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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dieting Miracles Pretty Thin on the Ground

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Nature is so unfair. You get married to a young, slender girl, and as the years pass her waist just seems to disappear. Your slender lover is now just a sweet memory. It's not that you don't want to embrace her -- sometimes your arms just aren't long enough.

Men aren't the only ones to suffer. Women suffer, too. What immense effort they put into losing weight and restoring their youthful figure. Very few actually succeed, but diet aids and treatments are a dime a dozen.

Take my wife, Maria. When we married she was as slender as a birch tree. Now the extra weight stays put no matter what she does. She and her friends talk endlessly about dieting. She designates two "unloading" days each week, and during fasts not a crumb or an ounce of fat passes her lips. But on every other day ...

We first heard about Herbalife in the early 1990s and immediately went out looking for this "miracle cure" that all the women in Moscow were talking about. We finally found some, paid through the nose for it, and Maria went on the Herbalife diet, which promised to curb her appetite. The alarm clock really got a workout -- you take the Herbalife pills on a strict schedule. The result? Her appetite probably increased, and Maria spent an entire year getting back to her pre-Herbalife weight.

"You've got to stop taking all these useless drugs," I said to Maria. "You just spend too much time at your desk. You've got to get some exercise. We should start jogging in the morning."

"You're kidding, right?" Maria said, her bright eyes narrowing to slits. "Do you begrudge me the money for my medicine?"

I couldn't just sit there and listen to insults like that anymore. I heard an ad for a new "miracle cure" on the radio one morning and went straight to Lavka zhizni, or Shop of Life.

A pretty salesgirl with a wasp waist, smiling mysteriously, handed me a blue tube of gel and told me it cost 60 rubles. All sorts of dubious claims were printed on the tube: "Improves circulation, restores cell function," and so on. You get the idea.

"Do you recommend it?" I asked Miss Wasp Waist.

"Just look at me," she said.

"What if it works?" I thought to myself, imagining the slender Maria of years gone by; and I bought a tube.

Now Maria applies the gel from head to toe twice a day, weighs herself just as often on our bathroom scales and measures her waist. We're on tube No. 4 at this point. I keep quiet. I was, after all, the one who told her about this treatment.

The result? Maria was recently able to slip into her favorite skirt -- a feat she hadn't managed in two years. Not without my help, it's true. But I just couldn't admit that "my" miracle cure was just as useless as all the rest.

Vladislav Schnitzer is a journalist and pensioner living in Moscow.