This post was originally published as part of The Trump Files—a collection of telling episodes, strange but true stories, and curious scenes from the life of our current president—on October 3, 2016.
Donald Trump has long had a fixation with other peoples’ weight. He called Rosie O’Donnell a “fat pig,” criticized Jennifer Lopez’s butt, and said a pregnant Kim Kardashian shouldn’t dress “like you weigh 120 pounds.” After Hillary Clinton noted at the first presidential debate that Trump had once called the Venezuelan Miss Universe “Miss Piggy” because of her weight, Trump couldn’t help himself. The next morning, he insisted he had been correct. “She gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem,” he told Fox & Friends.
Trump has not just used fat-shaming as ammunition in his feuds—he also turned it into a business venture. In the midst of the Great Recession in 2009, he began hawking a rapid-results weight-loss and nutrition program as part of a pyramid-like company called the Trump Network. And the venture flopped.
The Trump Network was a multi-level marketing company that recruited regular people to act as salesmen for its products (usually some kind of nutrition supplement) and saddled them with the losses if they couldn’t find buyers. The Federal Trade Commission received numerous complaints from people who claimed the Trump Network had taken advantage of them. “They are scamming and deceiving people, making them believe that if they ‘just hang in there’ they will make money,” one person wrote. (The FTC never took action against the company.)
As with many Trump business deals, Trump had licensed his name and endorsement to an existing company called Ideal Health, which rebranded itself with his name and logo when he signed on. Although he took no leadership role in the company, he enthusiastically endorsed its products, and his name—and promises of riches at a time of economic malaise—were central to its appeal.
“The Trump Network works with some of the best nutritionists, scientists, and technologists,” Trump explained in a letter posted on the company’s website. “As a result, our products are leaders in their categories—designed to help improve your health and wellness, putting you on a path to the lifestyle you’ve always wanted.”
In another letter to potential customers, Trump billed the company as a way for people who had lost their jobs or savings in the Great Recession to pull themselves back to prosperity. “The good news is: The Trump Network can provide you with a solution to help you and your family create a more secure future. Diversifying is a way to protect your income so that you can continue to do what you know and love, and still make money.” A chart posted on the Trump Network website predicted that it was already on a path to becoming a $1 billion company.
One Trump Network product was a Trump-branded vitamin that the company offered to custom-tailor to your body if you provided them with a urine sample. Another was a “botanical infusion supplement” called Quickstik, designed to “help you manage your energy throughout the day.”
And then there was the Silhouette Solution, a weight-loss program similar to SlimFast, that offered its own brand of bars, snacks, soups, and drinks. Here’s how the Trump Network website sold it:
The Silhouette Solution Program was designed to keep your hunger satiated while supporting your body with the nutrition it needs for healthy weight loss. The carefully-calibrated foods in Silhouette Solution’s 19 unique snacks ensure that the proportion of proteins to carbohydrates, fats, and calories is exactly what your body needs to satisfy hunger. You’ll receive two full months of carefully-calibrated foods. In fact, your introductory shipment contains several samples of every one of our Silhouette Staples®. This enables you to try them all and then choose the ones you prefer going forward with. The idea is that if you are eating foods you enjoy, you are more likely to stick to—and achieve—your weight loss goals. Just think, you could be slimmer, healthier, and happier than you have been in years.
The solution was to eat one “calibrated” meal per day, and a bunch of Trump Network snacks, known as “Silhouette Staples.” Those offerings, designed to “melt” the fat off your body, included “BBQ puffs,” a “Chocolate colossal shake,” a “Peanut passion bar,” and a “Vanilla creme shake.” A starter kit containing bulk packages of those snacks cost $1,325.
The Trump Network promised to deliver results in 80 days, and as with most such schemes, there were ample opportunities to buy more products. If a customer signed up the for a two-month trial of the Silhouette Solution, the Trump Network threw in a free PrivaTest, its urine-test for customized vitamins—at a savings of $140.
Here’s Trump and Trump Network president Lou DeCaprio, explaining how the Trump Network could help you make money and lose weight:
The Silhouette Solution wasn’t the only weight-control program offered by the Trump Network. The company also sold a product for kids called Snazzle Snaxxs, aimed at steering young people away from junk food. Snazzle Snaxxs, such as chocolate Snazzle Barzzs, sour cream and onion Snazzle Twissters, and cinnamon apple protein puffs were designed to “provide the same satisfaction as ‘junk’ food while helping, not hurting our kids,” according to an informational brochure.
With the purchase of either the Silhouette Solution or Snazzle Snaxxs, customers received a free book from the renowned Harvard nutritionist Dr. David Ludwig. (Ludwig told CBS News in April that he had never endorsed Trump Network’s products and was “mortified” that had been used in connection with the Trump Network’s products.)
Despite Trump’s predictions that customers who signed up to sell the company’s weight-loss bars and urine kits would obtain financial success, the company failed. In 2013, its owners filed for bankruptcy and the company was sold to a new firm, Bioceutica, which continued to sell its products. Trump continued his wellness education the same way he always had—shaming individuals in public.