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Medicine Closet: Wrapping up

Removing inches from your body may just be an hour and a few Ace bandages away

 by Katie Kelberlau  published on Thursday, March 10, 2005

<em>Photo illustration  by Brandon Quester</em><br>
Originally, body wraps were designed to dispel toxins from the body.  However, wrapping a body from neck to toe in medical bandages is now popular for helping people lose 6-20 inches from their body.  /issues/arts/692389
Photo illustration by Brandon Quester
Originally, body wraps were designed to dispel toxins from the body. However, wrapping a body from neck to toe in medical bandages is now popular for helping people lose 6-20 inches from their body.


Looking good is not easy.

Eating right, exercising, primping, sculpting -- it all takes time and considerable effort.

But if you're not quite up to snuff for that special occasion, one method of beautification may save you time and take off 6-20 inches from your body.

It's called body wrapping, in which a person is wrapped neck to toe in medical bandages. Body wrapping, which is offered at spas, was intended as a way to release toxins from the body but has become more popular among men and women to slim down without the time and effort exercising and healthy eating take.

In 2003, the most recent year statistics are available, 17 percent of spa-goers purchased wraps, according to the International Spa Association. In the same year, 8 percent of the male spa-goers surveyed had a wrap and 22 percent of the female spa-goers had one.

The average price that spa-goers reported paying for a wrap was $81.

The Mere Image Salon and Spa in Goodyear, Ariz., is one of many local spas that offer body wraps. Outside the salon, an alluring sign reads, "Come as you are ... leave as you want to be."

Clients are wrapped in latex-free Ace bandages soaked in a solution of inorganic food-grade minerals, including calcium, boron, potassium and magnesium. The wrap is tightened according to the client's inch-loss goals; it's pulled tighter in areas where greater loss is desired.

The wrap pulls the inter-statial fluid out of the fat cells, says Kelly Packwood, a cosmetologist at Mere Image who has been trained and certified to give body wraps.

She says inter-statial fluids include residual medications, caffeine, pollutants and chemicals. Once these pollutants are pulled out, the fat cells pack closer together, resulting in inch loss, not necessarily weight loss.

Packwood says the procedure is easy to understand by thinking of a pool filled with rafts and covered with a tarp. The rafts are fat cells, the water is inter-satial fluid and the tarp is the skin. The more water that is removed, the closer the rafts can pack together.

Packwood, who did wraps twice a week after she had a third child and went from a size 12 to a size 5, is sitting on a couch in a back room of the salon. In front of her, bouncing gaily on elliptical trainers, are two fully wrapped clients.

One is an older woman and one is a young girl. Both are covered in Ace bandages. On their feet, they wear plastic baggies, which are tied around their ankles. Over their bandages are brightly colored plastic ponchos for privacy.

Packwood explains that the foot baggies collect the fluids and pollutants that come out of the body. She says the fluid is usually brown and highly toxic. Lab tests have shown that the fluid in the foot baggies could kill a red blood cell in a second, Packwood says.

"People always joke about how they swear they took a shower that morning," she says. "I always assure them that I know the dirt is from inside their body, not out."

Besides a basic wrap, called the Slendertone, Mere Image offers stress relief, anti-aging, power and fat-burning wraps. The fat burner is really two wraps in one -- the first being based in the enzyme lipase, which breaks down fat, and the second being the Slendertone to pull out what was broken down.

A Slendertone wrap at Mere Image is $85. A fat burner is $200. Five Slendertones can be purchased as a package for $385, and a package of any 10 wraps costs $750.

Packwood says she believes in the wraps, saying 10 wraps likely will have results similar to liposuction.

Women's studies senior Serena Turley is not so sure it works. She says she knows someone who tried wraps and had to go multiple times to see results. Turley says though her friend swears she has lost weight, she does not think so.

Rose Rojas-Dufek, a social work graduate student, says she thinks it is probably all water weight.

"I don't see how someone could lose 10 inches permanently," she says.

Rojas-Dufek also knows someone who had a wrap done, though not the same type offered at Mere Image. Her friend was wrapped in a plastic suit and put on a treadmill, she says.

According to Packwood, however, it is not water weight, and she says Mere Image encourages their clients to drink a lot of water during the wrap and for three days afterward. She says wraps will keep working to maximize inch loss if clients properly hydrate.

As for the exercising, Packwood says it is to increase circulation and improve the effectiveness of the wrap, not to make the client sweat.

Lynda Seefeldt, a health educator in the Health Promotions office at the Student Health and Wellness Center on campus, says she would be wary of any quick fix.

"There have been over the last 50 years or so various body wraps presented under the guise of weight loss," she says.

Seefeldt says the most sensible way to lose weight or inches is to eat healthy foods and exercise.

"Get a gym membership. I know they are a lot less expensive than body wraps, and the [Student Recreation Complex] is free for students," she says.

Seefeldt encourages people to determine whether they need to lose weight or just tone up, and to consult a dietitian or fitness expert if they have questions.

"Be careful of quick fixes and promises," she says. "Especially if there is no independent research on the effectiveness of what is being done. How long are these results really going to last?"

Psychology and women's studies senior Juanita Rubio used to work at a salon in Scottsdale. She says the wraps at the salon were meant to detoxify the body, not take off inches.

Still, she says many of the clients turned to the wraps to look better.

"My mom says people would smear themselves in shit if they thought it would work," she says.

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