Body Wraps: Do They Work For Weight Loss?

| January 4, 2013 | 2 Comments

body wrapsSo what’s the bottom line:  do slimming body wraps work for weight loss or are they a scam?  The answer to this question really lies in your own personal expectations.  People get body wraps for a number of reasons:

• Weight loss
• Fat loss
• Appearance (i.e., “cellulite” reduction)
• Detoxing

What Exactly IS a Body Wrap?
Before I address each of these four points, what exactly IS a body wrap anyway? In short, today’s body wraps entail covering you in a body mask comprised of plants and/or herbs such as algae, seaweed, mud, clay, or creams/lotions.  You’re then wrapped in plastic for approximately 20 minutes, give or take depending on the specific protocols at your spa.  You’re then covered up to keep you warm or, in some cases, the treatment may take place in a heated room (cautions below).

Body Wraps for Weight Loss
It’s true.  You might “lose weight” from a body wrap treatment?  However, this is more of a temporary illusion than any lasting effect.  Weight loss body wraps, by their very nature, will cause weight loss through dehydration.  While you may see small reduction on the scale, the composition of your weight loss is not body fat.  The concept of “spot reduction” has long since been debunked.  You cannot melt away fat through the skin.   Once you leave the spa and consume food and water, you will replace what you lost in sweat weight from the body wrap.

Body Wraps for Fat Loss
If you’re a more discerning consumer, then you won’t be happy with a little dehydration effect.  You want the real deal, the Grand Poobah of results: FAT LOSS!  Unfortunately, you’re gonna be waiting a while.  I am unaware of any reliable medical evidence that body wraps cause localized fat loss.  As mentioned above, spot reduction is a myth, but it has a long history of lightening bank account balances.

Body Wraps for Improved Appearance
This claim is couched around reducing the appearance of that loathsome substance known as cellulite.  First, remember that cellulite is only just a name (great for marketing!) and chemically it is no different than any other fat on the body (despite what your health guru told you).  When you get a body wrap, you may indeed see a temporary change in the appearance in your butt and thighs, but this is more to do with localized changes in the fluid compartments rather than any lasting physiological change.

Body Wraps for Detoxification
There are countless websites which claim body wraps will “detoxify” your body of “impurities.”  However, this terminology is ambiguous and undefined and really doesn’t give you much detail as to which toxins it will treat.  Because the procedure induces sweating, it is possible that a body wrap could help clean out your pores – and that’s fine if that’s what you’re expecting – but I have not seen any scientific evidence that it will “detoxify” your internal physiology (i.e., organs, blood, blood vessels, etc).

Body Wrap Dangers
Are there any health risks associated with body wraps?  For most healthy people, I don’t see any imminent danger but you must accept that any procedure may carry risks – even body wraps.

You should be particularly careful if you have any pre-existing health problems.  For example, if you have heart or vascular problems, the dehydration effect of the wraps could plausibly reduce your blood volume and make your blood more viscous.  If this happens, your heart must work harder to pump blood and/or maintain blood pressure.

The compressive forces associated with the wrap may cause circulation problems which could also stress your organs.  You also run the risk of dehydration which might interfere with your electrolytes and predispose you to cramps or cardiac arrhythmias if you have underlying atrial fibrillation.

By the very nature of the procedure, body wraps heat up your body and may lead to hyperthermia (overheating).  Some procedures may take place in a hot sauna or during exercise which makes it particularly difficult for your body to dissipate the heat.  This can be particularly dangerous during prolonged body wrap treatments.  Hyperthermia may evoke symptoms such as absence of sweating (i.e., the body is conserving water for vital internal processes), dizziness, disorientation, nausea, and possibly fainting – all associated with stress to your brain and other key organs.

Bottom line: if you have any serious health condition, get medical advice before undergoing a body wrap.

Should I Get a Slimming Body Wrap Treatment?  The Verdict
Before having a body wrap treatment, arm yourself with the facts and make an educated decision if this is right for you.  What are your expectations?  If you want something temporary that will make you feel good in the short-term, then go ahead.  If you want lasting fat loss, then you will be disappointed.  You didn’t put all that fat on over night and you certainly aren’t going to lose it after a 30 minute body wrap.

The best available evidence still holds that healthy eating, exercise, time on your feet, and incidental activity are the best combination for losing fat and keeping it off for the long-term.

 

 

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Category: Health Q&A

About the Author ()

Dr. Bill Sukala is a clinical exercise physiologist, university lecturer, and health writer. He holds a PhD in Exercise Science with a research focus in obesity and type 2 diabetes, a masters degree in Exercise Physiology with an emphasis in cardiology, and a bachelors degree in Nutrition. In his free time, you will find him traveling and surfing around the world! Follow him on Facebook, , and Twitter.

Comments (2)

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  1. Sam says:

    Dear Dr. Bill Sukala,

    This is a great website! I suffered a heart attack three weeks ago, however, the ER cardiologist told me that “my body was able to fight it” so it did not cause any damages at all. I decided to change my lifestyle at all. I have lost 25 pounds in the last three weeks by eating healthy and walking for 30 minutes. This week, I started my workout at LA Fitness. I’m doing is a Spinning class twice a week. I started my CARDIO REHAB on the 28th. Dunno if a Spinning class is okay for me. Thank you!

    Cheers,
    Sam

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