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The Health Issue

From Asia, With Suction

Plastic wrap, space pods and other remarkable gizmos from the peculiar world of body sculpting

July 29, 2007|Fiona Ng | Fiona Ng is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer who frequently covers Chinese American culture.

So-called body-sculpting centers have become a sensation in the San Gabriel Valley, attracting Chinese American women eager to try an innovative approach to losing weight. No diets for them, thanks. They'd rather fight the war on flab with equipment that looks as if it came from a galaxy far, far away.

The body-sculpting treatments, which are popular in Hong Kong and other East Asian cities and recall methods used in the U.S. decades ago, can feature blinking lights, suction cups, lasers and flesh-rippling jiggle machines.

Some claim results. As proof, one clinic ad offers "Julie" and says she lost 81 pounds in 11 months.

Sound too good to be true? Or a little Frankenstein-freakish? We'll let you be the judge. What follows are some techniques behind this, um, creative concept.

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SLIM BELT CY-267 From afar, this 3-pound device could be mistaken for a stylish fanny pack. Along the front, though, is a bulge the size of a small toaster oven, which connects to a cord and a hand-held control with six different settings. Turn it on, and the belt vibrates. One center claims the oscillating motions (anywhere from low to high) loosen accumulated fat and tone the body. Strap it around any part, especially your waist, arms, calves or rear.

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SLIMLIGHT 6.9 Visualize a vacuum-like machine with a tentacle, at the end of which are red, blue and green LED light bulbs: Red stimulates circulation and metabolism; blue prevents inflammation; green treats skin problems and locks in moisture. The whole thing actually looks like a shower head, and as it's soothingly rolled along your body, it emits helium-neon and infrared lasers, which the manufacturer claims zap fat into nothingness.

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CELLU M6 The blasting, crushing and detonating of fat molecules continue with this device, which is said to unblock lymph nodes. (Some body-slimming proponents suggest that weight gain is directly linked to clogged lymph nodes.) It looks like an ATM machine with a suction cup attached that goes "Pop!" every time it touches the body. The manufacturer claims the suck-and-pull action helps clear the lymph nodes. One sartorial note: Wear a bodysuit to minimize friction to the skin.

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PLASTIC WRAP This kitchen staple can wrap more than your tuna sandwich. The plastic is liberally wrapped around areas that need sculpting--stomach, thighs, arms, calves--and usually over layers of special "thinning cream," bandages or anything else that must be kept in place. For instance, one center uses plastic wrap to secure a hot volcanic rock to a client's stomach, and then the Slim Belt CY-267 is attached over the wrap for extra reinforcement. The belt's vibrations rub the rock against the skin and, the center claims, absorbs toxins and helps tissue regeneration.

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BANDAGE WRAP The idea is similar to the plastic wrap concept. Wide fabric bandages, similar to the kind used for sprained ankles, secure problem areas of the body that are rubbed with "thinning cream." The cream comes in two varieties: really, really hot and really, really cold. It's not unusual for someone's entire torso to be mummified in bandages.

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ALPHA OXYSPA (A.K.A. SPACE POD) Lie down inside this white capsule and enjoy the relaxing music from its sound system. You'll also hear the hissing sound of steam, which is from the oxygen that's released inside the pod to, theoretically, neutralize toxins and promote cell regeneration. The capsule also can be transformed into a 180-degree dry-heat sauna to melt away fat.

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