Can These Slippers Make You Thin?
"What if I told you there is a way to lose weight without joining a gym or changing your eating habits?" says GetSlimSlippers.com.
"Get Slim Slippers® are the way. Weird though it sounds, they actually work."
They certainly look weird. They're so tiny, your heel hangs off the back. People might think you borrowed them from a nine-year-old.
But the Get Slim website quotes a lot of wearers who swear by these things. One is Megan McCarver, a certified yoga instructor,
who says, "Wearing them only 15 minutes a day will tone you from the inside out, causing you to shed inches as well as weight!"
I don't know about you, but if I could lose weight just by wearing slippers, I wouldn't care how silly I looked in them.
In fact, I'd be willing to pay hundreds of dollars for the opportunity. Yet these cost only $50.
"Give Me Two Pairs"
To find out more, I phoned Get Slim's 800 number and got Thia Smith, a Californian who helped to introduce the slippers to this country.
(They're from China.) I told her that DietPower wanted to test the slippers and, if they proved effective,
consider selling them in our online health shop. "How do these things work, anyway?" I asked her.
"They're a tool that makes your heart beat faster and your metabolism run faster," Smith explained. "They're based on time-honored principles, especially reflexology."
Reflexology is an ancient Chinese therapy that claims to speed blood to certain organs by massaging "pressure points" on the hands,
feet, and other body parts. By supporting your weight on your instep instead of your heel, Smith said, Get Slim slippers massage
pressure points connected to the heart and digestive organs.
In addition, she said, embedded in each slipper are three strategically placed magnets. These, too, influence the digestive system.
Together, she said, the magnets and the foot massage cause your body to burn more calories, leading to effortless weight loss.
Or at least that's the theory. "We're the first ones to say these aren't based on science," Smith said. "But they do work.
Thousands of customers say so."
Indeed, Get Slim's web site is peppered with testimonials. "I've lost 20 lbs in 10 weeks," writes Lisa Lisnek.
"I know it is the Slippers because nothing else is different in my routine." And Johnella Ellis writes,
"I'm constant losing weight, and keeping it off. I have more energy, too."
When I asked Smith how she got into this business, she said that her boyfriend's father's best friend's son,
who runs the factory in China that produces the slippers, gave her a pair when he visited the United States.
"I was skeptical at first," she said. "Then I noticed after three or four weeks that my pants were looser."
She discovered she had lost eight pounds. The slippers were already popular in China, she said,
"and I thought it unfair that we didn't have them in this country."
At the end of the call, I said, "Give me two pairs." With a $10 discount for the multiple order, my total came to $90 plus $6.95 shipping-and-handling.
"You Loosing Weight!"
The slippers arrived a couple of days later, neatly housed in a polyethylene zip bag. They had tough,
cellulose-like soles and tastefully-printed canvas tops. They were amazingly lightweight—only three ounces each.
Also in the bag were a user's manual and a message from Chai Chalamish, CEO of Get Slim's parent company in Los Angeles.
The message said, "Only by following the instructions will the Slippers make a change in your life.
Respect and be One with the Slippers." I wasn't sure how to follow that instruction, so I began reading those in the manual.
The manual was littered with spelling and grammatical errors. ("The side effect is you loosing weight!")
Clearly this was no Fortune 500 company. But the manual did declare, in no uncertain terms,
that "the Get Slim Slippers will help you in getting slimmer." It said each user reacts differently, though:
"Some could lose up to 14 pounds in 21 days, however others could loose only 10 pounds after 40 days."
The directions were simple: Wear the slippers only 15 minutes the first day, and gradually build up to longer periods—but not more than 2-1/2 hours a day. "Wearing the slippers while sitting will not be effective," it said. I would have to walk in them.
If I followed these rules, the manual said, I would begin to notice effects "after a mimimum of 3 weeks." I spent the rest of the day practicing my pronunciation of the word mimimum.
I wore the slippers faithfully for a month. Since I spend most of my days sitting at my computer, I used a stopwatch to keep track of the time I actually walked in them. Although I wore the slippers an average of 3.3 hours per day, my walking time averaged 25 minutes.
I obeyed all the instructions. I started off gradually. In fact I had to—my arches, bearing almost all of my weight,
hurt fiercely the first few days. (If you've ever climbed a round-runged ladder in your bare feet, you know the feeling.)
I never went over the 2-1/2-hour limit, and I tried to "respect the slippers" in spite of jeers from my office mates.
In a sense, I even "became One with the slippers"—they delivered a terrible foot odor each time I took them off. Apparently, the canvas uppers don't "breathe."
I didn't change anything else in my routine. I got almost no exercise. (A calf injury had put a stop to my daily jog more than a month before.)
And according to DietPower, my diet remained remarkably stable: my daily calorie intake stayed within 10% of last year's average,
and my percentage of calories from fat, carbohydrate, and protein changed by no more than a single point each.
Meanwhile, I monitored three other things:
My weight, using one of a scale accurate to 0.2 pounds.
My metabolic rate, using DietPower nutrition software. (Your metabolic rate is the number of calories needed to maintain your weight.
DietPower recalculates it every day by analyzing your exercise, food, and weight logs.)
My resting pulse.
The results of this 30-day test were amazing:
Instead of losing weight, I gained 3.0 pounds.
Instead of rising, my metabolic rate plummeted—from 2695 calories per day to 2312.
My pulse did not change significantly.
In other words, if the slippers had any effect at all, it appeared to be the opposite of what the company claimed.
I had given the second pair of slippers to a friend in Washington, D.C., who lost 64 pounds last year with the help of DietPower.
She had agreed to stop using DietPower and wear the slippers instead. I phoned her up. "So how'd the slippers work?" I asked.
"Awful," she said. "I only wore them a couple of times. They're so intensely uncomfortable, I just couldn't keep it up.
I figured just having them in the vicinity might be of some help, though—because of the magnets.
But I've done nothing but eat and gain weight since trying them. They failed miserably."
No Scientific Basis
I wasn't surprised at these results. There is no credible scientific evidence that either reflexology or magnets can do what Get Slim asserts.
Get Slim wasn't the first company to claim that magnets are good for your feet. In 2000, Florsheim introduced MagneForce,
a new shoe with magnetic insoles. The company said the shoe would "increase circulation; reduce foot,
leg and back fatigue; provide natural pain relief and improve energy level."
These claims were investigated by Stephen Barrett, M.D., vice president of the National Council Against Health Fraud.
"Most studies of static magnets [the kind used in footwear] have found no measurable effect on any body function," he concluded after reviewing the scientific literature.
Dr. Barrett also pointed out that Magnetherapy, Inc., the company Florsheim consulted when designing the shoe,
had been warned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to stop claiming that its products relieve pain and
inflammation by increasing blood and oxygen flow. Shortly afterwards, Magnetherapy paid a $30,000 penalty to the State
of Texas and agreed to stop such claims unless its devices were FDA-approved. (To read Barrett's report on MagneForce shoes,
Reflexology, too, has no scientific basis. Although reflexologists claim that manipulating pressure points can enhance the flow of
"energy" to various organs, they have never identified the physical pathways involved.
Nor have they proven their claims with controlled scientific experiments.
Work "Like Magic" in Israel
A few days after completing my slipper test, I phoned Get Slim's 800 number again. This time I got Mr. Chalamish, the company's CEO.
(Thia Smith had left the company three weeks earlier, he said.) In an accent that I had trouble deciphering
(he's an Israeli who has lived in China for ten years), Chalamish told me that the reason I hadn't gotten any results was simple:
I hadn't followed the instructions. I had walked in the slippers only 25 minutes a day.
"It's an improvement of day and night if you get to the two hours," he said.
"What two hours?" I said. "The manual doesn't say that."
"Yes it does." He directed me to the sentence warning that people shouldn't wear the slippers more than two and a half hours a day.
"That's a caution, not a recommendation," I said. "If you want people to wear them at least two hours, why doesn't the manual say so?"
"Because what happens, people don't want to take them off."
"With this slipper you feel you are walking on air. You feel uplifting."
Clearly we were not communicating. But after a few minutes of back-and-forth, Chalamish finally got his point across:
some people lose weight wearing the slippers only 20 or 30 minutes a day, but others—like me—need two hours.
I asked Chalamish whether he had controlled studies proving the weight-loss effect. "No," he said. "We started selling only last October."
"Most companies test their products before they sell them, don't they?" I said as politely as I could.
"Well, we tested in Israel first. We exported to Israel two years ago, and it's working like magic there."
He said his father and mother had tried the slippers and ended up ordering dozens of pairs for their Israeli friends.
I reminded him that in any group of people given a medical device, there will always be a few whose health
improves and who believe it's because of the device. He replied that he knew the slippers worked,
"because the people would not have written us letters if it didn't."
Finally, I questioned him on the two therapies that the slippers are said to exploit. I asked whether he could point to
any studies proving the effectiveness of reflexology. "It's a science," he said. "You can study it at a university."
I also inquired about studies demonstrating the health benefits of magnets. "I cannot tell you any right now," he said.
"But magnet studies are all over."
Eventually, I learned that Chalamish was not a medical expert; his field is electronics.
His company's chief products are baby monitors, video door phones, alarms, and other security devices.
We ended the conversation with Chalamish urging me again to walk in the slippers at least two hours per day.
My daily jog wouldn't count, he said, because wearers aren't supposed to run in the slippers.
(I have no temptation to do this. Just thinking about it makes me wince.)
Since I don't have two hours per day to walk (nor do most Americans—they average about half that much),
I've decided to retire the slippers for now. (I gave one to Wally the Schnauzer. So far, he hasn't touched it.)
If anyone out there has better evidence that they work, please
Maybe I can be persuaded to rearrange my schedule for a second test. But I doubt it.
The Press Weighs in
At bottom, I think Get Slim's claims are laughable. Yet the American press, always eager for a good story,
has latched onto these slippers like a hyperactive puppy. The Get Slim website lists 25 stories in newspapers,
magazines, and television and radio broadcasts, ranging from the New York Daily News to local CBS, NBC, and Fox affiliates.
My quick review of this coverage shows reporters blithely parroting the company's claims. They insert the usual qualifiers
("according to the company" or "a company spokesman says"). But they don't bother to check the claims with credible scientific or medical authorities.
That, after all, is beside the point. Journalism these days is not about seeking the truth. It's about selling newspapers or getting a chuckle between commercials.
By the way, at least three of the "testimonials" on Get Slim's site, including those of Megan McCarver and Johnella Ellis (above), were supplied by Get Slim dealers.
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