Category: iRant

Skinny Caffe: A vile brew made from all the trendy health buzzwords that left us feeling quite unwell

Today I had the pleasure of trying what is quite possibly the wankiest and questionable of all the dodgy, pretend-healthy diet fitness bullshit products on the market.

One of the perks of my job heading up a bunch of B2B magazines is that we get a lot of food and drink samples for our consumer goods titles. Given the current hype around all things health, fitness and wellness, these samples tend to be a bit of a mixed bag of genuinely useful products I’d probably use myself, and the sort of ludicrous crap that makes you wonder who on earth would fall into the trap of buying them.

Such as Skinny Caffe instant coffee, of which we received two samples recently.

Skinny instant coffee. As opposed to fat instant coffee?

Selling the obvious

When the sachets came out of the box, my first question was: What exactly is skinny about black instant coffee? Coffee isn’t generally known for being particularly fattening, right?

Then I spotted the tagline: “30 day weight loss program”.

A-haa. Another one of those drinks that will magically make you thin and fit.

A glance at the accompanying press release informed me that Skinny Caffe is “natural, vegan, dairy and gluten free”.

Now, not to push the obvious points here, but the last time I checked coffee was vegan, dairy free and gluten free by default. And, since it comes from a fucking plant, probably natural, too.


But will they buy it?

Next up, the product launch information pack promises a number of “health benefits” – none of which have been evaluated by the FDA or otherwise proven, as the small print on the pack informs me.

Let me give you a selection of these claimed health benefits, along with some comments based on our experience of trying the product:

“Helps to achieve weight-loss goals”
We can’t for the life of us figure out how any of the ingredients are supposed to make you lose weight, but the product does contain L Carnitine which may have something to do with it – and judging by the side effects we’re experiencing, it must be a hefty dose.

“Helps to increase the rate of metabolism”
Well. My colleague had a cup a good three hours ago and she’s been experiencing heart racing and jitteriness ever since. I tried half a cup and immediately felt nausea and a nervous stomach prickling – you know, that kind of feeling you get just before diarrhoea hits. The other three colleagues who tried it (despite our warning) experienced nausea and jitters, too. So maybe the statement should read, more accurately, “will send your metabolism into absolute fucking overdrive”.

“Boosts energy levels”
Which brings us to the next point. If you want to call that nauseous, pulse-racing, jittery feeling “increased energy levels”, you were either dead to start with, or you enjoy spending the day feeling as if you’re “on speed”, which is what one of our testers is currently experiencing.

“Noticeably increases stamina and fitness levels”
Well, no. Just no. No drink in the world will make you fitter. If you’re all hyped up as we are after trying this drink, you might feel like you can train a bit longer in the gym (although probably not in a healthy way), but drinking a cup of this coffee every morning will change ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about your fitness levels. And I don’t need to be a PT or sports nutritionist to tell you that. Anyone with an ounce of common sense will know it. It’s an outright lie.

“Adds a radiant glow to the skin”


“Has been said to help with anti-ageing”
Well, I doubt it sincerely. But since the first cup has made our five testers feel quite unwell, we’re not inclined to put this claim through a long-term trial, so I’m afraid I can’t tell you if it’s true.

Are you actually kidding us?

Cashing in on people’s insecurities

Perhaps the most ludicrous part about this product launch is the collection of random photos of women in underwear that appears on the press release. Given the absence of a caption, I can only assume they are intended as before / after shots. But since half of them are headless and they also don’t show any difference in body shape whatsoever, I have to say if that’s the best evidence Skinny Caffe can produce of its weight-loss claims, then it tells you all you need to know about the product.

But as with any diet product, people tend to fall for promises of results without effort. Oh no, you don’t have to sort out your diet or go to the gym. Just drink this concoction before breakfast every morning and you’ll suddenly be slender and fit, with radiant skin…oh, and your wrinkles will disappear, too.

It probably works for the brand, because people tend to buy into that shit. So the price tag is probably no surprise: A pack of 30 portions retails between £25.95 and £34.95. (In comparison, a jar of upmarket instant coffee containing 50 servings costs you about £4.)

In summary, I can only say I’m the last person to deny any health / fitness product a fair chance. But of all the questionable health and fitness products I’ve tested in the past few years, this takes the prize for the sheer ridiculousness of its claims. And judging by how we felt after trying it, I’d say it’s quite possibly a risk to your wellness, if not your health, if you drink it every day before breakfast as recommended.

So do yourself a favour and grab a skinny latte from the corner café.

And, by the way, it tastes vile and there are unidentifiable bits in it.

Schrödinger’s immigrants: Brexit and the blatant xenophobia in the Leave camp’s immigration argument

Brexit rages in the minds and the mouths of this country, and the whole debate has pretty much boiled down to the question of immigration control. That’s understandable, as it’s the most emotionally charged aspect of the referendum, and the easiest target for the Leave campaign’s very cleverly calculated rhetoric.

We’re being flooded by immigrants. They come here taking your jobs and your children’s jobs. They come here without jobs and take your benefits and your children’s benefits.

So goes the Leave campaign’s prime argument.

Schrödinger’s immigrants

When challenged on this xenophobic stance, Brexiters are quick to point out that, of course, they’re not against all immigrants. Just, you know, the bad ones.

Taking last night’s Question Time as an example, the anti-immigration comments from the Leave camp (panel and audience alike) can be summed up as this:

“Oh we’re not against immigration as such. We do like immigrants. We just don’t want the ones that come here taking our jobs, and the ones that come here and don’t work and take our benefits.”

So tell me again, who are these immigrants that you do like, then? Because if you don’t want the ones that come here to work, and you don’t want the ones that come here without a job, that adds up to 100% of foreigners coming to this country.

And that makes you exactly one thing: a xenophobe.

Heart vs mind

I’m worried about Brexit. As a German, European and adopted Brit who has lived, worked and paid taxes in the UK for the past eight years, I’m very worried indeed about a potential exit from the EU. But what worries me most is the blatant xenophobia driving the Leave campaign.

As Eddie Izzard kept saying on the Question Time panel, this stance is hugely damaging to our efforts to improve the state of humanity globally. What we need is not more withdrawal into our own little national bubbles, shutting our borders and throwing out people whose nationality we don’t like. History should have taught us enough of the consequences this approach tends to create. What we need is to reach out to each other and work together on the real threats facing us and our children: Climate change. Resources running out. Spreading political instability. War. Hunger. Good luck to any nation trying to make a difference to those issues on their own.

I’m worried about the referendum because when it comes to immigration, the Leave camp has a very emotionally charged argument that is being driven right into people’s hearts, while the Remain campaign is trying to appeal to economic considerations, humanity and plain old common sense.

I can only hope that when the people of this country vote on the 23rd, they will read their minds as well as their hearts and not let the scaremongering rhetoric cloud their human judgement.

The X-Files Revival Diary:
Episode 6, My Struggle II

Dear Diary,

My struggle indeed. What a stupid non-ending to a thoroughly flawed and frustrating series. This show should have just been left dead and buried. Not only was this the worst orchestrated-pandemic-apocalypse storyline ever scripted, it also ends with a completely unnecessary and frustrating cliffhanger. The kind of cliffhanger you don’t slap on a show that just had a one-off revival fifteen years after the original and no plans for a return.

Booohooo, Mulder is dying from the evil virus and the only thing that can save him is an injection of alien DNA from our son right this moment – BY THE WAY we don’t even know where our son is. And we’re stuck in the world’s biggest traffic jam in the middle of a fucking pandemic.

WELL YOU’RE SCREWED THEN. Even if all this is meant to lead into another movie, I’m not even interested. Let them all die. I don’t care.

Instead of a review I’ll offer you a drinking game: Have a shot every time someone says “ALIEN DNA!!!” If you don’t end up in a coma by the end of the episode…WELL THEN YOUR DNA IS PROBABLY FUCKING ALIEN, TOO. Congratulations.

Seriously, I’m so done with this.

Oh and dear Chris Carter:


The next mass extinction is already happening and we’ve got a seat in the front row

I learned a new word this week: Defaunation – the loss of animal populations as a consequence of human activity. Kind of like deforestation, you know, but with animals. The term was coined by Professor Rodolfo Dirzo of Stanford University, who – together with other scientists – published some pretty freaking scary research findings yesterday.

According to these scientists we’re right in the middle of the Earth’s sixth mass extinction. These used to be caused by asteroid strikes and such – think dinosaurs – but if you look around at what’s been happening on our planet it probably comes as no surprise to hear that we – as in humanity – is responsible for the next extinction. And it will hit us, too. We’ve basically signed our own execution order.

Professor Dirzo has spent years studying the consequences of defaunation – what happens to an ecosystem if one species of plant or animal goes extinct, and how far-reaching the consequences can be.

Well, the answer is: pretty damn far-reaching. The effects can be global. They can kill us.

Here’s an example that shows how: These researchers have been conducting experiments in Kenya, studying areas that have been isolated from large mammals – elephants, zebras, giraffes – to find out how the ecosystem responds to the removal of these species. They found that pretty soon rodent populations will grow massively, because they find food and shelter in the seeds and shrubs that are now not being eaten or trampled by the big guys. We know rodents carry all sorts of diseases – the rodents in Kenya, for instance, carried the plague, among others. More rodents means more pathogens and a much higher risk of diseases spreading among human populations. And the more densely populated an area, the more defaunation happens, the more rodents you’ll get… Well, you get the picture. Mass epidemic of plague. Cheery prospects.


So, what needs to happen is this: We need to protect the animals – the elephants and giraffes, the rhinos, the tigers, the whole lot. And not just because they’re cute and majestic. But because they are part of a very, very fragile ecosystem that keeps a fine balance between all the species, making sure each of us has a chance to survive.

Of course this means stopping deforestation and other exploitation of the land that these animals need as their natural habitat. And it means stopping the hunting and poaching and illegal trade in wild animals and animal products. It means a whole load of people deciding to be more responsible in how they treat the environment.

Hopefully these researchers can shout loud enough and raise enough awareness. Because maybe, if the ultimate goal is not ‘save the tigers’ but ‘save humanity from extinction’, it will just change people’s minds enough for us to realise that this is serious.

Fore more news about the future, read our website and magazine Factor. It’s not all doom and gloom. We also look at happy and exciting stuff – space travel, floating cities, flying cars…everything that the future could bring.

How to take all the pleasure out of reading in just 90 minutes

The reading game is set to change forever, ladies and gentlemen. Well, at least according to this dude here who (along with the rest of the media this week) is getting all over-excited about an ‘insane’ app that supposedly lets you read a novel in 90 minutes.

Spritz it’s called, and it is out to ruin your reading pleasure forever.

Well. The speed reading thing may have its uses if you’re reading for work or for study. (I was certainly wishing I had this skill back when I was going through a combined British and American history and literature degree!) But when reading for pleasure – arguably the main reason behind most everyday novel-reading – why on earth would you want to take all the enjoyment out of the experience just for the sake of being able to boast that you read, like, four books in an afternoon?

I don’t speed read, but a lifelong obsession with books has turned me into a fast reader. Often too fast for my own good. Yes, maybe I get through more books in a year than the average reader, but the downside is I don’t always take them in as much as I would like. So I allow myself to speed through a book if it’s a bit rubbish, but I force myself to slow down on the books I enjoy, often going back a page or even a chapter to read it again, more slowly, and pay attention to the details.

Because really, all the pleasure of a novel lies in the detail and in the language – each sentence carefully crafted by the author, who generally takes a hell of a lot of time to create it all. (So take the time to bloody appreciate it.) If you’re speeding through, you just won’t take these things in. You probably won’t even notice what a beautiful thing language can be, or feel the joy of discovering a particular author’s unique way with words. All that will stay with you is essentially a plot summary; and you can get that in less time from Goodreads or Wikipedia.

Besides, it’s just incredibly sad to think that our attention span has shrunk so much that we now need an app to convert a novel into a bite-sized portion of entertainment that our overloaded brains can handle in between playing Candy Crush Saga and watching X Factor.

No. I refuse to believe that this is true. We don’t need a speed reading app for novels. What we need is to sit down and take a breath, set aside some time and throw ourselves into a book with all our brains and all our hearts. Because that’s the only way to really experience the magic of getting completely lost in a good novel for hours at a time. If it takes a week, let it take a week. If it takes a month, whatever! It will be worth it.

Let’s not allow today’s obsession with technology to ruin this ancient, timeless and absolutely essential pleasure for us.

In a nutshell, as the brilliant Emma Donoghue said on Twitter this week:

No, what’s ‘insane’ is thinking you’ll enjoy books more by giving them less of your brain and time!


My bookshelf – well, part of it anyway. The result of years of reading, not minutes.

Technology marketing vs feminism

We were about to get all upset about a really stupid technology/gadget marketing strategy: Eurostar’s ePad Femme.

Because apparently women can only handle a tablet if it comes pre-loaded with yoga, dieting, pregnancy and cooking apps. Ya know, because we don’t need to worry our pretty little heads about anything else. (And it’s pink. Obviously.)

But then we founded a new feminist-scientific-religious movement instead. It is based on the gospel according to Kristina:

It’s only because men are not as evolved as women. Even if looking from the religious point of view – God made the earth, the animals then a man and only women last – as you can see the pattern here is starting from the inanimate to the most intelligent. Argument proved in any situation.

We’re not sure what to call our movement yet, but sacrificial Snickers will play a key role.

A sad day for Rock

Oh heavens.

It’s Rock Week on The X Factor. Well. Er, “rock” week. So far nobody really seems to have grasped the concept of rock music.

But you know the music industry is in a bad state when a member of Take That tries to explain to a member of N-Dubz what rock is…


…defining it as:

It’s not a pop song with a guitar stuck on it.

I can hear a lot of turning in graves going on right now.

Why you’ll see me starve before you’ll see me working for a women’s magazine

Spotted this morning on the train, in some women’s magazine (a weekly of the celebrity / gossip kind I would guess from the tasteless design) in a young woman’s lap.

On the left-hand page of a spread: Advertorial recipe feature promoting luscious-looking cupcakes.

On the right-hand page of the same spread: Huge red headline for the crash diet feature “Lose 5lb in one week!”

I’m not even going to go into the whole screwed-up body images and imposed beauty norms kind of stuff.

But still, I’m just as puzzled by the question how any editor with a shred of integrity can sign off such a spread as I am amazed that there are actually thousands of women out there who are willing to pay money to put themselves through the self-imposed emotional torture that these magazines promote.

re:View – Dark Angel, or: How to kill a perfectly good TV show

A friend got me hooked on Dark Angel recently. It’s a show I’d always wanted to watch, but back in the days, when I was still in Germany and still watching TV, its airtime clashed with X Files, so of course Dark Angel never stood a chance. But when my friend recommended the show, along with an offer to lend me her season one DVD set, I immediately hit “pause” on my current J.A.G. DVD marathon and jumped headfirst into a post-apocalyptic Seattle in the year 2019.

And, having finished watching the first season, I can honestly say, what a freaking fabulous show!

It’s got a kick-ass heroine, a ridiculously handsome male sidekick, a story that is thoroughly interesting (and stays interesting), an amibiguous super rogue, ambiguous good guys, a range of minor characters you’d totally want as friends, settings created with a loving eye for detail, a rocking soundtrack, it’s dead funny at times and makes you cry at other times.

So why did I not head off to buy the second season as soon as the credits on the last episode rolled?

Because, for all that’s great about it, Dark Angel has one big, fat, annoying flaw. And even without having seen the second (and final) season, it’s easy to see how this flaw became its downfall.

Continue reading

Bi-lingual, bi-cultural, bi-d’oh!

Here in the house where I live, we’ve got a shared washing machine and tumble dryer for all the tenants to use. Everybody’s got their assigned time slots, which are approved by the landlord and clearly stated in a timetable next to the washing machine.

Today, and not for the first time, my laundry and I arrived at the washing machine at the start of our time slot, only to find somebody else’s laundry doing happy rounds right there, with about an hour remaining for the programme to finish.

After dragging my laundry basket up the stairs again, I decided to post a note for the Laundry Time Thief on the washing machine to sort out the issue. Without thinking much about it, I started writing down a simple and straightforward: “Dear XY, you could at least have asked before using my assigned time slot.”

Then I remembered that I was in England.

So, now instead the note says: “I’m sorry if there was some kind of misunderstanding. I might be mistaken in assuming that this particular time slot was supposed to be reserved for me…”

Don’t say I haven’t learned nothin’ in my 16 months in this country.

Either way, it didn’t exactly improve my current laundry situation.