you slurp through your meal, you might get far less nutrition than your body actually needs as well as no satisfaction in the eating experience. Next stop: uncontrollable hunger leading to feelings of out-of-control eating. Pass!
Other popular Herbalife products
Herbalife offers many, many products, from protein shakes to lotions and shampoos. For the sake of this blog post, I’m focusing on Herbalife weight loss products to review.
Herbalife pre-workout is an example of a product that is intended to boost your energy and performance during a workout. Most of us, however, don’t really need anything like this. As average exercisers, we need to focus on the basics: balancing macronutrients at meals and snacks, eating a variety of foods that feel good and hydration.
How about an analogy? If you’re building a house, you’d start with a strong foundation, frame the walls and then finish with the walls, windows and finally move in. Starting with these kinds of more nitty-gritty nutrition detail products from the get-go is kind of like trying to hang curtains on a house that doesn’t have a foundation yet. Start with the basics of understanding hunger and fullness, making peace with food, and applying higher level gentle nutrition.
Herbalife pre-workout contains caffeine, creatine, and some specific amino acids. While there is some benefit of caffeine and specific amino acids, most of us cover our needs just fine with food. Not only is a tuna sandwich and a cuppa cold brew tastier, it is a far less expensive way to meet your fitness nutrition needs.
If you’d like a few more details, check out my podcast episode about How to Intuitively Fuel a Workout.
Like many supplements, they post claims on the packaging such as “improved blood flow” and then have disclaimers that most folks ignore: *These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
One container has 25 servings and costs a whopping $87.10; that’s $3.48 per serving. I’d rather just have a cuppa coffee and call it a day, personally.
Herbalife protein bar
Herbalife has a few different flavors of protein bars for sale. They’re 140 calories each and provide 10 grams of protein per bar. Each bar is nearly two bucks!
Now, this might surprise you, but I actually eat and enjoy protein bars. But, as an intuitive eater my intention here is different from most Herbalife customers: I’m not eating the bar as a meal replacement or with the intention to lose weight. I choose protein bars as a way to have a snack that keeps me satisfied longer than if I had a carb-only snack, such as fruit or crackers.
I also add protein powder to some of my recipes, such as Banana Protein Muffins, to round out the macronutrients a bit. Traditional muffins are mostly carbs, which is not a bad or unhealthy thing. I just know that we’ll feel more satisfied when we have a bit of protein, fat, and carbs at most meals and snacks.
Sometimes I even make my own protein bars. Here is my favorite DIY protein bar recipe, which is a copycat recipe for the Perfect Bar: Cookie Dough Protein Bars.
Ready to make many dashes to the bathroom day and night? Try Cell-U-Loss. It’s basically a “natural” diuretic...this means that the weight you can measure as lost on the scale is just water, not fat loss. The moment you drink water it’s coming back.
And you know what does an amazing job of regulating your pH? Your lungs and kidneys. No need for a fancy pill to backseat drive the process that your body has a firm handle on.
Added bonus? The magnesium in this product might cause diarrhea….that’s one more hard no from this dietitian.
Continuing the tour of a few Herbalife products, you can purchase the protein baking mix, kind of like Bisquick, but for 10X the price, and I can only imagine how good they taste…
One canister of protein baking mix costs $53...a box of Bisquick is about four bucks. But wait: in order to follow their recipes, you have to mix this mix with the regular formula 1 protein powder. Breakfast just got more expensive. Is it really worth that?
...maybe you’d like some pancakes that actually taste good and don’t cost a zillion dollars per bite? I’ll just leave this link to my Protein Pancakes (Without Powder Or Banana!) in case it grabs your attention or appetite.
Getting started with Herbalife
If you wanted to start using Herbalife products, you can’t just order them online or visit a store. Herbalife is a multilevel marketing company, which means you have to buy your products from a local distributor.
Here’s the kicker: anyone can be a distributor. They don’t have to have any kind of nutrition training or background. Their motivation is typically influenced by wanting to make a sale.
Now: is every distributor a shark? I doubt it. I am sure that plenty of them have had good experiences with the products and believe that they’re helping people, in addition to building a business. But you have to sift through their recommendations on the fact that they make a commission on each and every sale that they make.
Plus, the idea that thinness is healthier is BS.
How much does it cost?
There are many products, but for this, let’s focus on their main protein shakes. They’re for sale for $43.30 for a canister of protein powder that contains 30 servings.
The math on that means that you’re spending $1.44 per day to replace one meal (which is more like half of a meal or less) with the Herbalife shake. And of course, if you’re having more than one shake per day, or using other products, your Herbalife bill will grow.
This is not an inexpensive product to use, even if you’re just using the shakes. And anything else that you add to your shopping cart is just going to drive that overall bill straight up.
And let’s remember: health doesn’t actually have much to do with your weight. Let’s chat about those numbers, now.
Health is not a number
Health depends on your behaviors, not the number on the scale. I know that this kind of blew my mind, based on my own expectations and training as a dietitian. But with continued training and my own experiences with disordered eating, we know now that behaviors are determinants of health.
Yes, you can be in a larger body and be healthy.
Yes, you can be in a smaller body and be less healthy.
You cannot look at a person and know if they’re healthy or not.
So, for Herbalife – or any diet product – to say that weight loss is a health booster is a big ‘ole canister of BS.
Want to see some data and research? Glad you asked: Can Really You Be Healthy At Every Size? (HAES Explained!)
Does Herbalife really help lose weight?
Does Herbalife really help you to lose weight? Maybe in the short term.
Long term? It is highly unlikely. Almost all diets “fail” eventually. And by failure, I mean that the measurement of success – weight loss – does not last. This is not your failure, this is the failure of the diet. Your body knows the best weight for you and it is called your set point.
Your set point weight should feel good and be easy to maintain...you shouldn’t need an expensive, complicated limited diet to achieve your best weight.
Want to learn more? I’ve got you covered, Boo! Here is my blog post all about Set Point Weight Theory: What It Is & How To Find It.
While I have not watched it myself, you’re welcome to take a peek at the documentary about Herbalife if you’re curious. The film is called Betting on Zero and was released in 2016.
The documentary follows billionaire Bill Ackman and several former Herbalife distributors after Ackman takes a billion-dollar short position in Herbalife, alleging it is a pyramid scheme destined to collapse.
From the movie theater to the courthouse: let’s keep the tour going.
Herbalife is no stranger to the courtroom. There have been several lawsuits filed against the company, both in the US and abroad.
Some of these have to do with harm caused by the product: liver damage.
...And liver damage
In 2007, the Journal of Hepatology published a peer-reviewed report that documented four cases of hepatotoxicity (liver damage) that were sustained by users of Herbalife products in Israel.
P.S. Hepatology refers to studying the liver, in case you were wondering.
And in 2013, The World Journal of Hepatology published an article documenting the known cases of liver damage caused by the use of Herbalife products. Interestingly: we don’t know which products or what about them caused the liver damage...and this has not been disclosed or resolved. Ugh! This does not build trust with a company in my book. For all we know the risk of harm is still there.
Where are the ingredients?
As a dietitian, I like to know what is in my food. Not only so I can make informed decisions about what will help me to feel the best, but I also can be guiding clients about their nutrition needs. Many people have food allergies and sensitivities and having clear disclosure of the ingredients is necessary for them to avoid the foods and ingredients that make them not feel good.
While Herbalife will hint at specific ingredients if they sound good or fancy, there are no comprehensive ingredient lists that are easy to find on their websites. This is a HUGE red flag. There should be no shame in stating what is actually IN the product you’re selling!
Upon scouring, ingredients might be found once you locate the tiny PDF icon buried in the product listings, but only if you’re on a certain website...I always want clear and accessible information and full disclosure, if you please.
Not only does Herbalife include dairy and other “regular” ingredients, but they also include herbal products. And as we talked about earlier, herbal products have the potential to do harm. What’s interesting – and a bit scary – is that herbal products are not regulated in the US. Anyone, healthcare training or not, can whip up an herbal product and sell it.
It is a common misconception that “natural” products of any kind are safe. But the truth is, herbal products, including those that are added to products such as Herbalife, have the potential to heal or harm. The active ingredients are there: how they interact in your body depends on the product, the dose, and your own health history.
At a minimum, I recommend choosing supplements and products that have been 3rd party tested. This means that an independent organization has confirmed that what is listed in the ingredients matches what they find in the product - nothing more, nothing less.
3rd party testing doesn’t even mean that a product “works” for the intended use, it simply means that the product is not contaminated with anything else.
It doesn’t appear that Herbalife does any 3rd party testing. On their website, in response to a FAQ about quality, they write:
“Herbalife Nutrition is committed to providing the best products available, and its products are manufactured in compliance with applicable food and supplement laws. Herbalife Nutrition cannot release its internal processes and procedures or its specifications and testing standards to the public because they are proprietary information.
Herbal products – including Herbalife – are not benign.
Is Herbalife worth it?
In my opinion, no Herbalife is definitely not worth the money you spend on their program or their products. Herbalife is one more example of a fad diet that promises short-term benefits with the risk of long-term harm to your metabolism and psyche.
Herbalife is just another low-calorie BS diet that promises big wins for a big price and doesn’t have the chops to back it up. This causes a diet cycle of weight loss in the short term and weight regain in the long term.
I recommend learning about The Damages of the Diet Cycle (and How to Break Free).
To be fair, I’m not just picking on Herbalife. I’ve reviewed (and rejected) several popular diets. Here are a few of my reader favorites:
- The Slow Carb Diet Debunked: Why the Science of Intuitive Eating is the Better Way to Go
- The Thermo Diet Debunked: Why Intuitive Eating is Better Long-Term
- Do Keto Energy Drinks Actually Work?
Help! I still want to lose weight
I hear you. With how pervasive diet culture is, letting go of the desire to lose weight is a tough row to hoe. I get it.
Firstly, I’m proud of you for exploring this blog post with an open mind. This is a great first step of exploration and approaching your health and wellness with curiosity instead of judgment. I’m proud of you.
Wanting to lose weight is a common goal. So much so that I have a full post covering it: Is Wanting Weight Loss AND Intuitive Eating Possible?
But basically, your body knows the best weight for you. It should feel good to be at that weight, both mentally and physically, and easy to maintain. This is called your set point. Some people experience weight loss with Intuitive Eating. Some experience weight gain...and some stay the same!
All journeys towards set point are valid and I can’t predict what is in store for you. I just know that with food freedom, you’ll experience better relationships with yourself, your food, your eating, and your body. Isn’t that worth pursuing?
Key Takeaways: Herbalife weight loss products review
With all of the mixed messages out there about dieting, it can be hard to know what’s best for you. You may have heard that meal replacement shakes are a great way to lose weight in the short term but these products come with their own risks and long-term consequences. In my Registered Dietitian opinion, Intuitive Eating is the way to go.
Companies are here to make a profit. And they do that by having repeat customers. Diet companies want their customers to fail so that they can hook them on the next trend or product.
As an Intuitive Eating dietitian, I want nothing more than for you to break free from diet culture, including companies such as Herbalife. This is a journey. And friends, it is a winding one.
What makes me feel successful? Having clients graduate and no longer need me. My goal is for my clients to learn the skills to live a happy and healthy life, without the shackles of poor body image, needing to spend money on false promises and diet shakes.
If you’d like to learn how to listen to your own body, I have a free resource for you, right here. Listening to your body, your hunger and fullness cues and more are foundational to your Intuitive Eating journey. And I know from experience as a recovered chronic dieter, it is not as easy as just “eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full”.
Need more guidance? Be sure to check out my YouTube channel for more tips to help in your intuitive eating journey and take the no food rules quiz which will tell you what's holding you back from truly finding food freedom and give you customized resources (and a workbook!) to overcome it!