My lifestyle hasn’t exactly been the healthiest since moving abroad, and as much as I’m trying to practice self-care while traveling, it’s not so easy to find time to workout while also trying to eat my way through in Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnamese food is so good, you guys).
Needless to say… My recent Pho+Spring Rolls+4x Daily Iced Coffee With Condensed Milk habits mean there’s a lot more of me to love than there was when I got here a few weeks ago. Or, to put it more bluntly, I’ve gained a fuck ton of weight. It’s been totally worth it (condensed milk is a food of the gods), but considering I want to buy some new, custom Vietnamese clothes and everything here only comes in a size quintuple-zero, I needed to get my ass (and stomach, and thighs, and double chin) into gear to be able to fit into anything.
Enter: Vietnamese slimming treatments.
In Ho Chi Minh City, “slimming treatments” are as commonplace as facials, massages, and manicures (which is to say they are everywhere). They involve using different methods of heat and massage to help get rid of stored fat cells, and can allegedly make you look visibly slimmer after only one treatment. To be clear — These types of treatments aren’t exclusive to HCMC. We have them in the US in various different iterations, they just happen to be super popular here.
Every spa I’ve passed since I got here has had a woman outside propositioning me with “slimming therapy” offers (considering I’m 75-pounds heavier than every other woman in Vietnam, it makes sense that I’m their target customer), and I finally took the not-so-subtle hint and booked one. After all, it sounded a lot better than going to the gym (I ain’t got time for that).
I opted to do the “La Silhouette 1” treatment (aka the fat busting treatment) at L’Apothiquaire Spa, which is the #1 spa in Ho Chi Minh City and luxurious AF, but actually surprisingly affordable (… like literally everything in this country). According to the company’s website, the treatment promises to:
Redefine body contours and more toned skin with an anti-cellulite, slimming wrap. Our anti-cellulite slimming gel in combination with a warming blanket to boost blood circulation and lymphatic system to shrink fat cells, drains retained fluid and toxins.
It definitely sounded questionable (/way too good to be true), but considering I recently tried to re-virginize myself with a bucket of steam, it didn’t seem that insane. And the best part? The two-hour treatment, plus a “healthy Vietnamese lunch,” cost $70. Plus, the spa has a private outdoor pool with WiFi that guests can use after any treatment, which I would have been willing to pay any amount of money and/or give up my first-born child for.
The treatment started with me lying face down on a massage table in nothing but in a pair of disposable underwear (literally every spa treatment in Asia requires disposable underwear… #sexy). The therapist spent the first hour and a half rubbing my legs, stomach, and arms in quick circular motions to “loosen up the cellulite.” It hurt a lot, but usually when beauty treatments hurt it means they’re working (at least that’s what I tell myself to get through Brazillian bikini waxes) so I gritted my teeth and dealt with it.
After I had been sufficiently beaten up and my fat cells were freed, it was time for the second part of the treatment, which required me being wrapped head to toe in Saran wrap. I looked, and felt, like a sausage. It reminded me of the time my mom had to talk me out of wearing a bandage skirt to a party the summer after I gained the Freshman 15.
… I sent that picture to my boyfriend, who said it “really freaked him out,” but I think it’s an important part of the story so am including it for the internet to see. Plus, I had to ask my Vietnamese fat therapist who didn’t speak English to take the photos, and I’d hate to think that horrifically awkward moment was for nothing. So there you go.
After the impromptu photo shoot (which, honestly, could be considered “Terry Richardson-esque” if you really use your imagination) I laid face-up on the table and my therapist/photographer placed an electric blanket on top of me. This part of the treatment is meant to make your body sweat out the fat cells, because allegedly fat melts at temperatures higher than 110°F and your body can get rid of it through your pores. I’m not sure if I buy into this 100%, but it sounds pretty good.
As soon as I was wrapped and covered, I had to pee. It also made my entire body itch, but in case you were wondering, it is straight-up impossible to scratch an itch when you’re burrito-rolled in Saran Wrap and a 25-pound heated blanket, so I was shit out of luck until the end of the treatment.
And Holy Fuckballs, it was it hot under there. Like, unbearably hot. I have never sweat so much in my entire life (which is really saying something, because I’m a very sweaty human in general) and after the first minute developed an entirely new appreciation for wrestlers who wrap themselves in garbage bags and ride on stationary bikes or whatever to lose weight. I would much, much rather have gone to the gym for five hours than sit under that blanket for even a minute, and if I hadn’t planned on writing about the experience I would have been out of there long before the half-hour treatment was up. But I stuck it out while my therapist fed me water and massaged my head, and somehow got through it without having a complete meltdown (… get it?!?! Sorry.)
Honestly, it was hell. But as much as I hated it, I have to admit it definitely worked. I got measured before and after the treatment, and ended up losing 2cm on each of my arms, 1cm on my waist, 1cm on my hips and 4cm (!) on each thigh. I have no idea how big a centimeter actually is (I should probably learn the metric system considering I’m going to be living outside of the US for a year…) but whatever, I’ll take it.
I mean, I do look skinnier in the after photo. I also look like a self-absorbed fitness blogger, but I figured a side-by-side was the best way to prove that there were actual visible results. Obviously, it was water weight, and I probably gained it back rehydrating after the treatment. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone looking for permanent weight loss results, though it’s great for slimming down at the last minute for a big event that requires a skin-tight dress. Sadly there is no such thing as a quick fix for weight loss, and me and my fat ass will be signing up for yoga and limiting my condensed milk intake from here forward.