Sept. 28, 2009— -- Chances are someone you know has tried a weird weight loss product. From the 1990s' ThighMaster to the 1950s' vibrating belts, entrepreneurs have long known that the public is willing to look a bit silly in order to lose weight.
Now, with 21st-century technology, people have only found more mesmerizing exercises and unusual weight loss products.
The following is a list of the most unusual, but catching fitness trends, along with comments from physicians and personal trainers about the merits and the dangers of each product.
Dance-exercise classes, such as Kukuwa dance, or Zumba, have gained traction in recent years. But one company hopes people who don't want to haul themselves down to the gym may want to sit in the Hawaii Chair for an exotic dance workout.
The Hawaii Chair, also popularly known as the hula chair, made its debut in comedy programs such as "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" in early 2008. DeGeneres tried to pour a drink of water and conduct an interview while using the Hawaii Chair on its highest setting.
A person has two choices once they're sitting on top of the patented 2,800 RPM Hula motor made by T&L Perfect USA. They can either be thrashed around in an amusement park ride fashion or attempt to keep their head straight while the chair swivels their hips about.
Dr. Steven Blair, a professor of exercise science at the University of South Carolina, admitted he hasn't tried the Hawaii Chair, but he had some doubts.
"Obviously, it is possible to sit in a recliner and scarcely move at all. It's also possible to sit in a regular office chair and twirl around and around and you'd be burning calories, too, for free," Blair said.
Blair thought the chair might burn more calories than lying down, but he wasn't quite impressed and pointed out there are cheaper ways to burn calories while working.
"Standing, you'd be burning even more calories, and standing on one leg, you'd be burning even more calories than before," he said.
Instead of buying specially designed chairs, Blair recommended going out for a walk.
Weird Weight Loss Product 2: Vibration Plates
Go to a gym in California, and you might see people standing around on curious fitness machines -- pedestals with platforms that look like they don't move at all.
The Power Plate is priced at $4,500, or $2,499 for home models, and its manufacturers assure customers that the platforms only look like they're stationary. In fact, the plates are vibrating millimeters in distance back and forth under your feet.
"A person can stand on it and do a simple squat and still get a benefit from the vibration," said Julie Devin, marketing coordinator for Power Plate. "But it's intended for people to do exercises on it."
Devin explained the vibrations force the body's muscles to contract in order to keep the person's balance -- adding another level of work in addition to the muscles required to do a pushup, squat or stretch on the machine.
Standing on a whole body vibration platform as a way to shorten workouts has already spread through Europe and now is hitting California.
But Blair, the exercise science professor from South Carolina, remained cautiously skeptical.
"I don't demean sitting less and standing more," said Blair. "But you'd spend a lot more calories, I think, even going for a walk than by standing on the vibration."
However, Blair did support the vibration plates for reasons beyond calorie burning.
"The vibrating devices probably have a beneficial effect on bone density," he said.
Weird Weight Loss Product 3: Thermal Suits
For better or worse, the "Rocky" movies brought mainstream America boxing fitness "secrets" such as eating raw eggs or jogging up stairs decades ago.
However, it took much longer for the public to glom onto the vinyl suits used by boxers and wrestlers to lose weight.
Makes and models vary from flashy silver suits to more subdued colors, but the point of every suit is to lose weight quickly.
What the buyer may not understand, or care to understand, is that they're really losing water weight through sweat.
"But they've been used forever. A lot of wrestlers use them in order to make weight, and I think that's how it filtered down to where the general public has seen it in athletes," said Richard Davis, co-founder of GoFit, maker of the GoFit Thermal Training Suit.
The vinyl suits make for great insulation, and little evaporation, when worn. Exercise long enough in the suit, and one might take off several pounds in sweat.
"The premise and purpose behind it is weight loss, and the primary weight loss a user would experience would be water weight loss," said Davis. "Then again, if you go back and drink some water, you may gain it back."
Colleen Greene, a personal trainer and group fitness instructor at the University of Michigan, said she could see some use in the suits for warming up muscles.
"I think sometimes relief pitchers would wear them if they're trying to warm up quickly," she said.
"You could lose weight, but it would be water weight," she added. "Once you start drinking it would come back, and the suits also don't speed up losing body fat."
Overall, Greene warned against the suits for fear that people could easily overheat and require medical attention.
"These are actually dangerous," she said.
Blair added that wearing the suits during a workout might actually be counterproductive in some cases.
"You're going to have more difficulty regulating your body heat," he said. "You're going to get tired sooner, and you're not going to get as far."
Weird Weight Loss Product 4: Sound Waves for Muffin Top and Belly Fat
People who say their products "melt away" fat usually mean it figuratively, but not the doctors who are trying the Vaser technology for liposuction.
Vaser, or Vaser "high def," liposuction works differently than the simple vacuum surgeries used by many.
With Vaser, a doctor inserts a metal probe into your stomach, or around your so-called "muffin top," and uses sonic waves to dissolve a layer of fat, which is then sucked out through a vacuum.
Doctors market the procedure as "sculpture" liposuction meant for the relatively fit, rather than the more genuinely overweight who are trying to take off many pounds at once.
Reports in the U.K.'s Daily Mail price the procedure at about $8,000. However, in a 2008 interview with Denver-based plastic surgeon Dr. John Millard, ABC News' "Nightline" reported the fee can range from $15,000 to $20,000 for the surgery.
Of course, there's always the old-fashioned way of getting that toned definition -- the boring old diet and exercise route.
Weird Weight Loss Product 5: The Tongue Patch
Some people still take the "no pain, no gain" slogan to the gym. But it takes a certain type of bravery to take the theory all the way into the doctor's chair as he stitches a prolene patch to your tongue.
Dr. Nikolas Chugay, a plastic surgeon in private practice in Beverly Hills, Calif., developed the tongue patch as a temporary way to lose "20 to 40 pounds."
"The tongue patch is a prolene mesh [the] size of [a] stamp," Chugay said. "All you need is about four stitches to attach it to the tongue."
The prolene patch makes it uncomfortable, if not painful, to chew solid food. Chugay has implanted the patch in more than 10 patients, and sells a liquid drink mix to the dieters to ensure more calories are cut.
Chugay said his drink is "about 700 calories per day, so it's a low caloric intake. It has carbs, proteins, fat, vitamins and minerals.
"Some people still manage to eat solid foods even despite of the patch, but it's a good way of helping people not to cheat," he said.
After a month-long liquid diet, Chugay will snip off the patch, releasing his patients into the world of solid food again.
Blair thought the approach seemed short-sighted for a person's general health, or even as an attempt to lose weight.
"If you make it painful to eat, maybe people won't eat so much -- in the short-term," he said.
"But it won't work long-term, unless somewhere in this world there is a crazy person who would wear this for their whole life," Blair said.