How do you slim your waistline and banish the dreaded cellulite? Simply put on a giant pair of inflatable trousers and lie down. At least if you’re a Hollywood A-lister who doesn’t mind looking like the Michelin Man, that is.
So-called pressotherapy is the latest wellness trend taking Tinseltown by storm, as evidenced by Friends star Jennifer Aniston who shared a shot of herself undergoing treatment with her 42 million Instagram followers earlier this week.
And while the actress, 54, may have looked a little odd, to say the least, she is clearly doing something right with her enviable lean figure and toned legs.
The treatment involves wearing enormous hi-tech compression trousers that are said to provide a lymphatic drainage massage to eliminate toxins and reduce water retention. Its benefits are said to include improved circulation, firmer skin, better digestion and a stronger immune system.
Plus it promises to help banish the dreaded cellulite. Lady Gaga, Cheryl Cole, Denise van Outen and Zoe Ball are other big names who’ve snuggled up inside the £8,500 trousers in the name of health and beauty.
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But does pressotherapy really work? I’ve arrived for a 60 minutes, £150 session at the newly-opened Zen Hampstead Pharmacy and Clinic in North London. Inside a dazzling white and bright centre is an array of revolutionary treatments.
Each one, from vitamin-infused IV drips to whole-body cryotherapy, purports to transform your health – inside and out.
Pressotherapy isn’t the newest kid on the block. But that, I’m told, gives it more credibility. It originated in Israel in the 1950s as a medical-grade therapy for treating people with lymphoedema. The chronic condition is caused by swelling in the tissues and can arise from genetics or cancer in the lymph nodes, small lumps of tissue that contain white blood cells and fight infection.
Manufacturers moved pressotherapy, also known as compression therapy, into the aesthetic market around 12 years ago, says wellness coach Gemma Wilkins, who specialises in nutrition and lymphatic health.
She’s travelled the world with the kit, officially called the Body Ballancer (yes, with two Ls) treating people aged from 15 to 89.
“I’ve never not had a client see a result and I’ve treated thousands from all walks of life with all genetic predispositions,” she says. “It’s an amazing treatment, it should be in your top three.”
In a small room upstairs, I find the trousers on a single bed hooked up to the Body Ballancer machine. Gemma explains how by massaging my legs, hips and stomach, the suit will stimulate the lymphatic system, which protects the body from infection and disease.
“Your lymphatic system is like your rubbish disposal unit because it picks up any waste, bacteria and toxins in the body,” she says. “It’s constantly mopping up anything that might be sitting in the tissues or cells.”
Lymph is a colourless fluid that travels through lymph vessels and is drained back into the bloodstream through lymph nodes. While the heart pumps blood around the body in the circulatory system, the lymphatic system relies on movement, and is slowed by poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle.
“Most of us aren’t moving as much as we used to and we’re not promoting lymphatic drainage,” Gemma says. “Cellulite is one of the key signs that there’s a build-up of toxins in the body. Within a couple of sessions, people often say how energised they feel, how light their legs feel and how their sleeping has improved.”
And, after a particularly boozy weekend, I can’t wait to get started. I’m trying a typical treatment of three cycles lasting 45 minutes.
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Each one applies tailor-made different levels of pressure within the trousers, which have 24 overlapping air chambers that inflate in wave-like muscle contractions upwards from the toes.
The programme promises to recondition my skin and reduce my bloating.First, I apply a gloopy jade-coloured cream to help rid me of my cellulite before I nestle into my inflatable cocoon, ready for my beauty metamorphosis.
The whirr of the machine signals we’re underway and seconds later I can feel my toes being invisibly kneaded. The pressure relents before my feet, calves, thighs, hips and stomach are each gripped in turn. It’s a pleasant sensation, like the start of a blood pressure monitor squeezing your arms before the pressure intensifies.
But it’s a strange feeling as I peer downwards to watch the garment rise and fall of its own accord, accompanied by crinkling sounds. The next cycle is far stronger, with undulating waves of pressure designed to shift water retention.
It’s akin to a sports massage, so it’s no wonder elite athletes like Cristiano Ronaldo and Anthony Joshua have become devotees. At this point, the massage becomes more intense as the suit fully inflates up to my chest.
I feel my stomach and hips suck in tightly as if a boa constrictor has wrapped itself around me. It’s intense, although not painful, but I am relieved when the pressure drops and the cycle repeats. After my 45 minutes are up, I feel relaxed and just a little light-headed.
My stomach hasn’t flattened but I’m told you won’t see miraculous results after one treatment. Gemma advises doing three weekly sessions for up to a month for “phenomenal results”.
Would I do it again? Realistically, I don’t have Jen’s budget to do so. But if I could rival her pins, I’d be sorely tempted.
- Pressotherapy: Lymphatic Drainage Treatment is available at Zen Healthcare’s four London locations. Prices start at £150 for an hour. Visit zenhealthcare.co.uk for more information.
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