20 Worst Weight Loss Products of All Time
Humans are among the most impatient creatures in the world. We want our dinner on the table in minutes—not an hour—and we’ll do anything to cut down the amount of time it takes to commute to work.
And when we’re trying to lose weight, it’s no different. We don’t want to trudge along and watch as the pounds slowly drop off over a series of weeks. (You know—how you’re supposed to lose weight.) We want to go from flab to fab overnight without breaking a sweat or giving up the food we love—and we’re willing to do just about anything to make it happen—like buy weight loss products.
Uncomfortable corsets that promise a trimmer waistline? We’ve got ’em. Zero calorie chocolate syrup. It exists. And these are some of the more tame, gimmicky weight loss products on the market.
Though not all of them cause physical harm, snail oil-esque slim down products can still do psychological harm, mostly because they’re not effective, cautions registered dietitian nutritionist Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, LD. “Using products that don’t work can feed feelings of failure and helplessness. The US weight loss industry totaled $64 billion dollars in 2014, yet two out of three adults are still considered overweight or obese. Something doesn’t add up.”
Curious if any of your go-to weight loss products are among the worst of the lot or which ones you should steer clear of? Read on to find out. And once you’ve tossed your wonky products out the window, accelerate your weight loss wins with the help of these effective weight loss tricks you haven’t tried!
Obalon Balloon Pill
What it is: A pill with an inflatable balloon inside. Yes, that’s right, a balloon! After patients swallow the pill (which is attached to a thin tube) and it makes its way down to the stomach, doctors use the tube to inflate the balloon. The tube is then removed and the balloon stays down in the belly. It can stay in there for up to three months, after which a doctor deflates the balloon and pulls it out through the mouth. Ouch.
The claim: The Obalon balloon is said to aid weight by helping patients feel full sooner, which in turn helps them eat less.
The truth: While it’s likely true that the balloon makes you feel full, there’s a small possibility that the balloon could get lodged in the stomach, which could cause anything from vomiting to death. If that wasn’t terrifying enough, you also run the risk of the balloon stretching the stomach or the esophagus. This would likely cause inflammation which could result in an ulcer, internal bleeding, or infection. Thankfully, this product is not yet available for sale in the U.S.—and we’re hoping it stays this way. If you’re in search of a better way to drop the pounds, check out these how to lose 10 pounds fast. No balloon-eating required.
What it is: A modern take on a sixteenth-century corset, made popular by Amber Rose and the curvaceous Kardashian clan. It compresses women’s figures into an hourglass shape.
The claim: Waist trainers are said to help wearers lose up to seven inches from, you guessed it, their waist. Makers of the product also claim that the product can metabolize fat, release toxins, compress the core, and reduce food intake.
The truth: “Of course you won’t want to eat when you have trouble breathing and your stomach is being pushed into your spine,” says Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN, a dietitian specializing in weight management and sports nutrition. “Waist trainers and corsets are very restricting and not comfortable. And, unfortunately, there is no way to spot-reduce fat. So, while you are eating less because you’re so restricted, it doesn’t mean you’ll be losing fat in just your waist and belly area. While you wear the corset, you will most likely lose weight due to lack of eating. However, once you take that trainer off, you’ll go back to your old eating habits and quickly gain the weight back.” The bottom line: “Waist trainers are not a good long-term weight loss solution,” says Koszyk. Looking for a better way to trim the fat? Avoid these things making you fatter!
1 Day Diet Cleanse
What it is: A Chinese diet pill
The claim: The pill is said to absorb the oil from food and discharge it from the body. The company behind the product also claims that it wards off fat accumulation and toxins—all in one day.
The truth: An FDA laboratory analysis confirmed that “1 Day Diet” contains sibutramine, a banned substance that substantially increases blood pressure. For patients with a history of heart disease and stroke, the drug may present a significant risk. This product may also interact, in life-threatening ways, with other medications. The FDA advises that consumers “stop using this product immediately and throw it away.” Looking for a one day refresh that’s actually safe? Check out this Ultimate Day Detox Plan!
What it is: An intraoral device, fitted by an orthodontist, that prevents dieters from opening their mouths beyond 0.47 inches. As a result, wearers are forced to take smaller bites. It’s removed once a patient is conditioned to eat differently, which is typically after one year.
The claim: According to the company’s LinkedIn page: “During a meal, satiety is typically reached only after a minimum of 20 minutes, regardless of the speed of eating or amount of caloric intake. If you eat with smaller bites, at a slower rate, your body will reach this point of satiety with less food [and] fewer calories. The device, therefore, results in weight loss. You will eat a healthy portion size without hunger or frustration.”
The truth: While the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies Small Bite as a “non-significant-risk device,” you don’t need a medical degree to be able to tell that this product is super weird. Anything that impacts your ability to eat, speak, or yawn shouldn’t be a weight loss solution. (Even though the company denies any major issues with these everyday activities, we have our doubts.) For weight loss hacks that actually work, check out these best weight loss tips—ever!
What it is: An FDA-cleared non-invasive, non-surgical fat-freezing procedure. A gel pad delivers “controlled cooling to freeze away the targeted fat.” Despite the steep price tag, it’s been growing in popularity and you may have even spotted it on flash deal sites like Groupon and Gilt City.
The claim: The company says Coolsculpting can “eliminate stubborn fat that resists all efforts through diet and exercise. The results are proven, noticeable, and lasting.” The brand’s website says that after you freeze fat cells, they die, and over time, the “body naturally processes the fat and eliminates these dead cells, leaving a more sculpted you.”
The truth: “Coolsculpting shouldn’t be used as weight loss method since it’s unlikely to result in significant weight loss,’ says Torey Armul, MS, RD, LD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Some people find they get results with Coolsculpting, and others don’t notice a difference. Either way, it’s expensive and can be painful…”
What it is: An over-the-counter medication used to help people lose weight by preventing the intestines from absorbing about a quarter of the fat consumed through diet
The claim: Marketing materials on the Alli website states that “for every two pounds you lose through diet and exercise, Alli can help you lose one more.” Its major differentiator in the weight loss supplement aisle is that it’s not absorbed into the bloodstream, so there’s less risk of negative cardiovascular side effects.
The truth: The drug’s fat-blocking properties also make it more difficult for your body to absorb important fat-soluble vitamins. And since the pill blocks the absorption of fat, if you surpass the recommended fat intake, it’s likely you’ll experience oily spotting, loose stools, and more frequent stools that may be hard to control. Simply delightful, right? “I wouldn’t recommend this product,” says registered dietitian Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN. “I always prefer to guide my weight loss clients through more traditional lifestyle changes like diet, exercise, and mindful eating.”
Celsius Calorie-Burning Drink
What it is: A “negative calorie drink” backed by hip-hop mogul turned entrepreneur Russell Simmons
The claim: According to the company website, “drinking Celsius before exercise has been proven to help burn up to 93 percent more body fat.” The brand also claims that their drink can boost metabolism. They consider it to be a “negative calorie drink” because “each serving of Celsius contains 10 calories, but studies have shown that Celsius helps you burn 100 calories… per serving.”
The truth: This is just another potentially dangerous weight loss product backed by the Kardashians. (Khloé has gone on record saying she’s a fan.) “My key concern about energy drinks is that they typically contain large amounts of caffeine—and this one is no different. This drink uses guarana seed extract as a source,” cautions Moore. “Caffeine has varying effects on people and for anyone with underlying conditions like high blood pressure or certain heart conditions, energy drinks can increase blood pressure and heart rate.” If you need a bit of caffeine to fuel your workouts, stick with coffee. A University of Illinois study found that consuming 16-ounces before high-intensity exercise can reduce perceived muscle pain. Translation: It can help you push yourself harder, which can give you better results. Inexpensive, safe and efficient—without scary side effects. Pretty impressive for a humble java bean.
Relax Far-Infrared Sauna Tent
What it is: A portable infrared sauna
The claim: The Relax Sauna web page says that “daily repeated use… can help to increase a person’s metabolic rate.”
The truth: Not only does sitting in this thing look super uncomfortable, “extremely hot saunas, or prolonged sauna use, can be dangerous,” warns Armul. “The promise of easy and effortless weight loss sounds tempting, but it’s usually a loss of water weight, and oftentimes moderate to severe forms of dehydration can result.” Plus, when you’re dehydrated, the body will oftentimes cling to any water it can find, which can result in bloating, giving you the opposite of the lean look you crave. And speaking of a bloated belly, next time you’re feeling puffy, be sure to try some of these best foods that get rid of bloating.
Yumetai Weight Loss Sunglasses
What it is: Blue-tinted specs
The claim: These sunglasses are said to suppress appetite by making items appear blue and unappealing. According to Yumetai, blue hues ward off hunger.
The truth: These glasses are a waste of money. “A small amount of research has found that colored lighting can affect food consumption, but it’s unlikely to alter your caloric intake significantly,” explains Armul. “You’re better off focusing on portion control and eating more of protein-rich and high fiber foods that contribute to satiety.”
What it is: A weight loss pill
The claim: “Hydroxycut really works to help you lose weight!” The company also claims that their product will increase energy and boost your metabolism.
The truth: “There is no magic little pill or powder that causes weight loss,” Koszyk tells us. “Hydroxycut contains natural ingredients like blackberry, papaya, saffron extract, maqui, and caffeine, which all have various beneficial health properties. However, to successfully lose weight, one needs to change make healthier food choices and focus on portion control. Consuming a ton of caffeine may inhibit your desire to eat, but that isn’t a healthy route. You still need vitamins and nutrients from real foods.” If you dead-set on taking a supplement to aid your weight loss efforts, check out these best supplements.
Slim Green Reduce Cream
What it is: A sculpting cream made with waters, oils, and chemicals
The claim: Slim Green is said to help sculpt the stomach, butt, thighs, legs, and arms.
The truth: “This cream claims to burn fat on the spot without having to take a pill or powder. However, there’s no scientific proof that it works,” says Koszyk. “In addition, many of the ingredients in the cream are not conducive towards fat reduction. One ingredient, paraffin oil, which is a mineral oil, is known to have laxative effects when consumed orally, but no research is done on laxative effects if rubbed into the skin. In any case, laxatives should not be used for weight loss.” A better way to whittle your waist? Nibble on these foods that melt love handles.
What it is: Intravenous (IV) nutrient therapy, made famous by Madonna, Simon Cowell, and Cindy Crawford
The claim: NutriDrip has various programs, each carrying a different set of claims. While some are said to increase joint strength and mobility, others claim that they boost metabolism and aid weight loss. On their website, they claim their cleanses are “more powerful than a five-day juice cleanse” and “faster than a spin class.”
The truth: “People don’t become overweight from a vitamin deficiency, so it’s irrational to think that extreme vitamin supplementation will lead to weight loss,” says Armul. Many of these drips contain extreme amounts of vitamin C, for example—but excess amounts of the nutrient are just excreted in the urine,” she adds. “Plus, it’s possible to experience nausea, vomiting and other symptoms of toxicity with megadoses of certain vitamins.” This is a hard pass.
Garcinia Cambogia Extract
What it is: A rapid weight loss diet pill
The claim: Garcinia cambogia extract diet pills are marketed as “fat-blockers” and “natural appetite suppressants”
The truth: “Research doesn’t support the effectiveness of garcinia cambogia extract diet pills, and they may even be a danger to your health,” cautions Armul. “These supplements are not regulated or deemed safe by the FDA. Plus, they’re a waste of money and lack any real nutritive value.”
What it is: A “smart” toning belt that communicates with a related smartphone app that allows users to track their “progress”
The claim: Slendertone says that the electrical signals from the belt send deep pulses that exercise the stomach muscles. The result? A firmer, more toned abs in six weeks.
The truth: While there is one study that found neuromuscular electrical stimulation to have a positive effect on muscle strength and waist girth, weight and body fat still remained the same—not too impressive for a product that costs up to $200. “We can buy all the fitness gizmos and gadgets we want, but the only 100 percent successful weight loss formula out there is a healthy diet and sound exercise program,” says fitness expert and personal trainer Jim White, RD. Save your money and incorporate these Best Exercises to Blast Belly Fat into your gym routine.
Asrai’s Touch Fat Freezing Body Wrap
What it is: A “fat freezing” belt that’s essentially just a strap-on ice pack for your stomach. It comes with a jar of “cooling lotion” that’s meant to be rubbed on prior to putting on the belt.
The claim: According to Asrai, their body wrap “uses the latest technology of ‘fat freezing’ to help in your quest to reshape your body.”
The truth: While this $87 belt isn’t dangerous, it literally does nothing except leave you cold and shivering.
Sprayology Diet Power
What it is: An under-the-tongue weight loss spray made up of homeopathic ingredients, elements and sugar alcohol
The claim: Sprayology claims their product will ward off food cravings and water retention, and boost energy.
The truth: “I’d imagine this spray works like the tactic of brushing your teeth to stave off nighttime noshing. Nothing tastes good after a rush of minty flavor covers your taste buds,” says Moore. “But forking over $30 for the stuff is nuts. Buy a $3 bottle of minty breath spray instead for similar results.” As for the claims that it wards off water retention and boosts energy? That’s simply not true. If you’re looking for a better way to add some pep to your step, check out these best foods for energy!
What it is: A vinyl suit that’s meant to be worn during aerobic workouts
The claim: A number of brands make sauna suits, but they all claim to do the same thing: make you sweat a ton and lose weight.
The truth: “This is a quick recipe for dehydration,” warns Moore. “The scale may show same-day weight loss after you’ve stripped off your sauna suit, but the weight will come right back as soon as you eat or drink anything.” Why torture yourself? “On especially warm days, the suit can cause a number of heat-related illnesses, including heat stroke, dehydration, dizziness, fainting or worse,” adds Moore.
Walden Farms Condiments
What it is: A line of creamers, syrups, BBQ sauces, peanut spreads and other condiments that are 100 percent free of calories, fat, carbs, gluten or sugar
The claim: According to the brand’s marketing materials, “Walden Farms irresistibly sweet, calorie free specialties are prepared with real fruit extracts, concentrated natural flavors, rich cocoa and other natural flavorings, all sweetened with Splenda. Save 10,000 calories a month ‘The Walden Way.'”
The truth: These bottles are filled with little more than chemicals and extracts. Is it edible? Yes, but it’s a stretch to call anything from Walden Farms real food. “I recommend eating whole food and focusing on portion sizes rather than consuming products filled with hard-to-pronounce ingredients,” says Koszyk. “A simple rule of thumb is: If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it. Instead, stick to the real deal and simply be mindful of the serving sizes.”
What it is: Fat-free potato chips made with the fat substitute Olestra.
The claim: These chips hit the market in 1998 when the war against fat was in full effect. They were marketed as a way to indulge in greasy, salty snack food without fear of weight gain.
The truth: “When it sounds too good to be true, it usually is,” warns Smith. Olestra was found to cause severe abdominal cramping, gas, and loose stools. (Um, ew.) “It also inhibits the absorption of certain vitamins and nutrients,” Smith adds. Plus, we know now that certain fats are actually good for heart and aid weight loss. For more on that, check out our Definitive Guide to All the Types of Fat in Food.
100-Calorie Snack Packs
What it is: 100-calorie servings of things like Oreos, Pringles, and other nutrient-free snacks
The claim: Pre-portioned snacks allow dieters to eat all of their favorite snack foods without fear of weight gain.
The truth: Not only will you pay more for the snack-sized bags, they’re also no better than the originals they’re modeled after. “Dieters love these. However, they’re low in calories and super unsatisfying, and also for the most part loaded with junk,” warns Smith. “What’s even worse is that people think that because they’re only 100 calories they can eat a few bags of them. I love foods that are filling that are naturally 100 calories (like plain Greek yogurt or a small apple topped with a tablespoon of almond butter), but the food that comes in these tiny packages are void of important weight loss nutrients like protein, fat and fiber. In short, they don’t help dieters meet their goals!”