Commercial items, usually useless for any practical purpose, designed to appear useful or amusing. Some novelties are devices contrived to be taken seriously by people interested in losing weight or becoming trim, for instance, by appearing capable of reshaping a person’s body while he or she remains completely passive. Such items are sold in health food stores, drugstores, special clinics and salons, as well as through the mail and over the Internet.
A few of these, like appetite-suppressing eyeglasses with colored lenses that are supposed to project an image to the retina that dampens the desire to eat, are or border on the ridiculous. Yet hundreds, even thousands, of overweight people allow their unhappiness with their condition to override their common sense and are duped by such products regularly.
One weight reduction novelty, BODY WRAPPING, was invented in France. Areas of the body to be reduced are smeared with a cream, which may contain such ingredients as sea salt, herbs and cod liver oil, and wrapped in special bandages or garments. The intent is to melt or burn fat, especially CELLULITE, right off the body. The creams, gels, wraps, belts and sweatsuits are said to reduce body dimensions by removing fluids that is, the user sweats it off. This is a very temporary loss because the fluid is regained when the person eats or drinks. Moreover, rapid and excessive fluid loss is potentially dangerous because it can cause severe dehydration and chemical imbalance. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has taken legal action against several promoters of these products for making unsubstantiated weight loss claims.
Other French techniques for fighting cellulite are more aggressive, and some are potentially dangerous. Machines massage a woman’s legs with powerful jets of air or administer a barrage of fat-dispersing injections.
A reducing machine that delivers slight electrical shocks to selected muscles, causing them to contract and supposedly do the client some good, has achieved some degree of popularity. A 35-minute session with the machine is supposed to be equivalent to 1,500 push-ups or sit-ups without the unpleasant aches and pains required from such strenuous exercise.
The electrical muscle stimulator has legitimate uses in physical therapy but is useless for weight loss or figure firming. Claims that stimulation from these devices has the figure-toning effect of as many as 3,000 sit-ups, for example, are without any scientific basis. Further, these devices, often promoted through mail order for home use, can be dangerous if not handled correctly. There have been reports of electrical shocks and burns, and the devices can be particularly hazardous to pregnant women and to people with heart problems, pacemakers or epilepsy.
Hillel Schwartz believes that the popularity of these novelties lies in the key word for American dieting: secrecy. He says that although dieters want to have others notice weight loss, most do not want others to know they are dieting. Thus, such implements of fat destruction as girdles, corsets and wooden roller belts (the forerunners of today’s vibrating machines) became popular because they could be hidden under the dieter’s clothing.