Calibrate Weight Loss Review: Better Than Drugs Alone?

Calibrate Weight Loss Review: Better Than Drugs Alone?


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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? And are the weight loss meds that Calibrate uses proven to work?

In this article we’ll answer all of these questions and more, as we analyze medical studies on weight loss coaching to share our thoughts on whether or not it's more effective than medication alone.

We'll review the medications prescribed by Calibrate to discuss their effectiveness, feature unsponsored customer reviews of the brand, and share some fine print about the money-back guarantee that we think potential consumers should be aware of.

Finally, we'll highlight a Bloomberg exposé on Calibrate that's a red flag about the brand's ethics in our opinion.

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 for weight loss (combined with medication) has been shown to be more effective than medication alone.

A 2017 medical review  examined data from 13 clinical trials on health coaching and weight loss. In the majority of the trials, 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. Working with a coach 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.

But what weight loss drugs does Calibrate prescribe and are they effective? We'll review those questions in the next section of this article.

Are Calibrate’s Drugs 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. 

A meta-study published in the International Journal of Obesity analyzed data on liraglutide for weight loss, and documented that the drug increased weight loss by 12.79 pounds over placebo in one year.

Wegovy is the branded form of semaglutide and may be more effective than liraglutide. 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 semaglutide and liraglutide can cause severe side effects in some patients. A medical review on semaglutide 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 drug label about severe side effects, while some of the drugs prescribed by Calibrate do.

Real Users Review Calibrate

A YouTube creator named “Michelle Loses It!” shares her experience being prescribed a medication for weight loss by Calibrate:

A YouTube creator named "Weight Loss With Bianca" claims that Calibrate is overrated:

Is the Weight Loss Guarantee Legit?

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.

This is a red flag about the brand's ethics in our opinion, until more information emerges.

Real Customers Review Calibrate

Calibrate currently has an average review rating of 1.1 out of 5 stars on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website, down from 1.26 at the time we initially published this article.

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.”

There are similar complaints on Calibrate's Facebook page at the time of updating this article, with the brand even restricting user comments on some recent posts.

A Facebook user named Chris Lee makes the following complaint on the most recent post of Calibrate's that allowed comments:

"I am having the same issue everyone is speaking about in the above comments. No response from calibrate. No medication. $129 per month to a finance company with only robo responses and no medication. My medication ' just stopped arriving' and I cannot get a response from Calibrate. I guess I will need to get a lawyer."

We consider these complaints and their nature to be a serious red flag about the ethics of Calibrate, and we urge the brand to respond to all customer complaints.

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).

MBG Organic Fiber Potency+ is our top fiber pick because it's certified organic, provides 7 g of fiber per serving and costs under $1.85 per serving at the time of updating this article.

MCT oil was shown in a meta-study to cause 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. and it currently costs only $15.50 for over a month's worth of product.

Ginger intake "significantly decreased body weight" according to a 2019 meta-study on ginger and weight loss that analyzed data from 14 clinical trials.

Pique La Ginger is our top ginger product, because it's an organic tea in convenient crystallized form, and all that's needed is to pour the powder into a glass and add hot water.

All three of the products mentioned in this section are entirely free of additive ingredients that we consider to be unhealthy.

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.

Pros and Cons of Calibrate

Here are the pros and cons of Calibrate weight loss in our opinion:

Pros:

  • Brand uses effective weight loss drugs
  • Online coaching may improve weight loss compared to medication alone
  • Calibrate program should cause weight loss

Cons:

  • Many customer complaints
  • Unclear value prop over other online coaching & weight loss programs
  • More expensive than taking weight loss drugs alone
  • Bloomberg article suggests Calibrate offered temporary drug discounts to customers that expired
Stay up-to-date on our research reviews

Conclusion

We do believe that Calibrate is likely to cause weight loss, because both health coaching and GLP-1 medications are proven in medical research to be effective for weight loss.

We also believe that Calibrate is likely to cause more weight loss than medication alone, because health coaching has been shown to do so in medical studies.

That being said, we don’t recommend the program overall because we cannot verify the credentials of the health coaches. We would only recommend a health coaching program with credentialed medical experts such as Medical Doctors (MDs) or Registered Dietitians (RDs) providing health advice. 

Regardless of company training, we do not consider it appropriate for people without relevant medical training to provide health advice to dieters.

We’re also concerned about the relatively bad reviews of Calibrate online, and the information highlighted in a Bloomberg exposé about questionable pricing strategies employed by Calibrate.

Calibrate has restricted the ability for some users to comment on the brand's recent Facebook posts, which we consider to be a serious red flag.

While the brand advertises 10% weight loss in the first year or your money back, there are several stipulations in the fine print that impact customer ability to access this deal.