Contrary to popular opinion, including that vehemently held by my mother, thereare exceptional times when the C-word can be used in polite society. The lasttime I uttered it was during a chance encounter in a coffee shop. It was anaverage Saturday morning and I spotted an old friend sitting at a table readinga magazine, one masterfully toned leg crossed over the other, her lean thighsgloriously on display in a pair of tight running shorts. She looked happy andcontent, oblivious to both me and the taboo-breaking exchange that was about tobegin.
I walked straight up to her and after hastily skipping through thepleasantries, found myself blurting out – in full earshot of mothers with theirinnocents, weekend dads placating tweens with hot chocolates and two old ladiessipping tea – “I don’t understand,” my voice rising as I pointed at the tops ofher legs, “where is your CELLULITE?”I had just come from a one-hour spin class and was still in my Hey Jo leggings.Despite my best efforts (and those of my bank account), my light orange-peeldimples were stubbornly still evident beneath the lycra. I begged her to shareher secret. She shushed me, indicated to the seat opposite and with a furtiveglance handed me a business card bearing the name Julio Herrera.I studied it for a second before glancing up. “Remember,” she said inmysterious tones, “there is no beauty without pain.” And with a slug of hergreen tea and a light peck on the cheek, she was gone.Session one:Two days after that chance encounter, I am at home in London, lying flat on amassage bed staring at the earnest eyes and shiny bald head of “CelluliteSlayer” Mr Julio Herrera. He has come to my house only after I persuaded myfriend to call and beg him to give me an appointment in his busy schedule.In a thick Venezuelan accent, he explains that his technique involves manual massagethat has similar effects to liposuction. The process, he says, will involve adelicately orchestrated repertoire: an initial course of 10 treatments everyother day involving pounding, kneading, cupping and pinching – yes, pinching –at the end of which he promises to eradicate the fatty build-up on my thighs. Iam raring to go.I give Julio a quick history of my previous attempts at expurgating mycellulite and ask him what makes his technique different. “My massagetreatments involve manual kneading of the problem areas combined with lymphaticdrainage, which helps smooth the soft tissue and eliminate cellulite. The deep-tissue pressure works to flatten, even out and break up cellulite deposits.”Julio whips out the dreaded measuring tape and reads out the centimetres: waist 64cm, legs 55cm, hips 78cm.He smothers his hands with Baby Lotion. Without warning my right buttock is smartlyslapped 12 times. This feels more Fifty Shades of Grey than Mayr Clinic. The pain is excruciating and Ilet out little squeals with each blow.Julio then produces a blue plastic cup; a suction device roughly the size ofmy (now clenched) fist. Once it is fixed firmly to my skin, he moves it from mycalf to my upper thigh, running it back and forth, up and down my legs withspeed. It’s uncomfortable – I feel like the life is being sucked out of me.Next comes the pinching. With tiny kneading motions Julio works on my skin, lifting it up as if he is pulling it off my muscle. It’s painful, and onlyjust bearable. The whole agonising process lasts 45 minutes. It concludes with a brisk “drainage” massage of the stomach. This consists of vigorous movements in afigure of eight.
I feel exhausted – and slightlytraumatised. Julio may be a sweetheart but there is a cruel edge to this treatment. Ihope, as I lie there smarting, there is a method to his madness.
I wake up the next day sore and bruised. On close examinationI spot a few blue bumps coming up. I will definitely not be wearing anythingabove the knee tonight. But, on the upside, I feel like some water retention hasbeen alleviated, as my legs seem slightly less spongy, even if they feel numb.
Session two: Julio begins by retaking my measurements. Despite my body feeling raw andpulverised, they have barely changed. I am concerned about the bruising andalthough he reassures me that this is normal, he does opt for a more gentlelymphatic drainage today. Relief washes over me. The rest follows as it was forsession one.
Two thwacks down… an unholy eight to go. Can the painfulignominy ever be worth it? Check back on Saturday January 19.