There’s no doubt that massage can help us shed stress, but can it also help us shed pounds? Don’t book a Swedish or shiatsu massage thinking that you’ll leave the spa ten pounds lighter; however, massage does have weight-loss benefits. At the most basic level, stress causes metabolism to slow down, as the body focuses on fighting anxiety. The more relaxed you are, the more easily your body can process what you eat. In addition, massage releases toxins and facilitates the flow of blood through the body, helping the muscles to process nutrients and function most effectively. This, in turn, can lead to weight loss. (After a deep-tissue massage, you’ve probably been told to drink water; this is because water flushes the toxins out of the body.) Furthermore, massage helps your muscles to heal after workouts, and it increases flexibility, making exercise easier and more effective. The likelihood of injuries decreases, which means you won’t have to put workouts on hold to heal.
The weight-loss benefits of massage may go even deeper. Studies have shown that massage bursts the fat capsule in subcutaneous tissue (the hypodermis, where fat is stored), breaking up fat deposits and reducing cellulite. In fact, a number of spas and salons advertise cellulite massage among their services.
Colonic massage is a new technique touted for its ability to whittle down the waistline. The idea is similar to the theory behind colonic irrigation, also known simply as a “colonic”: to stimulate the colon and eliminate waste from the body. Massage is much less invasive — and much more pleasant — than a colonic, and it is possible to administer it yourself. To self-administer a colonic massage, lie on your back; if you like, place a pillow beneath your knees. Before you start, take deep breaths, expanding your stomach as you inhale, letting your stomach fall when you exhale. Once you feel relaxed, place your hands on your right side, near your appendix, and make small, gentle, circular motions. Move up toward your rib cage — the direction in which fecal matter travels. This breaks up and moves stagnant fecal matter. Once you reach the rib cage, begin to massage outward, toward your left side, still making small circular motions. Then take the massage down your left side, to your lower abdomen.
Of course, there are more complex versions of colonic massage, but performing this massage for several minutes a day helps to ease waste out of your body, facilitating weight loss. Qigong, the ancient Chinese art, also employs self-massage, with the goal of stimulating and detoxifying the body; some exercises focus on the intestines in a way similar to colonic massage. And if you are serious about seeing results, book a professional colonic massage.
There is no guarantee — massage certainly won’t take the place of exercise and a healthy diet — but regular massage will, at the very least, improve circulation and flexibility and promote relaxation, all of which are essential to healthy living. And you never know: future studies may show that massage does indeed work off the weight.