The Slender Shaper: Another Fat Loss Gimmick?

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As an obesity researcher, there is nothing that makes the blood boil more than an infomercial pedaling another fat-loss gimmick. The ridiculous claims made on such adverts have ruined many of my weekend mornings and were actually the impetus behind the development of this blog.

While eating my oatmeal and channel surfing on a fine Saturday morning, it took mere minutes before I was transfixed - jotting down notes on a pad of paper while enduring the mental torture of the 1 hour Slender Shaper infomercial (segments of which you can watch here). In short, according to the manufacturer, the Slender Shaper is "revolutionary total body shaping equipment [which] actually does the exercise for you!" It does the exercise for you - imagine that!

My first issue with the Slender Shaper ad is in the use of the word revolutionary - a malapropism if I ever saw one. Indeed, as pictured below, this sort of nonsense was all the rage back in the 1950 when the field of physiology and the understanding of energy metabolism were rather primitive.


My second issue with this product is regarding the various claims made in reference to its efficacy. According to the manufacturer, the Slender Shaper "helps 'melt' away unwanted fat and build muscles without exercising." First of all, contrary to this statement and the computer generated video in the ad, fat does not "melt away", but rather individual adipose cells reduce in size (but not number) by liberating their stores of triglycerides in the form of glycerol and free-fatty acids - a process called lipolysis. These liberated products are then used to provide energy for the metabolic machinery of one tissue or another.

Secondly, the only way to actually reduce the amount of fat tissue one carries is through a caloric deficit - as induced by either decreasing food intake or increasing energy expenditure. Given that the passive movement of subcutaneous fat accomplished by the Slender Shaper is just that - passive (not requiring any actual muscle activity), it is unlikely to lead to significant energy expenditure - a prerequisite for fat loss.

Thirdly, the claim that this will somehow lead to building muscle really boggles the mind. Muscles are stimulated to hypertrophy in response to overloading - as is done in resistance training with weights, elastic bands, calisthenics, and others. Even if the muscles are mildly engaged in an antagonistic manner to oppose the vibration of the Slender Shaper, this stimulus would be so small to have little chance of actually building any muscle.

Finally, the notion that irks me the most is the acid-coating or blatant truth-bending of the information on established modes of exercise. First, the infomercial instructs the naïve viewer: "Forget about painful situps!" For one, if situps are painful - you are likely not doing them right, so please seek advice. Two, if you want to strengthen your abdominal muscles, the crunch is the most rudimentary and most effective exercise for the cause.

Also, did you know that the Slender Shaper is 17-times more effective at working the abs as is running on a treadmill!? Well, maybe not exactly...This provocative statement is based on a rather invalid test - comparing the movements tracked by an accelerometer attached to a machine which vibrates at some crazy frequency while the person wearing it stands by idly (Slender Shaper) versus that recorded by an accelerometer attached to the waistline of a man running on a treadmill. Although the misplaced accelerometer may have recorded more movement when attached to the vibrating Slender Shaper, who do you think expended more calories - the man running on a treadmill or the girl standing?

Nevertheless, if you are undeterred by logic and you want to get the "healthy and sexy body" as promised by using the Slender Shaper for just 10 minutes a day, please place an order here.

Peter Janiszewski

Note: This post originally appeared on Nov. 11, 2008 on www.obesitypanacea.com.

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It melts it away? Then were does it go? Are you pissing it? or are you shitting it?
Oh, you're burning it. Then why aren't you sweating and exhaling massive amounts of CO2? Fat is chemical energy and physics tells us that if energy is lost in one place, it has to be conserved by showing up in some other form.

Somebody wasn't paying attention in science class.

By natural cynic (not verified) on 08 Mar 2010 #permalink

People make fun of these things like no one would possibly every buy them but they don't understand the desperation people companies like this one prey upon feel. I love the name of your blog because that says what the average American wants from weight loss--a cure all. The average person want minimal to no effort, with maximal [immediate] results.

I once treated a woman who said she couldn't afford a gym membership due to financial hardships but after a few sessions forced by her PCP she divulged that she was already spending copious amounts of money on gimmicks like the one you mention here.

It's nice to meet you both and I'll be looking forward to reading more!

I'm an RD, though no longer practicing, and am a PhD student at Penn State in a molecular biology/biochemistry laboratory.

@Science Bear - Great to hear from you! You are absolutely right - many people are desperate for a solution, they are constantly bombarded by ads for one product or another which can look and sound very legitimate - eventually most cave. It was this very fact that pushed us to start the blog. The final nudge for me was finding a bottle of Hydroxycut at my parent's home. I thought, if my own parent's buy into this BS despite my frequent ranting, the general population is in trouble.

A newly minted MD, and I hear ya.

Then, too, I spent med school debating a guy who had gone to medical school in order to lend credibility to his "nutri-ceutical" formula which he was already engaged in marketing. I got to see what sort of sleazy thinking was behind this sort of product first-hand.

Will follow for help for my patients, and for advice for myself.