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, but if Calibrate was not disclosing that these discounts may be temporary, we would consider this unethical and a red flag about the brand.
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 Weight Loss Supplement Recommendations
There exist several weight loss supplements with significant clinical backing in terms of both efficacy and safety.
We recommend dietary fiber as a safe and effective weight loss supplement, especially when combined with caloric restriction.
A landmark medical study found that moderate caloric restriction (750 calories per day below baseline) combined with dietary fiber intake (a minimum of 20 grams per day) caused an average weight loss of 16.03 pounds over 6 months. That’s a potential pace of 32 pounds per year of weight loss in overweight individuals simply by adding fiber to a moderately-restricted-calorie diet.
The fiber supplement we recommend is SuperGut Fiber Mix. It contains a clean and effective formulation: a blend of three different types of unflavored dietary fiber and zero additive ingredients. It can be mixed into liquids or foods. Interested consumers can buy SuperGut fiber at this link.
We recommend using two fiber mixes per day, which provides 16 grams (g) of total fiber. Diet should provide the remaining fiber necessary to meet the 20 g minimum threshold.
Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil is another dietary supplement which has been shown in clinical trials to cause weight loss.
MCT oil is quickly absorbed by the body and increases metabolic rate, which causes fat loss. A meta-study on MCT oil documented weight loss of 1.12 pounds over 10 weeks. This equates to a potential annualized weight loss of 5.84 pounds with MCT oil supplementation.
We recommend Bulletproof MCT Oil as our top MCT oil product, because it has a clean and effective formulation. The only ingredient is MCT oil derived from coconuts, and the product has no questionable additives. Interested consumers can buy Bulletproof MCT Oil at this link.
The effective dose range of MCT oil for weight loss (based on the medical review) is 1.7 g to 10 g per day. Bulletproof's MCT oil provides 14 g in one tablespoon, so around two-thirds of one tablespoon should be a maximally-effective dosage.