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Judy Spooner: Making new friends in the 'body wrap' class

I attended a Community Education class last month about body wraps, hoping it would lead to a feature story with some interesting photographs. It was neither, but it's a topic worth discussing.

The term "body wrap" covers a lot of territory. It can range from a treatment at a high-priced spa that involves being wrapped in various substances to putting a piece of plastic around one's midsection for 45 minutes.

Some of the proponents, usually people making money from the various treatments, say it's good for battling cellulite and promise that you will lose inches. They also say that you can exfoliate dead skin from your body.

Exfoliate is something trees do in the fall when they lose their leaves. If I declared war on dead skin, I wouldn't have anything left to hold my blood in.

Those who sell body wraps can't claim weight loss because they would be in big-time trouble with the Food and Drug Administration.

Wrap detractors, mostly fitness instructors who also have a stake in getting your business, say that whether it's rubber waistbands, herbs, minerals, plastic, foil, seaweed, clay or mud, none of them work.

Looking at the body wrap ingredients from knowledge I gained from my days as a nurse, it's mostly astringents that shrink soft tissue, but not for long.

The best part of the class was talking to some of the participants.

Laurie Johnson was diagnosed with high blood pressure two years ago. She had been exercising on a regular basis but it took time, and several medications, to stabilize her. "I feel a lot better this year," she said.

Like the other women, Johnson took the class because of her concern about how chemicals in the environment might be affecting her.

Proponents of body wraps say they "detoxify" your body of chemicals. I think that's what having a liver is for, but I'm not an expert.

"I wanted to find out about detoxifying," said Catherine Lee. "What is it really pulling out of you? I want to learn about being healthier."

"It feels like Bengay," said Tammy Eichman, after getting her wrap applied. "It can't hurt you."

"I wonder if it's a gimmick," said Donna Schnegelberger, who wants to lose weight and is approaching her task with a sense of humor. "I'm looking for non-painful methods," she said.

We talked about the pads people put on their feet that claim to remove "toxins."

While the women are curious about toxins, they don't buy the pad claims.

According to WikiAnswers on the Internet: "It's false. The surface of the pad picks up dead skin and dirt. A chemical on the pad ensures the color."

Generally, I don't think wraps live up to the claims. But there are women who believe they are healthier after using them. Confidence is important.

I don't dismiss the concerns about the effect of chemicals in our environment. Laurie wonders if they could affect menopause symptoms. There's not a lot of credible information out there about that.

I enjoyed meeting the women I talked to, but I won't be getting any wraps or pads for my feet.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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