Can Spa Treatments Actually Help You Lose Weight?

Ever notice how you go to the spa to relax—but picking your treatment can cause some serious anxiety? Should you go for the massage you really want—or for a body wrap/painless laser/steam room that promises to help melt away a few pounds? We decided to find out if those alleged fat-zapping services really work or if you should just go for the full-body massage. First, some of the most popular options options:

Cool Sculpting
This treatment involves a cooling applicator that removes pudge in specific areas—think: your love handles, stomach rolls, or back fat—by freezing fat cells beneath your skin, says Brigitte Zeitlin, M.P.H., R.D., a nutritionist at B Nutritious. For an average of $1,700 a session, you'll leave an hour later looking the same, but with dying fat cells that could help make you 20 percent trimmer two months down the road.

Vela Shape II
This is a massage paired with radiofrequency and infrared light that shrinks fat from your buns, thighs, upper arms, and abs. In just 20 to 40 minutes, you can "lose" almost an inch from each region, with results that reportedly last up to three months. The procedure costs anywhere from $300 to $600 a session, depending on the area of the body you're focusing on and the spa you're going to.

Slimming Body Wrap
Perhaps the most "spa-like" experience is a treatment in which you're bandaged in mineral-soaked cloths and covered with a heated blanket. The promise? You'll lose six to 20 inches from various body measurements in your first $200-plus, one-hour wrap. There is a catch, though: The procedure mostly just dehydrates you, so when you catch up on your H2O in a day or two, you'll add the inches right back on. 

Okay, So Are They Really As Great as They Sound?
"Quick-fix spa methods, like laser and heat therapy, are appealing to people because they see fast results without much effort," says Alissa Rumsey, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. They're also less invasive than, say, liposuction or gastric bypass surgery. "On the surface, they seem much easier than changing eating and exercising behaviors."

Key phrase? "On the surface." Because when you dig deeper, you find that those quick-fix, super fast results don't always yield lasting weight loss. "Long-term results are up to the individual," says Rumsey. "In order to maintain that new shape, you need to eat a healthy, balanced diet and exercise regularly."

Those who don't may see the pounds pack back on, and quickly. And they may not return in the same place. For example, with Cool Sculpting, you may shave fat off your thighs only to see it show up months later in your face.

"My biggest qualm with these spa treatments is that they do nothing to help change behavior, which is the key to long-term weight loss success," says Rumsey. "These treatments can fool people into thinking that they don’t need to make any lifestyle changes in order to lose weight."

Know Before You Go
If you decide you'd still like to give laser or spa treatment weight loss a try—with the added resolution of eating healthfully and exercising regularly, of course!—here's one last word of warning: "Women should take caution with high heat and excessive sweating as it can pose a risk for dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and even stress the heart," says Nicole Silber, R.D., of Middleberg Nutrition. "While the laser treatments may remove some of the fat tissue, without eating right the fat tissue is bound to return."

More from Women's Health:
3 Weight-Loss Myths You Keep Falling For
9 Weight-Loss Tips For Crazy-Busy People
10 Alternatives For Healthy Weight-Loss Foods You Hate


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