WHILE I sat in a lobby waiting for my first-ever lymphatic drainage massage, I spent my time calculating when I would be able to polish off the raw cookie dough in my fridge.
The anti-bloat treatment, a favorite of celebs including Hailey Bieber, Cara Delivingne, Blac Chyna, Paris Hilton, and a number of Victoria’s Secret models, stimulates your lymphatic and digestive systems for days after the procedure.
According to the FAQ I studied before my appointment, it’s best to avoid processed food for 12 to 24 hours after the treatment to maximize its outcome, which meant I would need to buy groceries.
My massage was scheduled immediately after a weekend trip, during which my friends and I ate nothing but salty, sugary, and extremely artificial foods.
The leftovers in my fridge included Chinese takeout, two kinds of chips, three kinds of cheese, a cake, and half a container of (safe-to-eat) cookie dough. As my practitioner, Shauna, ushered me to the massage table, I tried to remember if I had any “real” food at home.
WHAT IS LYMPHATIC MASSAGE?
My lymphatic massage was provided by The Tox, a spa that specializes in lymphatic drainage. Shauna explained to me that she would be focusing on my lymphatic system, working her way across my arms, legs, and back, as well as my abdomen, which would be a main point of focus.
While similar in some ways to a traditional massage,“incorporates different body techniques that increase your metabolic rate, rid your body of excess toxins, cleanse your colon all while giving you long lasting results,” the company’s website explained.
The results can be dramatic, which is probably whyin Instagram stories.
Cara Delevingne shared a cheeky photo of her rumpled table post-massage in one post, while Jordyn Woods showed off The Tox-branded compression socks she wears on flights. Other celebs have shared results from similar massages by different practitioners.
Somehow, I found it hard to imagine any of those famous figures eating an entire bag of the Takis x Totino’s snack bite collab. When I was undressed and on the table, I told Shauna that my recent dietary choices probably all fell in the category of “toxins.”
“You’re definitely a little bloated,” Shauna told me, feeling my abdomen. “But this is all about treating yourself, and feeling good about you,” she added.
DISPATCHES FROM THE MASSAGE TABLE
As she gently massaged my shoulders and pulled my hair into a ponytail, Shauna recited an affirmation, which The Tox also shares to their social media platforms every day.
“You are in control of your emotions,” Shauna said softly, “and you are in control of your future.” It was a genuinely nice message to hear – even though for the next hour, I was decidedly not in control.
Shauna started on my legs, and right away, I was pleased by the strong pressure she applied to my calves and thighs. It wasn’t as harsh as a deep-tissue massage, but stronger than what I’ve experienced in a traditional spa setting.
Kneading, squeezing, and rubbing, Shauna also applied pump after pump of a proprietary, caffeine-infused lotion, which she told me would help lubricate the massage but also tighten my skin.
After giving me a thorough squeezing from the tips of my toes to the edge of my bikini line, Shauna surprised me by rolling out The Tox Machine.
It looked like a shop vac, and I asked Shauna how it worked. She compared it to a more gentle form of cupping therapy: light suction would stimulate blood flow, while also reaching deeper muscle tissue than Shauna’s hands could.
I was nervous, but the suction, while firm, wasn’t unpleasant at all. In some spots, The Tox Machine nearly tickled, and while there was some redness on my leg immediately after the cup passed over the skin, it started to dissipate even as I watched.
But once my legs were done, Shauna moved to my stomach. Pulling back the sheets, we revealed the skin from just under my breasts to the rolled-down waistline of my boyshorts.
Again, I was surprised by what Shauna did next: she began pressing on my abdomen, feeling her way across my stomach and assessing my bloating.
“You’re definitely backed up,” she said to me, in a friendly and non-clinical way. My immediate response was to ask the question I’d had since booking the appointment.
“Do people fart the entire time you work on their guts?” I asked. “Am I going to have a horrifying poop attack during this?”
“Everyone asks that,” Shauna replied with a smile. Plenty of people let some gas slip on the table, she added, but it was natural.
She explained that, while gas during and after a lymphatic massage is totally normal, I may actually experience any number of side effects, including heavy sweating, a constant need to pee, more frequent bowel movements, and bad breath.
“It’s different for every person,” she said. “Your breath might smell like onions for a couple of days.”
These new possibilities were intriguing enough that I lost track of where Shauna’s hands were until she increased the pressure. Shauna massaged my abdomen patiently, working her way from the top of my digestive system all the way down, around, and back again.
I didn’t feel pain, and the little discomfort I experienced was purely mental. Like a lot of women, I’ve spent my adulthood trying to forget I even have a stomach; outside of medical settings, I hadn’t ever let anyone squeeze and prod it for several minutes at a time.
And, it was clear that if I was assailed by a fart attack, I would have no recourse to stop it. Luckily, that didn’t happen, but our massage space was full of bizarre noises.
As Shauna worked, my stomach gurgled, growled, and keened. Weirdly, I didn’t feel sensations of indigestion. But my stomach was audible over the music playing on the speakers in the building.
The number of different techniques Shauna used on my stomach was fascinating. At times, she reached across me with a well-oiled forearm, pressing it into my waist and pulling.
Once, she brought her hands together as if in prayer, and pushed them slowly into the center of my body. And after all this, The Tox Machine made its triumphant return as Shauna used it on my belly, waist, and hips.
When Shauna stepped away from my stomach, I reached to touch it, and was shocked to feel how squishy it was. Based on the celebrities’ before-and-after pictures, I thought my belly would feel taut, but it seemed to have a lot of give.
Then, Shauna snapped an “after” picture of my own body, and I realized why my soft guts felt that way. All the gas and other junk that had been resting in my stomach appeared to have scooted down my intestinal trails.
The very visible bloating I’d come in with was reduced, and I was “carrying” it lower after the treatment. I was surprised by what a visible difference this made and eager to stand up and look at myself in the mirror.
Shauna moved on to my arms, then flipped me over to take care of my back, my shoulders, and the backs of my legs. In many cases, she explained, clients will see their bloating continue to dissipate in the two days after a massage, especially if they stay hydrated.
Obviously, when Shauna finished my massage and offered to grab me a glass of water while I dressed, I said yes.
Standing up to dress, I stood in front of the full-length mirror and confirmed what the photos from the massage table had shown me.
While I didn’t see a visible change in my legs or thighs, there was a clear difference in my abdomen after the massage. My hipbones appeared to be more prominent, and my stomach seemed smoother.
I also noticed that the space under my breasts, beneath my ribcage, felt less inflamed. I’m pretty susceptible to heartburn, but after the drainage massage, that area felt soothed.
Buttoning my high-waisted jean shorts even felt more comfortable. My stomach kept “talking” to me, but I didn’t experience discomfort, though I did run to the bathroom with an urgent need to pee after so much stimulation near my bladder.
Thanking Shauna for such a satisfying experience, I left The Tox and made my way uptown, swinging by Trader Joe’s on the way for some salads and probiotic yogurt. Nervously, I sat on the train and listened to my belly burbling, monitoring for the telltale signs of gastrointestinal distress.
Over the course of the evening, I felt a few strange twangs in my stomach. Again, it didn’t hurt, but it felt like a slow yank at my insides.
Halfway through eating my harvest greens salad, I needed to stop and run to the bathroom for another pee break, but there was no major bowel upset waiting to take me by surprise.
Safe at home, and away from the kind and patient Shauna who does not deserve to suffer, I did allow my gas buildup to escape naturally. Nothing felt, smelled, or sounded different from normal.
My mother texted me regularly, asking for updates on my “condition.”
“It doesn’t feel like constipation or anything,” I wrote back. “No sweat, no bad breath, frequent but normal pee, minimal farts.”
“Minimal farts? That’s different,” she teased.
The next morning, I hopped out of bed ready to inspect my guts once again. My abdomen looked exactly the same as it had when I left The Tox.
Though I saw no additional “movement” overnight, I also didn’t see the bloating return following my dinner or breakfast.
Had I signed up for a lymphatic drainage massage prior to an event, I would have been pleased by the 24 hours of flattened abs the $219 procedure delivered.
I carefully tracked any changes in the 48 hours following the massage. No profuse sweating. No bad breath. No groundbreaking bowel activity, which was a blessing but also meant no additional reduction in my gut size.
By dinnertime the day after the massage, I had returned to my “normal” body, somewhere in between the before and after photos. Had I not visited The Tox, my bounceback from the weekend away could’ve taken a full five days of whole, unprocessed foods.
For anyone prepping for a big event – including The Tox’s celeb clients – a lymphatic drainage massage makes sense as a quick pick-me-up, if you can afford it. And, it’s a smart investment for anyone trying to improve their digestive function more generally.
If you’re like me, and the only event you’re planning for is reading in bed, the treatment still feels great and will put a spring in your step as you head to the fridge for the rest of your cookie dough.