I’M no body fascist. Far from it. Wanting to look your best does not preclude a love of cake and whether a size eight or eighteen, I’m a firm believer that women of all ages, shapes and sizes can be beautiful.
By my fourth session I'd lost half an inch off my hips and my tummy had begun to feel smoother.
And yet, there’s something nasty lurking beneath the surface which even the most self-accepting lady finds hard to love. It’s no accident that the word ‘cellulite’ is so often preceded by the word ‘dreaded’. A glimpse of an unexpectedly dimpled thigh can send your self-confidence crashing to the floor quicker than you can say ‘short shorts.’
While curves are celebrated, lumps are less so, and there is a regrettably fine line between the two. The degree to which most of us enjoy getting dressed, shopping for clothes or frolicking on the beach tends to be directly proportional to the size and consistency of our squidgy bits.
Women in the UK spend more than £50m a year on anti-cellulite products but those subcutaneous fat cells just aren’t shifting. This is because cellulite is caused by a number of factors - diet and lifestyle are only part of the story. Connective tissue can be damaged through hormones, an excess of toxins or just plain old genetics, so enlarged fat cells can bulge though the lower dermis, stopping natural blood flow and causing the rippled effect. Even the skinniest of treadmill-pounding, wheatgrass-snorting gym fanatics can still have a severe case of cottage cheese bum. Cream just ain’t gonna cut it.
Step forward, modern technology. A front runner in the expanding roster of cutting-edge cellulite-busting wizardry is Acoustic Wave Therapy (AWT), a non invasive treatment that permanently destroys fat cells using high-intensity focused ultrasound. The treatment is increasingly popular in America, home of extreme grooming (as well as a large proportion of the world’s fat cells), and that doyenne of physical perfection MDNA has paid £50,000 to have one of the machines installed in her home.
If it’s good enough for Madge, it’s good enough for me, and with that I made my way to Shape & Sculpt in Milton Hall on Deansgate to try out AWT, excited about my impending glass smooth thighs.
It’s a striking building and an ex-congressional church. Stained glass windows herald the watchwords ‘Integrity and Industry’. Not if I can help it, I thought as I dutifully opted for the stairs instead of the lift.
Michelle, my therapist and director of the company, is a pretty, slim blonde with the passionate zeal of a convert. After years of trying to rid herself of fat and cellulite on her tummy, Michelle tried AWT as a last resort before surgery. She lost an amazing 18 inches, got her mojo back, trained as a therapist, bought a machine and set up the business.
Michelle is knowledgeable and cheerful, so I was perfectly happy to strip to my underwear and let her have a look at me. The good news is I have minimal cellulite, stage one (it goes up to stage three) but she identified four problem areas that could benefit from some attention with the magic wand. These are love handles, saddlebags and inner thigh, where the skin is beginning to 'go' a bit, losing its elasticity and sagging slightly. The fourth is my tummy which was no great surprise. Pregnancy left me with loose skin and stretch marks that have kept me away from bikinis and appreciative of the qualities of a nice roomy sarong.
Each session lasted an hour and began with ten minutes on a vibrating PowerPlate to encourage circulation. Once laid down Michelle applied ultrasound gel to the treatment areas before turning on the machine. Compressed air blasted mechanical acoustic waves through a wand-like applicator which made a noise like a nail gun and felt prickly but not unbearable. The wand was pressed against the skin as the waves perforated individual fat cells which eventually imploded, allowing the toxins inside to drain naturally from the body according to Michelle.
As the fat cells became reduced in size, blood was then able to circulate normally. The acoustic wave makes the skin feel like it’s under attack, stimulating collagen to come to the surface in order to repair the damage.
Hydration is paramount, so I was encouraged to drink a massive three litres of water per day to allow the process to work properly. A healthy diet and regular exercise was recommended too. Apparently this is not a carte blanche to have a month-long cake fest while watching the inches fall away like dead leaves. Damn.
As Michelle moved the wand over my tummy she concentrated on one area at a time, looking for telltale redness to show that the acoustic wave was having an effect on circulation. The body sculpting aspect of the treatment was perceptible in the movements that Michelle used to glide the wand over my bottom and the tops of my thighs. She explained the direction of movement was crucial to encourage blood flow to the lymphatic drainage system between my legs, but she was also pushing up my bottom to 'give you a bit of a lift'.
Cheerfully distracting me with previous success stories as she worked on my rear, Michelle informed me that AWT has other special uses. It’s been found to eradicate thread veins, she treated a friend’s ganglion with it and even used it to improve penile dysfunction - ‘gets the blood flowing’, explained Michelle with a frankly filthy look in her eye.
I didn’t notice any discernible changes after my first two treatments but Michelle told me after another two sessions I should start to notice a difference. She was bang on. By my fourth session I'd lost half an inch off my hips and my tummy had begun to feel smoother.
On the morning of my sixth treatment I felt perceptibly leaner and more toned. When we took measurements it turned out I’d lost half an inch off my waist and an inch off my hips. The skin on my tummy was more taut and smooth, and my hips felt more cupcake than muffin top.
Ten treatments and five weeks later the treatment was over and my final measurements showed that I’d lost a total of 5 1/2 inches from my thighs, hips and tummy. My skin is significantly smoother, there is not a trace of cellulite and my bum is quite frankly perky.
The time commitment for the treatment is significant - I don’t see my mother this often - but for some, the benefits of the treatment will outweigh the costs on your time and wallet. Smoother skin, a more refined silhouette and some inch loss can make all the difference when it comes to hitting the beach.
Now excuse me I am off to burn my sarong and buy some short shorts.
Follow Katie Popperwell on Twitter @ktpop
For more information, please visit shapeandsculpt.co.uk