Cellulite Treatments: Do They Work?

I've recently completed my sixth cellulite treatment at a spa in New York's speedily gentrifying Hell's Kitchen neighborhood — about 10 blocks from Times Square.

It cost $1,200 to get my thighs and butt slathered in cold jelly, wrapped in plastic, heated up, chilled to the bone, and pressed with a hand held device emitting lasers and ultrasound waves. At the end of each hour-and-a-half long session my adipose tissue — loaded with watery toxins, I was informed — was kneaded by a Brazilian woman's tiny but preternaturally forceful hands.

Did I mention I'm getting married next month? That could explain why I've gone temporarily insane.

"In Brazil these treatments are much cheaper," Iriana had confided as she kneaded. "And girls start young. Before they even develop cellulite."

I've seen the famous behinds on the beaches of Rio and Bahia, and Iriana's words might have depressed me. But now I knew the girl from Ipanema's secret. Or rather, the skinny brat's grossly unfair advantage.

Last month, before our first session, Iriana took pictures of me from all angles and measured my waist and thighs. Plus that area just above my knees caps which has grown increasingly hateful over the past couple of years.

At this point I'd like to say that if you're ready to deliver me a lecture about women and body-image the evils of self-loathing, know this: I am aware that my physical obsessions are petty and psychologically destructive. I simply choose to indulge them in my free time.


Know that there are no studies in medical literature to prove that any laser, sonar, lymphatic massage, electric shock, injections, or creams will get rid of cellulite. Still, spa-goers and estheticians say that intense manipulation with the help of various scientific advances can make lumpy fat appear smoother.

That's what we really want. The airbrushed look of magazine models. Even the rounded models of Dove's "Real Beauty" campaign. If we can't be thin, we want to be sleek and tight like porpoises.

I wanted the treatments to work. I felt that they should work. They were uncomfortable enough. To be fair, Iriana asked me several times if she was pressing too hard. I shook my head no as she dug her little hands into my screaming flesh. I covered my face with a pillow and bit into it. I wanted results, not coddling.

The type of massage which is said to work by loosening the tight tissue that refuses to bend with the fat cells it connects (and instead stays rigid, forcing the fat cells to squeeze through and around), is not of the Swedish variety.

Expect cellulite treatment involving tissue manipulation — be it Endermologie, Vela Smooth, Syneron or some combination — to make you feel like the victim in a pre-code, post-mod Hollywood cult film. You will lie on a slab under fluorescent light in paper underwear and accept your expensive punishment. A few days later you'll return for more.

Read into it what you will, but that was part of the appeal. And I don't believe I am alone here. My thinking goes like this: cellulite is bad. It is the result of a decade of wasted gym memberships, a failure to take the stairs, a stubborn refusal to give up Godiva chocolate clams or cocktails or much else in my quest for beauty. The cellulite must be punished.

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