Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS -- Some local women say they are losing weight in an unusual way, by relaxing in a space-age looking pod. But what do the experts have to say about this machine, and is there science to back it up?
Shelley Pscenicka remembers weighing 175 pounds after leaving the hospital after giving birth.
"I gained 70 pounds during my pregnancy. I was eating about 6,500 calories a day. I was eating about five full fast food meals a day," said Pscenicka.
She allowed a friend to take a snapshot when she was up 40 pounds and pregnant, but hid from cameras as the additional 30 pounds came on. To get to her very slim frame today, she turned to a space-age looking pod called the Slim Capsule.
"I was doing it three, four times a week during the test phase and the pounds just started melting off because I would work out, get tired, want to go home and lay down and say, 'No, I'm going to go and do the Slim Capsule instead,' and I'd burn about 300 calories for each session," said Pscenicka.
Pscenicka works for Plant Beach, the company that has the Slim Capsule. Jennifer Spizale works there too and says she is down 60 pounds toward her goal after using the Slim Capsule.
But how does she know that it's the slim capsule and not the tweaking in her diet and the two days of exercise that are making the difference?
"Because I've done the diet and the exercise before. Joined a gym. I watched what I ate and everything and I did have the weight loss, but nothing as significant as this," Spizale said.
The Slim Capsule is a dry heat sauna that can get up to 180 degrees. Your head stays out in the cool air with a fan blowing on it. The bed is contoured like your body and vibrates to give you a massage, and you can choose the scent of aroma therapy you want during the 30 minute session. A counter, makers claim, tells you how many calories you are burning. Cellulite creams are put on the body and you can either wear a plastic type sweat suit or one that's made of a more transparent cloth.
Sybaritic in Bloomington, Minnesota, the company that markets the Slim Capsule, says it detoxifies, pulling toxins out of the body. They say it tones, firms and contours the body, and it burns calories while increasing metabolism and circulation. They say it is energizing both for the body and the mind, and that client testimonials are positive.
"We have a ton of testimonials from people that anywhere from 12 to 15 to 20 pounds, of course over time. We had a client, actually locally here in Louisiana, that launched a bikini body boot camp with her Slim Capsule. They had clients coming in three to five days a week using the Slim Capsule and doing nothing else, and these women, they had five women report eight to 12 pounds of weight loss. And we also had amazing, rave reviews about dress size reduction. So people are going down in sizes in their jeans, their dresses, and that's speaking volumes too," said Danielle Dorn, the national sales manager at Sybaritic.
There are also light-emitting diodes (LEDs) -- head-to-toe lights they say help with anti-aging and firming of the skin.
"There are LED lights that you're seeing are skin-care lights, so they are really meant to penetrate the skin at the cellular level so that you're boosting collagen. You're boosting elastin. You're seeing those anti-aging results and it also helps to really balance the pH of the skin and aid with any acne that your clients may be trying to treat," added Dorn.
During treatment special glasses with flashing lights are worn while listening to an audio message. The New Reality hypnotherapist says it's creative visualization that increases pleasure chemicals in the brain, reduces stress chemicals and changes behavior.
"In deep relaxation, your subconscious mind is open for suggestions and the subconscious mind does not differentiate between fact and fiction. So when you tell the subconscious mind it's now okay to eat the right foods, at the right time, in the right amount, drink plenty of water, exercise, the subconscious mind goes, 'Okay, I can do that,' " said Suzy Prudden, a hypnotherapist in California and voice of the New Reality audio programs.
She says there is science to show this works.
"Oh absolutely, oh absolutely. It's been proven over and over again," said Prudden.
So what do the independent studies show? Well since there are no scientific studies specifically on the Slim Capsule, doctors relied on studies of similar technology.
"Back in the 60s, they did a lot of research to show that heat causes weight loss but it's water loss, and this is because, like wrestlers and jockeys who have to meet weight goals, this is what they often, they go in a sauna and they sweat that extra weight off. But the minute they rehydrate, obviously that weight comes back on. And this is not new. This so well documented," said Dr. Melinda Sothern, a clinical exercise physiologist and professor in the School of Public Health at LSU Health Sciences Center.
"I just think what we're doing in this particular case, there's no question in my mind, I think we're just increasing the sweat index basically you could do the same thing in a sauna if you wanted to," said fitness expert Mackie Shilstone of East Jefferson General Hospital's Fitness Principle program.
And when it comes to detoxifying claims, doctors say there is no such thing as "detoxing" while sweating or doing anything else.
"Detoxification would be quit eating junk," said Dr. Timothy Harlan, a Clinical General Internist at Tulane and former chef who runs www.drgourmet.com.
And what about the skin rejuvenation and light-emitting diodes?
"It will very definitely help with some of the sun damage to the skin, some of the brown discoloration, some of the fine blood vessels. And it requires multiple treatments and it's just taking little baby steps. It's not a big step when you get these, and you have to get it several times a week," said Slidell dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth McBurney, of LSU Health Sciences Center and Tulane.
"There is a biochemical effect from these types of lights that can be of benefit but it would take an enormous amount of frequency of treatments for you to see clinically a benefit," said New Orleans Dermatologist Dr. Mary Lupo.
And what about the guided meditation with the flashing lights? Experts say that causes relaxation which is one third of the way to changing your behavior.
"It can work for some people. And I can tell you that some people are not going to really like this, but in order to change your life you need to really invest in self care. Part of that is relaxation, whichever mind-body skill you would like to use, but also nutrition because what we eat is what we are and also exercise. So those three components are the most important one for a lifelong change," said Dr. Nereida A. Parada, a clinical associate professor at Tulane. She is boarded in internal medicine, critical care, pulmonology, and allergies and is also an expert in mind-body medicine.
"People who meditate for stress management, how it lowers cortisol levels (the stress hormone), and it reduces inflammation and that's associated with obesity," said Dr. Sothern.
Doctors say there is a benefit to heat therapy, especially for pain management and even lowering blood pressure. But even though the doctors say heat does not increase metabolism and burn calories, the women who use the Slim Capsule say their bodies, skin and stretch marks look better, and it's motivating them.
"But waking up the next morning and automatically being able to button your pants, that helped keep me going. That helped motivate me," said Pscenicka.
"I know that I'm losing the inches. I've dropped three dress sizes, so pants sizes, so I don't believe it's just water weight," said Spizale.
You should check with your doctor before doing using a sauna for a medical treatment.
Contempo Spa Membership is $99 a month for unlimited use of the Slim Capsule. Head to www.planetbeach.com for more information.
You can get the New Reality glasses and audio program with hypnotherapist at Planet Beach or at http://www.newreality.com/.