Soon-to-be grad receives scholarship to research pyramid schemes

Just over a year ago, fourth-year St. Thomas University student Shannon Blackmore was having an abdominoplasty to remove excess skin from her abdomen after a 183-pound weight loss. Now, she is on the verge of turning her experience into a full-time career.

Blackmore is now a certified health and weight loss coach after training in Toronto, Ont. in February 2018. She said the process opened her eyes to the mechanics of the digestive system, proper nutritional value and the truth behind trending diets.

“It was huge to me. I didn’t actually realize that there is a science behind weight loss,” Blackmore said. “I just thought it was something that people go through.” 

Blackmore has received offers to work as a teacher’s assistant while attending school. (Johnny James/AQ) AQ Photo Editor | The Aquinian

Her new certification also shone light on certain supplements, including the ones she was taking for her own diet, due to their caffeine content.

“They are harsh on your body after you take them for a long period of time. Technically, what you’re supposed to do is take them for a little while, you see some results, stop taking them for a couple weeks to a month, and then take them again,” said Blackmore.

The communications student was motivated by this information to research how these supplements are marketed through pyramid schemes, a practice she was already skeptical of.

“They falsely communicate with potential buyers and clients and pull people in through their communication because they use brand representatives,” said Blackmore.

Blackmore’s research has paid off in the form of a full scholarship to Wilfred Laurier University for a three-semester graduate school program. She will receive full tuition valued $15,000, $4,000 toward living expenses and has multiple offers to work as a teacher’s assistant while she attends.

At Laurier, Blackmore will complete the co-op research for a thesis on how pyramid scheme companies communicate with consumers who buy their products. She is hoping to be exposed to marketing scenarios with that kind of communication.

“I’ll have the opportunity to actually do focus groups and ask members of the public if they have been influenced by stuff like this,” said Blackmore.

Blackmore will also publish an e-book titled Getting What You Want: A Beginners Weight-Loss Guide on April 11, a project she said is a method of productive procrastination.

“A lot of tears and not enough wine,” Blackmore said, when asked how she manages all her projects.

While she made no promises there won’t be some overlap compared to other books of its kind, Blackmore said she tells her own story and provides tips from the perspective of someone who has gone through the process.

“I’m writing it from my perspective, what has helped me, but I’m also pairing that with what I’ve learned,” she said. “I tell my story, why I did it and it’s not way in left field, it’s not way out of your line of possibility to do it, anyone is able to do this.”

Blackmore already has an idea for her next e-book. It will examine body dysmorphia that occurs when someone undergoes a significant change due to weight loss. She hopes to pursue a Ph.D. with the overarching goal of pairing her love of fitness with her desire to help people.

But she’s not sure what she is going to do once she is done her studies.

“I’m just throwing it all up to the wind after I’m done.”

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