Do Body Wraps Work for Weight Loss?

What happens when you use a wrap or a tummy belt to lose weight?

Body Wrap
Steve Mason / Getty Images

It's not surprising that dieters often look for easy ways to lose weight faster. Patience is difficult when you're trying to slim down. So heat creams, tummy belts, and body wraps for weight loss are often appealing because they promise to give you quick results with little to no effort. But do body wraps work?

Before you invest in any product to lose weight, it's important to gather as much information as possible.

Use this guide to weight loss wraps and tummy belts to decide if they are right for you and to keep your expectations in check.

Different Types of Body Wraps for Weight Loss

There are many different ways that wraps are used to help speed weight loss. The most popular body wraps include:

Herbal Wraps
These procedures are often offered in luxury spas or salons. You can choose to wrap the full body or just a body part (such as the thighs or hips) to help smooth, condition and tighten the skin. The process may involve several steps including exfoliation, wrapping the skin, the application of a cream and/or heat and finally a moisturizing treatment. Some spas advertise that the wrap can help you to lose inches while you relax. The process can take anywhere from 45-90 minutes. The price of a typical spa herbal wrap can range from $100 for a 60-minute session to several hundred dollars for a longer service.

Do herbal body wraps work for weight loss? It is very possible that you will feel slimmer, trimmer and tighter after an herbal wrap. In addition, your skin may feel smoother and less saggy, leading to a feeling of thinness. You may even lose water weight from sweating. But an herbal wrap doesn't create fat loss.

Once you rehydrate, the number on the scale is likely to go back to where it was before the procedure. So should you avoid an herbal wrap to lose weight? Not necessarily. If it makes you feel better about your body, it might help to boost your motivation and your self-image. These benefits may help you to stick to your healthy eating program longer to reach your weight loss goal.

Home Heat Body Wraps and Tummy Belts
Home heat products such as body wraps and tummy belts are often used to produce sweat and help you to lose water weight. There are different types of wraps available, but many require that you apply a heating cream, then wrap your entire body or a targeted body part in a special plastic wrap. The combination of the warming cream and the tight, non-breathable wrap creates perspiration and some skin tightening. The instructions may require you to avoid salt, sugar or processed foods in the days before and after you use them and some heat wraps may be worn during activity and even during exercise to increase perspiration and boost sweat loss. The cost of these systems can range anywhere from about $20 to over $120. Consumers often compare the feeling of heated body wrap to being in a home sauna.

Do home heat wraps help you lose weight? You are likely to see some skin tightening from the use of a tummy belt or home body wrap. You may even see a decrease on the scale. But again, the weight loss is most likely the result of water loss and not fat loss. However, if you use the body wrap on a regular basis and avoid sugar, salt, and processed foods as a result, then you might see some lasting weight loss results. The fat loss that occurs, however, will be the result of improved eating habits and not likely to be a direct result of the wrap or belt.

Infrared Body Wraps  
Infrared heat can be applied to the body to increase circulation, produce sweat, lose water weight and burn calories.

You might see a medispa or even a tanning salon in your area provide heat wraps for fat loss and body contouring. Many of the popular devices use far infrared heat (FIR) to activate sweat glands, increase circulation and burn calories through the act of sweating. Fit Bodywrap and Formostar are popular brands that use far infrared heat. Treatments generally last about an hour and can target almost any trouble spot including the thighs, hips, abdomen, or arms. Treatments often cost $50 to $100 per treatment. Multiple treatments are often recommended.

Do infrared body wraps help you lose weight? As with other types of heat wraps, you are likely to see some immediate benefit from the use of an infrared body wrap. Your skin will probably look more resilient and have a tighter appearance. You may feel lighter after losing quite a bit of water from sweat. But the results from these treatments can be harder to measure because they generally promise much more than less expensive home body wraps and herbal spa wraps. 

For example, some advertisements for infrared body wraps claim that you can burn a thousand calories or more from a treatment. But as a consumer, you have no way of measuring whether or not that is true. And high-quality, peer-reviewed scientific evidence to support that claim is lacking. The truth is that when your body temperature increases, it does have to burn more calories to produce sweat. But the number of additional calories may be hard to measure and is likely to be very small. And what about using the treatments for fat loss? The science to support these treatments for weight loss is also weak.  In fact, some studies (even studies listed on the body wrap websites) actually support the use of FIR body wraps to increase hunger hormones, increase appetite and increase the number of calories you consume each day. The end result, then, would be weight gain...not weight loss.

Do Body Wraps Work?

There may be some weight loss benefit if you enjoy the instant tightening effect of a body wrap. But the results are likely to be short-lived unless you change your eating habits as well. If you gain an improved body image and an increase in motivation as a result of tightening your skin, then the investment might be worth it. But even board-certified physicians who use heat technology for cellulite reduction and body contouring will tell you that the results are likely to be minimal. So it's important to keep your expectations in check and keep your focus on evidence-based methods of fat loss, like healthy eating and exercise.