In today’s world, people are quick to pounce on what they perceive to be quick-fix weight-loss methods — and if they are touted by celebrities, so much the better.
So you may be forgiven for wondering if actress Sofia Vergara’s supposed “weight loss secret” of sleeping with her stomach wrapped in plastic wrap is actually the holy grail of achieving a bombshell body.
Let’s exercise some critical thinking and consider whether Saran wrap is a reliable, proven weight loss tool.
Saran wrap on the stomach: the method
In an interview with US Magazine, Vergara described her method as “sleep[ing] in [plastic] wrap and coconut oil everywhere.”According to Organic Authority, wraps were used as far back as ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, with Cleopatra herself allegedly a proponent of wrapping (keep in mind that this may very well be a claim made by makers of spa-like body wraps in order to sell more of their products — I could not find a reliable source to back up this claim).
The most common approach seems to be to apply some type of exfoliating or moisturizing product or mask to the skin (Vergara supposedly uses coconut oil). Homemade body wrap recipes are also prevalent on the internet.
Once the product has been applied, the body part in question (usually the abdomen) is wrapped tightly with Saran or plastic wrap. Some proponents then wrap themselves further with compressive bandages or lie under heavy blankets to sleep.
Saran wrap on the stomach: the claims
There are many claims made about the effects of doing a spa-like body wrap at home. It is claimed that leaving plastic wrap tightly wound on the stomach — a type of homemade body wrap treatment — helps to lose weight from specific areas of the body, improve skin appearance, get rid of cellulite, and help to detox the body.
Some proponents claim that these benefits occur because the tight wrap confines body heat, thereby inducing more sweat and “melting away” your body’s fat tissue from specific areas that need tightening up.
Evaluating the claims: does it work?
While you may notice some temporary effects — your stomach may indeed appear flatter in the morning when you remove the wrap — these changes aren’t occurring because you are actually burning body fat or detoxing yourself of some mysterious, obesity-causing toxin.
For one thing, the basic principles of weight loss have been pretty firmly established in the scientific literature. Weight loss is achieved through a consistent caloric deficit, which can be achieved by eating fewer calories than you burn. Most weight loss approaches take a multi-pronged strategy of both decreasing the number of calories you eat and increasing the number of calories you burn through exercise and physical movement.
“Sweating out” fat during exercise or by using detox body wraps, a waist trimmer, or waist trainers, is not supported by scientific research. There have been some studies seeming to show some benefit in fat loss for people using a body wrap or wearing a sauna suit, but the researchers themselves admitted that the apparent effects may be due to other factors, like diet and exercise. Unfortunately, there just doesn’t seem to be a way around the basic, but the somewhat boring, approach of sustaining a caloric deficit over time.
When you notice your stomach looking smaller or tighter after using bodysuits or stomach wraps, it’s likely because of temporary water loss. As dermatologist Dr. Sonia Batra notes in this article:
“It is a quick fix to dehydrate the skin and temporarily lose volume. However, the skin will return to its usual size when a person rehydrates. … Wraps provide a temporary reduction in weight and bloat through water loss, but they do not provide any long term fat reduction or improvement in cellulite.”
Dr. Batra further cautions that doing this repeatedly, over long periods of time, can have harmful effects, including the risk of dehydration, skin issues due to clogged pores, and increased potential of bacterial and fungal infections.
So if Saran wrap doesn’t work, what does?
You may find yourself discouraged if you’ve read this far and had your hope of a magic weight loss pill (or wrap) dashed. So in this final section, I’ll offer some simple, basic tips for how to actually make progress toward whatever goal you were hoping to achieve through wrapping your abdomen with Saran wrap.
If you need to lose weight and improve your body composition, focus on setting a caloric deficit that you can sustain over time, getting sufficient dietary protein to prevent muscle loss, and ideally increasing your overall movement, including resistance training.
If you want to help your body detox, eat and live in ways that support your liver. There are no “secrets” here — you’ll want to eat nutrient-dense foods to provide your body with all the nutrition it needs, get a solid 7-9 hours of deep sleep every night, and maintain digestive health, including regular bowel movements.
If you are concerned about your bloated stomach, eat fewer foods that make you feel bloated. Pay attention to what types of foods cause bloating for you, and avoid those.
If you want a toned, tight stomach, focus on losing body fat in a healthy, sustainable way, as well as building some muscle — preferably not just in your core, but your upper and lower body as well. Strength training, plus a healthy body fat percentage, do wonders for shaping your stomach and every other body part as well.
If you want to moisturize your skin, coconut oil may indeed be of benefit to you, as it is for Sofia Vergara. I’m no expert in skincare, but my best advice is to try some different methods and products and find what works for you, instead of copying the method of a celebrity.
The above advice is not sexy, not very exciting, and definitely not easy. The trick lies in being able to find your “why” and find some motivation to get started, then foster the discipline to keep going when things get hard. Instill habits that help you towards your goals, and rely on them when motivation wanes.
Results won’t come quickly, but you will inevitably make progress, and likely build some valuable character along the way. As the old adage goes, it’s about the journey, not the destination.