French women don't get fat. That's the myth at least. The truth is that they do all kinds of things right to keep the pounds (and cellulite) off. American women have been watching French gals closely for some time; new developments suggest American men could learn a thing or two, too. So what is France's latest anti-cellulite and weight-loss solution? It's not a cream, gel, or diet. It's actually a specialized rubdown with the very unsexy name: lymphatic drainage massage.
So how does the miracle massage work? The lymphatic drainage system is made up of a network of thin tubes called lymph vessels that run throughout the body, as well as oval-shaped lymph nodes which produce immune cells to fight infection while collecting and filtering toxins from lymph. A clear to yellowish watery fluid that circulates through the body, lymph picks up fats, bacteria, and other materials. But since the lymphatic system can't pump the fluid on its own, it relies on muscle movement to push the fluid along and in the right direction—out of the body.
That's where this massage comes in, forcefully kneading and moving the muscles along the lymphatic pathway to push the fluid toward the next lymph node station so that unwanted debris can be filtered out of the lymph. At its roots, lymphatic drainage massage is intended to reduce swelling and even edema, but if part of your weight gain is from backed-up fluids—and it is for many—the massage could help you drop a few.
What's more, it may help reduce cellulite, according to weight-loss specialist and board-certified internist Sue Decotiis, M.D. "Picture cellulite as a game of tic-tac-toe where the Xs are the collagen bands and the Os are the fat cells. As the Os expand in number and size due to weight gain, or distribution of fat, they stretch the Xs out of line. This leaves the fat to dimple and project outward causing the infamous cottage-cheese look," she says.
Many weight-concerned women in France have the massage multiple times a week, and it sure looks to be paying off.
While not invasive, lymphatic massage is a serious procedure. So before you strip down, ask if your therapist is certified in the procedure.
Once you lie down, expect a slow, but pretty deep massage. Some people even report bruising in some spots. After your massage, you may feel fatigued and need to hit the bathroom more than usual. Make sure to chug some water post-massage to prevent dehydration and ballooning back up.