It seems like many Americans will do anything to avoid diet and exercise.
Fitness experts consistently say that healthy eating combined with regular exercise is the best way to slim down. But with bathing suit season approaching, some people are resorting to strange measures to get bikini-ready.
Anti-cellulite sneakers, electronic muscle stimulation, “butt facials” and "mypetfat," (search) which is literally a lump of anatomically-correct faux flab, are just some of the odd tactics available for people waging a last-minute battle against the bulge.
“As true as we know the diet and exercise mandate to be, it’s boring and it takes work and people are lazy," said Danielle Romano, editor at large for the lifestyle trend newsletter Daily Candy (search), whose coverage of kooky weight-loss products has generated an enormous reader response.
Products like the anti-cellulite shoes, butt-lifting jeans and weight-loss water all promise a better bod with minimal work. And while experts are suspect of the lazy route to fitness, the entrepreneurs behind the products and services insist they are helpful.
Mypetfat creator Jay Jacobs, who launched his company early this year, said carrying a glob of fake lard around with him helped him to lose 115 pounds by motivating him to stick to his diet.
“I started using it about a year ago after I had reached a top weight of 380 pounds," he said. "I don’t know why but the visceral quality [of mypetfat] helps you to be conscious of your choices."
And people are eating it up — the blobs are hot all over the world, Jacobs said.
“We’re selling in Europe. For some reason Canadians love it. I’m even selling fat in South Africa,” he said of the plastic fat, which comes in 1-ounce, 1-pound and 5-pound sizes.
Whether or not the portable blubber actually deters dieters from straying, Romano said people who read about it on Daily Candy "went crazy for it."
"People love thinking they’ve found the easy way out,” she said.
Another seems-too-good-to-be-true slim-down product currently raising eyebrows is the anti-cellulite sneaker, or mBT sneakers by Swiss Masai. Since word got around that the $234 shoes can reduce dreaded dimples on the thighs and butt, some styles have actually been on back order due to overwhelming demand.
The company said the sneaker's multilayered sole helps improve circulation and muscle tone — and that many of their customers have seen a loss of cellulite.
"When walking or jogging, users engage untrained muscles and burn more calories, helping people to tone and to lose weight efficiently," said mBT’s Nikolaus Heidegger.
They're not exactly high fashion, but Romano said women have clamored for the slimming sneakers.
"You have to wear shoes anyway — these are kind of chunky but not horrifying," she said. "We tell our readers to say the chunky look is very big in Japan."
A similarly sweat-free workout: electronic muscle stimulation. Used for decades in rehab and physical therapy, some practitioners are starting to use the process — which makes muscles flex with electronic pulses — for strictly aesthetic purposes.
“There’s an electric signal from the brain to the muscle, and the muscle contracts,” said Dr. Adrienne Denese, who performs the procedure at the SkinScience Medical Spa (search) in New York City. “The machine is doing the exercising for you.”
Denese, who says she is one of the few people performing electronic muscle stimulation for beauty purposes in New York City, has recently seen her business go through the roof, so much so that she has been forced to move into a larger office. But the treatment, which costs $160, is not a cure-all, she warned.
"If you stop treating the muscle, or if you sit around and eat cake all day, it will go back to the way it was."
Still other derriere-boosting procedures promise buns of steel without the workout.
Kristine Panariello, of New York City's Spa Secret salon, performs a trio of treatments for those who tend to wear their lunch on their behinds. The "butt facial" entails intense exfoliation of the rear end combined with a mild electrical current to close pores and regulate oils; the butt lift is similar but also requires a firming gel and a mask and the cellulite treatment uses essential oils to de-dimple.
Panariello said that in spite of what health experts say, when it comes to unflattering fanny flab, running on a treadmill and eating right won't make it go away.
“It’s very hard to get rid of cellulite. Diet and exercise are really not gonna do it," she said. "These products are penetrating the skin, breaking down fat.”
Some guinea pigs do claim to have seen results with all these procedures and products. But many experts feel businesses are just cashing in on people's low self-esteem with promises of miracle cures.
“These are some pretty outrageous products and claims,” said Cedric Bryant, chief exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise (search). “Unfortunately, people who are overweight are so desperate they will try anything."
But others say those who get duped by quick-fix promises have only their own sloth to blame.
“A lot of Americans are lazy," said New York City resident Jay Choi, 24. "They’re not willing to eat right and exercise."