Cupping is a recognised form of treatment in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Many of us are already familiar with it. Even if we haven’t tried it ourselves, we would have seen the bruises that result from the procedure on men and women we see on the streets. According to TCM literature, cupping has the following functions:
1. free channels and dredge collaterals
2. promote qi and activate blood
3. relieve swelling and pain
4. dispel wind and scatter cold
This may sound like a lot of hubris to the layman, but it makes perfect sense in TCM theory, especially when combined with other forms of treatment like acupuncture. Most TCM practitioners use cupping and acupuncture to treat pain, swelling, asthma and flu. Sometimes it works. Sometimes the results fall far short of expectation. Taking a pill for a transient, acute headache could have been far more effective and convenient.
Let’s put matters in perspective. Before modern medicine was available, our ancestors had to resort to needles and unpalatable herbal brews to treat all sorts of ailments, including life-threatening ones. In those days, infant mortality rate was high and life expectancy was low, but being the best form of treatment available then, people accepted the pain, inconvenience and unpredictability. Fast forward to the present and we life in the age of super machines and drugs. Along with affluence and hectic work schedules, came ailments associated with stress and the lack of physical activity. While there are drugs for hypertension, insomnia and hyperlipidemia, there are no specific prescriptions for cellulite, obesity or longevity. Sure, obesity can be managed with strict diet and vigorous exercise, the ever-busy modern man/woman is easily persuaded that there’s some secret formula that works quicker and requires far less effort. Ironically, as cynical people begin to doubt the safety and efficacy of modern medicine, they become intrigued with “ancient secrets”.
Singapore’s latest slimming fiasco began with blogger queen Xiaxue trying out a slimming programme that involved cupping. The slimming centre that did it for her claims on its website that it has won awards and “consults with” one of my mentors in the TCM college. Xiaxue was engaged to do an advertisement for this company. She became really excited when they told her they had clients who had lost 6, 10 or even 15kg after one month. To make it more “convincing”, other “lifestyle bloggers” who advertised for the company swore by the treatment. All they had to do was lie down for treatment and eat a healthy diet after that.
There are two client testimonials on that company’s website, but frankly, I don’t believe that cupping can slim a body down. Acupuncture and herbal medicine may work if there is some underlying pathology like “stomach fire” or “dampness” or fluid retention, but the effect of cupping is localised. There are studies to support it, but the results are quite inconsistent. I don’t see how cupping can make people lose weight.
A friend of mine was once persuaded by his tuina master to go through a pinching session to reduce his tummy. That fool let the quack grab a thickness of his flab between his fingers and throw out as hard as he could. At the end of the screaming session, he was left with a badly bruised tummy. The only thing that vanished after two weeks was the bruising. Not surprisingly, Xiaxue was disappointed after her baguan session. Not only was there no effect on her weight, she suffered painful bruises which she said were even worse than filler injections on her face.
I think not. Filler injections in the face are more painful than the bruises, but the pain doesn’t last long and the injection sites are relatively few. For cupping, the pain can drag on for days – especially if skin is broken and if the area is extensive.
Well, Xiaxue decided to be honest about it (unlike some other “lifestyle bloggers” who photoshopped the bruises away and who knows what else they’ve photoshopped) and posted her bad experiences on her “dyre”. I’m not sure what it is, but I’m guessing that it’s probably some blog or forum managed by the slimming centre in question. Xiaxue later realised that she probably shouldn’t have done that and removed those posts. Unfortunately, someone from the company had seen them and threatened legal action!
At this point, I have to say that I’m more amused than shocked. Yao mo gao chor ah? Haven’t they learned anything from the Roy Ngerng saga? True enough, Xiaxue refused to back down. She went to her own blog and told the whole story as it is. She said: “Without real, true opinions, a blogger has no credibility. A blogger with no credibility cannot sell ads…”
Very true, but let’s not kid ourselves. The most popular bloggers out there are all the lifestyle bloggers. They are the ones most sought after by companies dealing with lifestyle products and services. Let’s not kid herself. Can the business of advertising through bloggers even exist without all the hype and complicity of all parties with vested interests?
Yes, it’s good that Xiaxue has chosen not to do the ad under such circumstances, but there is a fine line between promoting a product/service “ethically” and praising it more than it deserves. It is almost impossible to be totally honest about a product when you are paid to promote it. After a fiery start (with the usual colourful Xiaxue imprecations), the latter part of Xiaxue’s blog posting became a lot more civil:
I’m not saying the company isn’t ethical or the bloggers aren’t. This is just a factual review of my experience with the place.
Before we get prepared to crowd-fund Xiaxue for a possible lawsuit, let’s take a look at something interesting. Below is an advertisement for a slimming tea which Xiaxue posted on her Facebook profile.
The “hey Wendy, here’s your edited caption…” shows that she had merely copied and pasted the supplier’s message (addressed to her) wholesale without assessing the efficacy of the product objectively. As Xiaxue mounts the moral high horse while commenting on this slimming centre’s service and other bloggers’ approach to marketing, we should be aware that Singapore’s blogger queen has been influencing young, impressionable minds for many years. Had she been as selective and discerning with the products she had promoted like she claimed to be? There could be other reasons for Xiaxue to fall out with this slimming centre. Anyone who is not a naive and impressionable fan of these “lifestyle bloggers” (who are said to earn tens of thousands of dollars a month) should be at least vaguely aware that they are probably under even greater obligations towards their sponsors than mainstream media journalists.