Don't Ever Fall for These Weight Loss Gimmicks

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woman drinking green juice

Lose Weight, Not Money

Losing weight requires both rock-solid commitment and a plan for reaching and maintaining that goal weight. There's no shortage of weight-loss strategies out there, but the trick is finding one that doesn't chomp away at your wallet or your health. (Some diet foods actually make it harder to lose weight.) In truth, nothing beats eating right and moving more (that means daily) as a path to losing weight. Here are some of the gimmicks to avoid on your slim-down journey.

Related: 12 Ways to Work Out at Home and Stay Motivated

Emily Lugg also contributed to this story.

Mature woman with make-up mirror massaging her face and neck

Diet Creams

It sounds ridiculous, but self-proclaimed weight-loss and "trimming" creams actually exist. There are creams that invite users to rub them in, sit back, and watch their midsections (or wherever) start to shrink. Really? Experts stress that any weight-loss strategy that promises results without exercise and proper nutrition is surely a gimmick.

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7-Minute Workouts

There's no question that losing weight takes time that's not always available, which makes working out for a mere seven minutes particularly appealing. But experts say that just isn't enough. A small amount of exercise is certainly better than nothing, but any significant benefit from this workout routine requires several consecutive repeats. Suddenly, a seven-minute workout mushrooms to a commitment of at least 21 minutes. Don't be fooled by the hype.

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hot tea

Detox and Weight Loss Teas

Detox drinks have been all the rage for years now, particularly among celebrities. But Sergio Pedemonte, CEO of Your House Fitness and a certified personal trainer, says scant, if any, scientific evidence to back up the notion that these types of liquid detox approaches are actually effective when it comes to weight management. “First of all, most of these weight loss drinks are marketed as meal replacers where you skip solids and only drink the detoxifying tea. This simply isn't sustainable,” says Pedemonte, adding that multiple studies have found that there’s no compelling research correlating liquid cleanses with sustained weight loss. “In fact, they tend to find any weight loss is a result of losing water weight from severe calorie restriction, not actual fat loss,” says Pedemonte.

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Juice Cleanse

Juice Cleanses

Very similar to the detox teas, juice cleanses are also a popular weight loss fad. In the case of a juice cleanse, the dieter only consumes fruit and vegetable juices and skips solid foods. Like the detox teas, there’s very little research to show that this sort of approach is effective, says Brian Kiselstein, editor of Think Healthy Fitness and a certified fitness professional. 

“Juice cleanses are something that you hear about every so often, but rarely hear included in a success story,” he says. “That’s because there’s very little research to show that these cleanses are effective and worth the effort. If you don’t eat for seven days while on a juice cleanse, you probably will lose weight (how could you not?). But juice cleanses are not sustainable and, when you start eating again, you’ll probably gain the weight back right away.”

At best, a juice cleanse will lead to a very up-and-down weight-loss journey that can be hard on the body, not to mention the negative mental effects, adds Kiselstein. “Juice cleanses do not promote a healthy lifestyle and won’t make you healthier, other than just losing a few pounds.”

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deflated balloon

The Obalon Balloon Pill

The Obalon balloon pill is just what it sounds like: Weight loss seekers swallow a pill that contains a deflated balloon. Attached to the pill is a thin tube that doctors use to inflate the balloon once the pill is inside the stomach. Up to three pills can be swallowed at a time and remain in the stomach for several months to create the sensation of being full, with the idea of limiting the amount of food eaten. Available in the European Union since 2014, the pill was approved for use in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration in 2016. But there are concerns that the balloon could burst or press on organs, causing bleeding, blockage, or infection — with potentially harmful consequences. 

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diet pills

Diet Pills

It's possible to shed pounds with diet pills, but ongoing use — and expense — is necessary to keep the weight off. Moreover, experts at Mayo Clinic note that research about the pills' effectiveness is slim, express qualms about the ingredients, and caution that they can have unpleasant side effects, such as irregular heartbeat, upset stomach, loose stools, and insomnia. Only a handful of weight-loss pills have been approved by the FDA. Bottom line: Diet pills are no substitute for lifestyle changes.

No-Carb Diet

No-Carb Diet

This diet plan has been around for ages but is most commonly remembered as the Atkins diet. Sure, it produces results at the beginning, because eliminating carbohydrates causes the body to retain less water. But shedding water weight is a quick fix that doesn't last, and shunning all carbs starves muscles of their energy stores. No-carb dieters end up feeling moody and lethargic. Carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes and whole grains belong in a well-rounded diet, says fitness expert Kami Blakeman, and are best consumed after a workout when the body can process them efficiently.

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Other Elimination Diets
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Other Elimination Diets

Eating healthy is a critical component of any weight-reduction plan, and that means a balanced diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and minimally processed foods. Weight-loss plans that eliminate any key source of nutrition are unlikely to deliver healthy and sustainable outcomes.

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woman sweating at gym wiping face with towel

Hot… Anything

One of the most popular weight-loss scams out there is promising that heat will facilitate the process, says John Fawkes, a personal trainer, fitness coach, and managing editor of The Unwinder. “Hot yoga, running in the heat, heat therapy, anything where external heat is applied to your body,” says Fawkes. “It doesn’t burn calories; it makes you sweat so you lose a little water weight, and it makes the exercise feel harder. People associate heat with burning calories.” Having external heat applied to your body doesn’t burn calories either, says Fawkes.  If anything, it might prevent you from exercising as hard, he says.

Waist Training

Waist Training

Celebrities such as the Kardashian sisters, Jessica Alba, and Amber Rose have acknowledged using a corset to "train" their waists to a slim-as-all-get-out size. Really, though, this weight-loss hack will just make you uncomfortable and look oh-so pinched. It can even damage internal organs and ribs, according to Women's Health. Again, any device that purports to produce weight loss without a healthy diet and exercise routine is likely a gimmick.

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elimination diet

Very Low-Calorie Diets

A crash diet will come back to bite you. Starving a body of essential nutrients to lose weight quickly is counterproductive. Instead of burning off pounds, this strategy burns muscle. Less muscle means a slower metabolism, which is precisely the wrong outcome. Plus, this type of weight-loss plan can't last. Weight will evaporate quickly (most being water weight), but then what? Fans of this approach are doomed to regain the weight once normal eating resumes.

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woman making smoothie
Moyo Studio/istockphoto

Weight-Loss Gimmicks Suggested by Influencers

Can we all agree that influencers are an annoying fad that needs to go away?  U.K.-based physician Giuseppe Aragona warns people against being “ignorant” when it comes to influencers and the weight loss schemes many of them peddle. Aragona, who has over two decades of experience as a health practitioner, says influencers sell their gimmicks to countless impressionable people under the guise of “promoting some form of health or weight loss.” “But it’s important to remember it’s just advertising,” says Aragona. “Influencers are being paid to sell you whatever they are pushing.” He also suggests asking yourself what evidence there is proving that whatever the influencer is selling actually works. “Take a little time to research feedback from people who have already paid,” he adds. “See whether what the influencer is pushing is actually just a scam.”

diet or protein shake


Many dieters turn to shakes or smoothies as a snack or meal replacement. But if a serving contains less than 10 grams of protein — the minimum needed to build muscle mass — any lean muscle developed by working out will wind up eating itself. Weight may disappear quickly with a shake diet, but it isn't the right type of weight to lose. Check the ingredients carefully and choose a brand that's low in carbohydrates and sugar and loaded with vitamins, as well as enough fiber to maintain a healthy digestive tract. Spurn anything with trans fats or saturated fats. Brands such as Pure Protein and Atkins meet these criteria, but a little sleuthing for online recipes to make at home can save money.

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Apple Cider Vinegar

Drinking Apple Cider Vinegar

There are some findings that show drinking vinegar, which contains acetic acid, can promote weight loss by increasing fat burning and reducing your appetite. Research has shown that it may promote fullness. But there are some harmful side-effects associated with this diet. It could worsen gastroparesis, or delayed stomach emptying, which for those with type 1 diabetes can be problematic. And that’s not the only concern, says Jamie Hickey, personal trainer and nutritionist with Truism Fitness.  “They are highly acidic liquids and will cause a slew of throat and stomach issues,” suggests Hickey. “Drinking vinegar isn’t a habit you want to do on a regular or daily basis. Leave the vinegar for your salads and eat a well-balanced diet full of whole foods.”

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Clean White Toilet Bowl with White Tiled Floor and Wall

Diuretic Pills

Like some other weight-loss gimmicks, diuretics focus on loss of fluid, which is anything but a long-term solution. Taking a diuretic pill creates an imbalance in body chemistry. Along with water, essential minerals such as potassium and magnesium are lost. Counterintuitively, diuretic pills can work against the body by causing it to swell from dehydration.

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towels in a bathroom

Body Wraps

The process of wrapping the body tightly in hot towels claims to take inches off the waist in just one short session. The idea is that the body will lose water weight quickly, not unlike the effect of diuretics. While weight loss can be dramatic, it's only temporary. Also, the quick loss of water can shock to the body resulting in low blood volume caused by severe dehydration. Dehydration can also cause light-headedness and irregular heart rhythms.

plate of cookies

Fad Diets or Diets That Sound Too Good to Be True

Some diets sound deliciously appealing — there's the cookie diet, the candy diet, and the grapefruit diet. But think about it: Does eating four to six cookies a day really seem like a sustainable path to weight loss? Again, if the plan doesn't entail a lifestyle change that includes exercise and a balanced diet, it's probably a gimmick. “A fad diet is a stylish weight-loss plan that claims dramatic results. Generally, these diets are not healthy and don’t result in long-term weight loss,” says Dr. Rashmi Byakodi, a health and wellness writer and editor of Best for Nutrition. “In fact, some of the diets are dangerous to your health. Most fad diets make you dehydrated and undernourished, which may trigger an initial weight loss. But once you normalize your diet, your body starts to rebuild protein and store more water, which will eventually lead to weight gain.” So, the moral of the story? Healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle are the best way to manage your weight.

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