My body does not look the same as it did two years ago.
Let me explain my fall from fit: I used to be a gym rat, at the gym five days a week. I chugged protein shakes in the morning, ran my lungs out on the treadmill, and lifted weights larger than my head. I used to have a “vision board” full of clippings of fitness models and celebrities whose toned abs I wanted more than children. (Sorry mom.) I used to humble brag on Facebook and Twitter (“Exhausted from my plyo workout. Feeling good!”). I derived inspiration from memes that said things like “train like a beast to look like a beauty.” I could tell you the nutritional composition of an egg and convince you why it is the most superior form of protein. I used to rock midriff-baring tops with confidence, as evident in this pic below, taken in Santa Monica…
Flash forward to now: Today I would sooner eat a cronut than pick up pink dumbbell. In fact, it’s a good week if I can manage to haul my butt to the gym once. And eggs? I eat more Cadbury chocolate eggs than the farm-fresh variety. Suffice it to say, my thirty-ish body is dimply and squishier than ever.
So when swimsuit season rolled around, I thought it’d be a great time to test-drive some of the most popular body contouring and skin tightening treatments on the market today. Can you really roll, shock, or zap your way back to a slimmer body? I investigated.
TREATMENT #1 THERMAGE
Procedure profile: This modern treatment does double-duty – it smoothes dimples and firms droopy areas, as it’s main purpose is to tighten sagging or bulging skin and improve contours of the body (note: it does not remove fat). My dermatologist, Dr. Lisa Kellett, explained that it uses radio frequency energy, which produces heat to stimulate the production of collagen – the protein responsible for the strength, firmness and tightness of your skin. This effect can help reduce the appearance of cellulite.
Protocol: The technician places a rub-on tattoo grid on the skin being treated in order to guide her as to where to send the pulse. The procedure takes an hour or longer, depending on the size of the area being treated, and you see some results immediately. Improvements continue to unfold for several months thereafter.
It feels like: A series of quick hot vibrating zaps. Super tolerable.
Benefits: No commitment! The most appealing aspect is that you only need one treatment, which is what sets Thermage apart from many laser procedures that require four or more sessions. And best of all, the tightening effect can last up to two years. Another plus is that there is no recover time; your skin looks pretty normal after, considering the high-techy-ness of it all.
Price: $3,000 per treatment at my go-to dermatology clinic in Toronto, DLK on Avenue.
TREATMENT #2 ENDERMOLOGIE
Procedure profile: Developed in France, Endermologie was one of the first cellulite treatments to hit the market in the eighties, and it’s still a popular and widely available option available under various trade names (e.g. Synergie, Lipomassage). The device tackles dimpled areas with rollers and suction by massaging the heck out of it. The idea is that the massage helps break up areas of cellulite, increases blood flow, and stimulates lymphatic drainage, which releases toxins, excess water and broken up fat cells so your skin looks smoother. Caveat: You have to wear a dorky skin-tight white unitard during the treatment.
Protocol: Two treatments a week for a total of 10 to 20 sessions. You see results about halfway through the series and to maintain them, you have to get weekly or monthly upkeep treatments.
It feels like: A deep tissue massage to the sound of a vacuum cleaner.
Benefits: No recovery time, besides feeling really thirsty afterwards.
Bummers: Cost, longterm commitment, and temporary results. As soon as you stop treatments, the area will form back into the same shape that it was before. Plus, you can’t help but feel feel bad for the technician because all that rolling and punching at your trouble spots looks strenuous.
Price: Variable. I’ve seen it as low as $150 at a few medi-spas and even in gyms. It’s called Syngerie at DLK on Avenue and costs $250 per treatment.
TREATMENT #3 TRIPOLLAR
Procedure profile: Another form of radio-frequency energy, TirPollar technology uses heat and rollers to target fat cells, forcing them to secrete fatty acids (liquid fat) which are disposed via the blood and lymph system. As the technician at Revive Med Spa was massaging the cellulite on the back of my legs, she described the process as “breaking up the bowls of fat that hold the unwanted liquid fat.”
Protocol: Six treatments to achieve desired result of fat and circumference reduction and minimized cellulite appearance.
It feels like: A hot stone massage that gets progressively hotter until you scream uncle. (It heats up to 40 degrees celsius.)
Benefits: No downtime; it’s relaxing if you can handle heat; and cost. It’s one of the more affordable body contouring treatments.
Bummers: Longterm commitment and temporary results.
Price: $150 per treatment.
TREATMENT #4 VELASHAPE
Procedure profile: VelaShape has a lot going on: rollers, suction, infrared heat and radio frequency. The mechanical massage part works like Endermologie – increasing blood flow and flushing out loosened fat, toxins and excess water – while the energy sources are said to help reduce the size of fat cells.
Protocol: Six or more hour-long treatments to see some results. Initial treatments are recommended once per week, then upkeep sessions are necessary.
It feels like: Gentle pulling with some heat.
Benefits: No downtime. You seem to get more for your value than doing TriPollar and Endermologie on their own.
Bummers: Cost and longterm commitment. You may end up spending a lot of money on initial treatments and monthly maintenance.
Price: Variable. Averages $2000 per treatment.
Doing all of these treatments made my abs look slightly tighter and legs slighter smoother. If I had to put a number on it, I’d say about 20% improvement in tone. I wouldn’t run out and buy a crop top now, but I do believe I look better than I did when I started this experiment two months ago. Perhaps the most effective part of this experiment was that I became hyper-aware of my body and this made me more cognizant of my eating and exercise habits. After all there’s something to be said about exposing your body to a complete stranger and paying her go to town on your trouble spots. Each treatment made me feel a bit ashamed of my slothful ways. I began increasing the number of workouts per week and re-introduced healthy foods back into my diet (welcome back hardboiled eggs!). I even start baking treats without sugar again. You need to try my black bean brownies recipe here.
The lesson is while no machine can replace the results you’d get with good old fashion diet and exercise, non-invasive body contouring and tightening treatments can definitely help a little, if not only to reignite your motivation to live healthier, which is the hardest part. However if you were to ask me which one treatment stands out from the rest, I’d have to go with Thermage. I liked the fact that you only need one session as opposed to a series of visits.
If you’re not excessively overweight, I think pairing Thermage with healthy habits and exercise can give you that edge to make you look better in jeans, a bikini, or an unforgiving dress like this one…
For more information on Thermage skin tightening, visit the DLK on Avenue site here.