MANILA, Philippines - After a period of unavoidable bingeing, I decided to try out the weight loss program offered at Institut Santre.
They advertised their patented Omnivital Therapy System which was described vaguely with phrases like "inch loss" or "lymphatic flow." This means I had no clue what to expect.
At the Institute, the marketing director and therapist were kind enough to say that I was thin--their usual clients were those that could use some serious help. But once I rolled up my sleeves and lifted my shirt, they said, "Ahh," and prescribed a toning program which was to begin immediately.
After taking my measurements and snapping a "before" picture of my tummy while wearing boxer shorts and a sports bra, I was sent to lay down in a treatment room.
A machine gurgled quietly in the corner and a therapist smeared cold gel on my stomach. With an ultrasound pad, she began to rub my belly for 30 minutes. It was not unpleasant, but it was not relaxing either, kind of like a futile and relentless search for a baby in the womb, and I half expected an image of a little heart beating to pop up on the screen.
But the machine just kept beeping while the ultrasound waves were melting away layers of that hardheaded belly fat.
In the second treatment room, a silver foil-covered cocoon rested on top of a bed. "This is an infrared sauna, and it's going to get hot," one of the therapists said. "Just ring the buzzer if you feel uncomfortable."
The heat was meant to drain my lymphatic system as well as the fat that had just been ultrasounded away.
The lymphatic system transports all the fat-soluble vitamins from food into our blood; protects us from invasion from foreign cells, microbes, bacteria and even cancer cells; and even drains tissues of excess water.
The idea was to declog the lymphatic system which would in turn jumpstart your metabolism, remove harmful toxins and strengthen the immune system.
This all sounded really wonderful. I hopped into the cocoon and watched a replay of a football match on the TV embedded in the ceiling.
After a tolerably warming 15 minutes, the cocoon started to get really hot, particularly around my thighs. I sweated and fidgeted, but I was trapped. My bones were simmering in my blood--or it felt like it.
I imagined the capillaries in my legs were bursting. I endured the 30 minutes and came out of the chamber drenched and slightly light-headed. I felt radioactive.
Not an easy way
It wasn't over yet. In the third treatment room, I was strapped down to the bed and electrodes were attached to my stomach, the fatty chunks on my lower back, and upper arms.
Another therapist tested the machine, which shot electric pulses that stimulated and contracted my muscles.
"You'll get used to it," the therapist said. She left the room for me to be shocked alone.
My arms and torso buzzed like a bee in pollen season. Halfway through, the therapist came in and asked if I could handle more, and turned up the dial. I almost spazzed out of the bed, but thankfully, I was strapped down amd asked to have it turned down a bit.
So for another 15 minutes, I watched cooking shows and tried to disassociate from my pulsating body. This was not the lazy person's way to lose weight. This was hard work.
After that 3-part treatment, I had lost half a pound, mostly water weight. To see real results, one would have to continue twice- or thrice-weekly sessions involving different types of treatments--including a full-body fat-melting massage-- for a few months depending on individual needs.
Chiz Escudero endorsed
Leia Regala-Teodoro, the managing director herself, successfully lost 20 pounds at Santre.
Senator Francis "Chiz" Escudero is an endorser, and while he did not go in for weight loss, he praises the lymphatic therapy system for improving his circulation and immune system to get through a grueling campaign period.
"I like the system of Santre," he says. "It uses a combination of Chinese massages and European technology. I like their professionalism. They don't make empty promises or statements to get clients in."
"They really sat me down and talked to me about being serious about my health and how important it is for both Santre and me to cooperate and work together," Escudero said.
Not for everyone
Santre is not for everyone. But then again, neither is the treadmill.
Some people like the idea of lying down for an hour and a half and letting the machines emit their invisible forces. Others like working up a good endorphin rush.
Some would say 30 minutes in the infrared sauna is a more pleasant experience than 90 minutes in a Bikram yoga studio.
The advantage Santre has is their holistic approach to slimming, with no crazy diets, pills or workouts. Everything starts with a balanced lymphatic system.
And in any belief system, East or West, medicinal or technological, when the body is in balance, good health just flows.