Disclaimer: None of the information in this article constitutes medical advice, and is just the opinion of the writer(s). We recommend that patients follow their doctor’s guidance in regard to weight loss medication.
Calibrate is a weight loss program that combines pharmaceutical medication with health coaching and lifestyle changes. The company claims that their approach leads to “sustainable weight loss” and that users will lose 10% body weight within the first year or they get their money back.
But is health coaching actually more effective for weight loss than medication alone? Is there any fine print regarding the money back offer that consumers should be aware of? What are real users saying about Calibrate?
In this article we’ll seek to answer these questions and more as we review the medical research they cite, and review the pharmaceutical drugs they prescribe for weight loss.
Does Weight Loss Coaching Work?
One of the core tenets of Calibrate’s program is individualized coaching. Customers get 1-on-1 video calls with a health coach in 15-minute, biweekly video sessions. It’s unclear to us if Calibrate coaches are medically-credentialed or not, and we consider this an important distinction.
On the brand’s FAQ page, it’s stated that Calibrate Accountability coaches “come from a number of different backgrounds” such as public health, psychology and education.
We’re unsure how an individual with a public health or education background would be qualified to provide specific medical advice to an overweight individual regarding nutrition choices or exercise choices.
Online coaching overall is quite effective for weight loss. An extensive medical review published in 2017 examined data from 13 clinical trials on health coaching and weight loss. In the majority of the articles, health coaching led to improved patient outcomes such as weight loss.
Many people respond positively to accountability, so it makes sense that health coaching may be more effective than diet and medication alone. It provides positive feedback and accountability that can make the weight loss journey more responsive and enjoyable.
While we consider weight loss coaching overall likely to be effective, we cannot conclude that Calibrate’s weight loss coaching is necessarily effective, because their specific program doesn’t appear to have been tested in any clinical trials. Further, we would not recommend health coaching from non-medically-credentialed sources.
Are Calibrate’s Weight Loss Medications Effective?
On their medication page, Calibrate details that they primarily prescribe Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) drugs such as semaglutide and liraglutide for weight loss. We’ve reviewed this class of medications extensively on Illuminate Health and are familiar with the relevant research.
Saxenda is the branded form of liraglutide, and is proven effective for weight loss. A meta-study published in the International Journal of Obesity analyzed data from clinical trials on Saxenda, and documented that the drug caused weight loss of 12.79 pounds more than placebo over the course of one year.
Wegovy is the branded form of semaglutide and may be more effective than Saxenda. As we detailed in our recent Wegovy review article, a head-to-head comparison of the two drugs in a medical trial found Wegovy to be more effective.
We consider all of the medications referenced by Calibrate to be effective for weight loss, however we disagree with their statement that GLP-1 drugs are the “safest and most effective” class of weight loss medication.
Both Saxenda and Wegovy can cause severe side effects in some patients. A medical review of Wegovy documents that 7.7% of patients experienced “severe adverse events.”
We consider prescription weight loss medications such as Plenity to be safer than GLP-1 drugs. Plenity has a physical mechanism of action (it takes up space in the stomach) and contains no Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-mandated “black box” warning on its medication label.
Calibrate Weight Loss Real User Review
One of the reviews of Calibrate on YouTube that appears to be unsponsored is published by a channel called “Michelle Loses It!” The creator shares her experience being prescribed one of the weight loss medications by Calibrate:
10% Weight Loss Guarantee Fine Print
As may be expected, getting your money back from Calibrate isn’t as simple as failing to lose 10% body weight within the first year. There are a number of stipulations in the fine print that we’d like to highlight to prospective users of this service.
The cost of medication and lab testing will not be refunded.
Users that don’t set and track weekly goals 85% of the time will not be refunded.
Users that were on a prescription weight loss medication within the year prior to joining Calibrate will not be refunded.
There are other stipulations in the Terms to this refund agreement, which can be found here. The terms do seem reasonable in our opinion, but they may add a significant amount of complexity and frustration.
Bloomberg Exposé on Calibrate
In August of 2022, Bloomberg published an exposé of Calibrate, highlighting how the brand had advertised low costs of prescription drugs to potential customers, but the discount rates ran out for many customers while still enrolled in Calibrate’s program.
Bloomberg's piece states the following:
“For some of those patients, that deal turned out to be temporary. Calibrate told people it would work with their health insurance providers to get drugs covered. But US insurance coverage for Wegovy is sparse, and about a fifth of the startup’s customers were instead enrolled in a generous coupon program from the drug’s maker, Novo Nordisk A/S, that ran out after six months.”
Details are unclear since this is so recent, so we urge Calibrate to transparently publish information about whether or not these deals were temporary.
Bad Customer Reviews
Calibrate has a generally poor rating on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website. While it’s true that many companies have unimpressive BBB ratings because consumers are more likely to write in to complain than to praise a company, Calibrate’s 1.26 out of 5 star average rating at the time of writing this article is notably poor.
Many customers are complaining about failing to receive their medication.
A user named “Hanadi S.” gives Calibrate 1 star and claims that the company did not ship their medication in time:
“I joined over 6 weeks ago, I have not received my medication nor is the company what it seems.”
Another user named “Anna K” echoes similar sentiments:
“They take your money and then ignore you. What a joke.”
Our Clean Weight Loss Picks
There are food-based nutrients which have been shown in medical studies to be effective for weight loss.
Dietary fiber was shown in a medical review published in The Journal of Nutrition to cause 16 pounds of weight loss in 6 months when combined with moderate caloric restriction (750 calories per day below baseline).
Supergut Fiber Mix is our recommended fiber supplement, because it contains three different types of fiber powder and no questionable additive ingredients. Interested consumers can check out Supergut Fiber Mix at this link to the product page on the brand's official website, where it retails for under $2 per serving at a subscription rate.
MCT oil is quickly absorbed by the body and increases metabolic rate, which causes fat loss. A 2015 meta-study on MCT oil documented more than one pound of weight loss over 10 weeks. This equates to potential annualized weight loss of 6 pounds per year with less than one tablespoon's worth of MCT oil per day.
Bulletproof MCT Oil is our top MCT oil product, because the only ingredient is MCT oil derived from coconuts. There are no questionable additives. Interested consumers can check out Bulletproof MCT Oil at this link to the product page on the brand's official website, where it currently costs only $15.50 for over a month's worth of product.
Coffee is one of the few whole food ingredients associated with weight loss in clinical trials. A meta-analysis published in the Nutrients journal found that coffee intake was associated with reduced body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference.
VitaCup Organic Instant Coffee Sticks is our top coffee product for weight loss, due to its convenience. No preparation or machinery is needed. The sticks can be mixed into hot or cold water (or other beverages) and consumed. The only ingredient is organic instant coffee; no questionable additives.
Interested consumers can check out VitaCup Organic Instant Coffee Sticks at this link to the product page on the brand's official website, where they retail for $1 per serving at a subscription rate.
We are not suggesting that any of the products referenced in this section are as effective as the medications sold by Calibrate, or any other FDA-approved weight loss medication. Rather, we're sharing options that patients with an aversion to pharmaceutical medication may wish to speak to their doctor about.