Shameless Endorsement

Go to almost any high-profile, health and wellness website and you'll it bloated with the same spammy ads you'll see on almost every other health and wellness site. Perhaps a few of the products advertised actually live up to their claims and certainly those ads are making money for the sites that show them, but I just don't want any part of that whole network. At the very least, I feel exposing my readers to this kind of junk marketing distracts from the message I'm trying to communicate.

There are also credibility issues to consider. I regularly refuse requests to sell or endorse products. One of the counter arguments I get is that it's no different than a hair salon offering a selection of products for sale in their shop. Sure, they all do it and the products tend to be very high quality, if expensive. The difference is that I am an health educator and a coach. I can't endorse or advertise a particular health product if it calls into question my impartiality. If, for instance I were to sell a line of omega-3 fatty acid products, how would you know that I'm being unbiased when I tell you that omega-3 fatty acids are important enough that you absolutely should be supplementing? Of course we all know by now how important they are, but you get the idea.

Does that mean I can't or won't do product endorsements? Not exactly. The fact is, I do regularly get asked which brands I recommend and where to buy them. I will only endorse a company or product that I am willing to stake my reputation on, whether or not there is a financially benefit to me. And when there is a financial benefit I clearly disclose that benefit.iherb.com - Used discount code COM577 to get $5 off your first order. Using this discount code financially assists the Post-Modern Lifestyle Project through the iHerb.com affiliate programme.

iHerb.com is such a company that I will stake my reputation on and, yes, this is a company endorsement. (See disclosure at the bottom of this post!)

I've been using iHerb for about 15 years for most of my dietary supplements. I've watched them grow from a small warehouse operation in California—with a Yahoo-hosted shopping cart—to a full service online store with a customer experience that rivals Amazon.com.

To be clear, I don't go crazy ordering every new or promising nutritional product I encounter and nor should you. While these products may not be harmful, I don't believe in spending money on products that don't have demonstrable health benefits. Sure, I have tried some of these products on impulse, but mostly I stick to my core list of about 8 items. (If you want to learn what those items are, you'll just have to pay attention to my other blog posts and videos!)

When I lived in Japan, getting quality, selection and price was a challenge for most products. In the 1990s I typically paid three times the North American price for books and magazines. Domestic supply channels were monopolised by a handful of distributors. The only way around that was to have stuff shipped from abroad. When Amazon.com opened for business it was like a breath of fresh air. I was able to get any book I wanted at reasonable prices and amazingly fast delivery to my door. Publishing is just one example of how the Internet has eroded the monopolies these distributors enjoyed.

So what about nutritional supplements in Japan? Again, in the 1990s, the price, selection and potency were all problems. The only import product I recall was the Nature Made brand. That was probably because Pharmavite, the manufacturer of Nature Made, was acquired by a Japanese company, opening them up to domestic distributors. Retailers offered a modest product selection, which I mostly ignored because, like many consumers, I was only interest in vitamin C and a multi-vitamin as a kind of "cheap insurance". Of course I got interest in other supplements in 2000, when I started learning nutritional science, and that led to some shopping around.

I looked to the Internet for options and found a handful of online supplement vendors. In an attempt to create a short list of potential suppliers, I eliminated vendors that didn't have a great selection, wouldn't ship to Japan or were otherwise just too expensive. My short list ended up being just one company, which was iHerb.com. Ironically, they refused to ship my first order because I used a Canadian credit card to order and ship to a Japanese address. That finally got sorted out when the president personally emailed me to confirm my order had been approved for shipment.

Even today, Japanese supplements tend to be low potency and way over priced. IHerb has consequently enjoyed steady growth in the Japanese market and now provides support in Japanese language (along with Chinese, Korean, Russian and Spanish). They even advised how to avoid paying Japanese duty and local tax (legally) by keeping the orders below as certain amount (about 17,000 yen, at the time), which ended up saving me an additional 5~10%. Actually, though, their volume discounts are so good, that you really have to do the math before deciding whether it's cheaper to buy volume, and just pay the tax and duty, or keep your orders under the ceiling, to save on tax and duty. At one point I was organising group buys and placing orders of around US$500. The volume discounts I was getting made it cheaper just to pay the duty and tax.

In 2012 I returned to Canada, but I still order from iHerb, the main reason being convenience. Price is not a huge advantage as the Canadian dollar is way down but I do get to see their prices in Canadian dollars.

Anyway, to get a $5 discount on your first order, use discount code COM577.

You will want to take advantage of their free products page for first-time buyers, too.

Disclosure: Product links on this page and use of iHerb discount code financially support the Post Modern Lifestyle Project through the iHerb affiliate programme.

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