The Big Boy Room

The thing about proper gym training is that the relationship you build with your trainer becomes so much more than that of a task manager.  The thing about being with someone who really knows what they are doing is that at a certain point they know your body and its limits better than you do.  Darrell stepped up our training by taking me to the area of the gym where the big boys train.  That part that I dared not tread in the past as I felt this area was off limits to me.  I am not sure if this is the former fatty talking or just someone who happens to have a vagina rather than a penis.  But, there is something about the testosterone fuelled weight lifting floor that scared the hell out of me.  But, full of excitement and a bag of nerves I followed Darrell into belly of the beast, also known as the body building floor.

Today we were going to do dead lifts.  I was going to do deadlifts!! My form was good and I felt stronger than I ever had my whole life.  That’s the thing about living in a fat suit, when you are in it though you are pushing every possible physical boundary with the sheer mass you are carrying you don’t feel strong.  Quite the opposite, you feel weak and at the mercy of something you need for survival yet can’t control.  So, this new feeling of strength was something almost spiritual.  Having spent the better part of my life hiding my body the idea of lifting weights was a bit cathartic.  The “big boy” room thick with testosterone and heaving with the kind of men that I feared would judge me actually respected my effort.  It was another stamp to add to my “passport” of places I felt I was not allowed to enter as a fat girl.  Whether societal or self-imposed there were just some things that were off limits to me in my old body.

But, this wasn’t all about my head.  Under Darrell’s expert guidance my body so beaten and scared from weight loss and plastic surgery was toned and taut.  The results were hard to dismiss and furthered my original hypothesis that it was all about excuses.  Once the barriers were dropped and I really took on board what Darrell was teaching me I had complete faith in the process.

Since this was written Darrell has moved.  What is a huge loss to me is a massive gain to clients in Leeds.  Darrell is so much more than a trainer.  He helped me in ways I could not have imagined.  You see the last thing I had wanted in the beginning was a male trainer.   Men in the gym generally had been something I tried to avoid at all costs.  But, the idea of working one on one with a male PT was something of nightmares.  It was my own jaded view of men in general I suppose, but in my mind they represented everything that kept me weak.  These were the kind of guys that mooed at the 16 year old Melissa.  I suppose I stereotyped all “fit” men in this way.  But, Darrell changed all that.  He showed me that my only limitations were self-imposed and anything was possible.  He pushed me continuously and encouraged me to lift more and was always there to spot me when I needed it, whilst at the same time knowing when to hold back and let me take care of business.  The sessions we had were about pushing the limits I had and helping me attain a strength I didn’t think possible. We had many a conversation that started with me saying “I want to be able to do Tough Mudder or I think I want to enter a charity boxing match or I want to be able to do pull ups unaided.”  His reply was always “you can do it” “we can train for that”.

So, Darrell I can’t possibly thank you enough for what you have given me.  You are a credit not only to your profession, but more importantly to your gender.

I will continue this journey with a new trainer.  So, this is not over yet!

Watch this space…

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#NoExcuses

14721649_669567459868728_1004468577750512185_nSo it begins! I have never made my advocacy  for the Abby Pell’s of this world a secret. Those amazing super humans who embraced the “no excuses” hashtag with both hands and got mostly hate for their effort.  I remain an advocate for all body shapes.  But, why is it that these women who have chosen to push their physical limits get so much hate?  As anyone who has followed me knows I used to weigh over 350 pounds.  I am certainly not the poster girl for gym bunnies by any stretch of the imagination.  But, this topic intrigues me, particularly in light of the recent controversy over Eugenia Cooney’s YouTube channel and the petition to ban her.  Now I do agree she certainly has an eating disorder.  But, has the pendulum swung so far that it is now ok to body shame those we consider too skinny?  There are super sized (by their own description) fashion bloggers that if they were experiencing the same vitriol as Eugenia we would be going out of our way to defend them.  Are they not just as much of an example of an eating disorder as Eugenia? I don’t know the answer.  But, I digress.  This is about really digging deep and saying NO actually there is no excuse for this middle age spread.  Yes, I have lost a lot of weight and have been incredibly lucky to have been able to have the extensive plastic surgery to remove loose skin.  But, that just put me on a more level playing field with the majority of women.  I am an extremely busy mum of seven year old twins.  I don’t want to get up at 5am to do crunches in my living room any more than anyone else.  But, having lived most of my life in a fat suit feel I would be doing myself the ultimate dis-service by not finding out what is possible.

7d8d319de325f162b18b58dfdf687460So, my question was; what happens when an average mum drops all excuses and hits the gym?  Well the first step like most of my body transformation would require expert help.  This would seem the easy part.  But, I soon found out that picking a personal trainer is very much like finding a therapist or partner for that matter.  You need someone you trust and that you can work with.  I searched for months before I found Darrell Wilson of DW Holistic Fitness.  During our first meeting he blinded me with the science of exercise.  It’s not that I expected a personal trainer to be dim.  But, I suppose we all hold silly stereotypes of the super fit perhaps being more muscle than brain, to which I profusely apologise.  Darrell has an incredible knowledge of not only the science of behind exercise, but also knows everything you can possibly think of about the nutrition needed to lose weight and gain muscle. His ability to explain the reasons behind every movement is nothing short of astounding.

Over my many years as a serial dieter I have possessed many a gym membership.  For the most part it was the usual story.  Following the obligatory “New Year’s resolution” I happily handed over my bank details to a very pushy sales person and for a month or two religiously went to the gym losing that same two stone repeatedly each year only to gain it back the second I eyeballed a cream cake. But, the fact is walking halfheartedly on a treadmill and pushing around a couple of dumbbells for an hour does not a six pack make.

There is certainly much more reason to be motivated when you have someone at your side to tell you exactly what is happening to your body during exercise.   Having thought I knew quite a lot about the topic myself soon learned I didn’t know much at all.  So, having found “the one” we started training. I think the best part of working with a great PT is that you are really motivated to make progress.  Was I sore the next day?  Yes!  I found muscles I didn’t know existed.  The feeling of satisfaction following each workout cannot be put into words.  The truly amazing thing is how quickly I felt the results.  I am obviously a work in progress, but having been working with Darrell for just over a month now the difference in my body is very noticeable.  The satisfaction in seeing the free weights go up each week is an awesome feeling.  He is a ball buster in the nicest possible way!  The workouts are always challenging, but the fact that I am seeing the results is such a great motivator.  I started out with a marked weakness on my left side as compared to the right.  But, over the last few weeks I have seen such a big difference that my left side has nearly caught up.

I have certainly come a long way from the “Davina” hand weights collecting dust under my bed.  Having that support from someone at your side each session is extra motivation to stay on track.  I have been resistant to having a trainer in the past because I felt self-conscious.  But, Darrell in addition to knowing what he is talking about is a genuinely nice person that spurs you on in such a positive way.  I can’t think of a better cheerleader in this very foreign territory.

So, I remain without excuses and on the way to finding out what is truly possible.  This is chapter one of a series on building a better body.  Will I end up with a six pack? Don’t know! But, what is certain is that building a better body is so much more complex then losing weight.  So, with science, good nutrition and a truly inspirational Trainer there are no excuses and no limits!

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Date With Dr Victoria

I think it has never been a better time to be “a woman of a certain age”.  From Botox to Butt lifts there is something for every possible age related issue.  The current non-surgical options are endless.  But, when looking into clinics it is important to find a safe practitioner that has had the latest training as well as being someone with the appropriate background.  Personally, although I am aware this can be a grey area I believe that only those with medical backgrounds should be carrying out such procedures.

I realise it is obviously no secret I love a bit of youth in syringe form.  So, you can imagine how excited I was when I received an invitation to visit Aestha Clinic at 25 Upper Wimpole St in London.  Following an extensive consultation with the gorgeous and talented Dr Victoria Virtosu it was decided that I would have some Juvederm in my lips and a bit (well more than a bit) of Botox to rid my face of the previous six months of worry lines I had developed.

Botox being my favourite neurotoxin, smooths out those “road hard and put away wet” areas of the face like nothing else can.

Juvederm is a range of fillers containing injectable hyaluronic acid that when injected by a trained professional can provide nine months to one year of fullness to your lips as well as correct moderate to severe wrinkling on certain areas of the face.

Lip fillers are an instant gratification kind of treatment, which I love!  Botox tends to take roughly five days or so to see the finished result.  When done correctly the forehead should not appear frozen, just noticeable smoother, giving a subtle more plump appearance to the skin.

The skin on your lips in particular over the life span is constantly moisturised from within by hyaluronic acid which is a naturally occurring sugar. However, as your skin ages you lose hyaluronic acid causing lines to appear and the thinning of the lips.

Having a bit of filler when done correctly can dramatically improve the appearance of the lips.  Obviously, it is up to the individual in consultation with an aesthetic professional how plump you want them.

Dr Victoria was very conscious of making sure that my results were balanced and symmetrical.  Some of the biggest complaints I hear is around asymmetry which is why it is so important to see an experienced professional. Ultimately, it is up to you how big you want your lips.  There are a lot of arguments online about this and honestly it all comes down to personal yet INFORMED choice.

Knowledge is power people!!

A Clockwork Orange Peel

Cellulite!!  Ugh!  It is not even a pretty word.  A bit like moist, every time I hear it I just cringe!  First of all everyone has a bit of cellulite at one point or another.  But, unfortunately I have it all the time.  Primarily because I spent the majority of my life morbidly obese, cellulite is the price I have to pay for my years of gluttony. Although I have lost a huge amount of weight and have had reconstructive surgery for loose skin, the cellulite in one form or another remains.

I have tried lotions, potions and various notions.  Short of voodoo I have yet to find a miracle.  Now I am sure you have heard of the various anti-cellulite tights and leggings.  There are several companies that make them, all with very ambitious claims about “impregnated” fabric and that they sacrifice a live chicken in the factory to ensure your positive results.  Ok, I made that last bit up!! But, you see where I am going.  There are some very grand claims out there for what is often a very mediocre product.   As some of these products are very expensive, the last thing you want is to spend £200 on what ends being a pair of lazy pants you wear on the school run.

I am very much a believer in finding those special treasures in places you would not normally look.  I love the idea of trying something from a lesser known company as often they have something super special, but perhaps the world hasn’t discovered them yet.  I met this amazing and very inspiring entrepreneur Fabia Santos at a plastic surgery conference.  Her company called Yoga Compression Garments was not one I had heard of before, but her belief and dedication to her products hooked me right in.  I wasn’t sure why at the time, but she was definitely someone I wanted to know better.  There was the added bonus I suppose because it is a Brazilian company I thought if anyone in the world is going to know how to make your ass look good, it’s going to be them!

Over the course of researching the products what I learned was that in addition to the leggings which I will get to later, Fabia has dedicated herself to helping women going through reconstructive surgeries.  She attends hospitals herself to ensure post surgical garments are fitted properly and educates medical staff on the importance of garment fitting in the healing process.  I suppose this resonated with me because I have been in the position of trying to get myself into post surgery garments that in retrospect did more harm than good.  One very ill-fitting corset I had following abdominoplasty  I referred to as “the juicer”.  The second I put it on my clothes were soaked with the excess drainage.  So, the work she does is an integral part of the healing process for women that are already feeling quite vulnerable following life changing operations that are not always cosmetic.  As a professional Fabia is someone who really “walks the talk”.

The leggings are called The Yoga Emana.  They absorb heat from the body and return in the form of “long infrared rays”.  The rays are then absorbed into the skin and stimulate circulation and cellular metabolism.  The leggings contain bio-active crystals and so these properties are not lost when they are washed.  Amongst the many benefits that are purported:

Increased cellular metabolism
Increased skin elasticity
Reducing the appearance of cellulite
Thermal equilibrium
Reduction of muscle fatigue

So, with my magic leggings in hand I was off to try them myself in hopes of conquering these beastly dimples! Putting aside that they are meant to benefit you by wearing them, as a product they are beautiful and really flattering.  The instructions are that you are to wear them 12 hours a day.  I must say this was easy as they go with everything and really give you a beautiful shape.  They are so comfortable, yet hold everything in as well as pushing that excess junk in the trunk up perfectly.

The initial trial is meant to show results within weeks.  As I have particularly bad cellulite I took before pictures over six weeks.  The results were everything that was promised.  There was a marked difference in the smoothness of the skin and I definitely found the dimpling in my upper thighs in particular to have reduced.

Although I was primarily trialling them in order to ascertain the anti-cellulite properties I did actually find that there was a marked difference in how my legs felt following a run when wearing them.  So, there is definitely something too the claims about reducing fatigue.  From day one I was able to pack more punch into a workout wearing my Emana’s.  All in all the trial was extremely successful.  I can’t recommend them enough.  They retail for £95, which is a reasonable price for leggings that deliver the goods.  They remain in my normal rotation as my go to workout wear as well as sneaking them under other garments as a much more comfortable option to your standard “suck in your gut” pants.  An all around great product from a fabulous company.

 

Bingo Wings Baby!

I suppose there is a point in every woman’s life where they reach a certain age and realise that their arms in particular start looking a bit, well there is no polite way to put it.  They start getting a bit saggy and even with muscle tone just don’t have that spring back they used to.  This is a particular issue if you are carrying some extra weight or like in my case you have lost a lot of weight.  There is only so much exercise can do!  I was incredibly lucky that following my weight loss I was able to have an arm reduction.  But, realistically this is out of range for the majority of women.  However, even following surgery my arms are still something I am a bit self conscious about.

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Enter Wingz! This company makes a range of “sleeves” that are worn with sleeveless clothing to give you some extra coverage when you are just not feeling sleeveless ready.  I was gifted a set of white wingz to test drive and review.  The concept is brilliant.  I do think that the black is probably much more versatile as it is easier to match the darker sleeve.  But, that is just me.  I don’t tend to wear lighter colours.

The line itself has a range of styles that are really beautiful and I think are an absolute godsend for those of us who are not comfortable with showing our arms. The fabric is lightweight and ideal for the summer which can be a big girls worst nightmare.  Part of the range includes a Chiffon Flare style which I think would be perfect to dress up those summer numbers instead of the old standard bolero.  They fit discreetly under your bra.  So, they really do end up looking like a part of your outfit.

p-2818-big-cat-wingz-280x175Wingz are a great addition to your wardrobe and certainly would allow anyone that has issues showing their arms to expand their wardrobe as there is a set of Wingz to fit any style.

Sun Damage

meand pipI suppose to a certain degree we have become desensitised to the body shaming that takes place in the media.  When I agreed to speak with a journalist from the Sun during the summer holiday about my position on health promotion for children I did not expect that six months later a completely fabricated article would show up online.  What is really disgusting is the fact they chose to body shame my child in their pursuit of a controversial headline.  When I saw my face along with my little girl staring back at me under the headline “The NHS needs so sort out my obese child” I felt sick.  I have been asked by several media outlets for a response on the article.  But, as I know it is not possible to trust anyone to accurately express the absolute disgust I felt when I saw the Sun this morning I decided it was best to do it my way.

I will address the various points attributed to me starting with the obvious glaring horror that is gastric balloons for children.  I would never, ever recommend any gastric procedure for a child.  What I had actually said and this is a direct quote; never would I ever recommend a gastric balloon for any child, but particularly mine.  When asked specifically about gastric surgery I said that in older teenagers with extreme obesity, in a case by case basis and when all other treatments had been exhausted perhaps a balloon could be considered.

The purpose of my voicing an opinion was to discuss the need for more activity based programs for children similar to what is done for adults with the “Steps to Health” programme.  Adults can be referred by their gp for 12 weeks of gym membership.  My thought on this was a programme where children could build peer to peer relationships with other children with similar issues with weight where they would feel free of judgement and bullying.

There is also the issue of personal responsibility.  My blog has been live for over a year and is public record.  My feelings on this have always been clear.  I in no way blame the government or anyone else other than the individual for poor eating habits.  Any issues with my children’s eating habits lay squarely at my doorstep.  The point I had made in my interview had been that I have a boy and a girl that eat the exact same diet. (the diet by the way is very mixed and balanced, which again was turned into a sugar fest for the purpose of sensationalistic nonsense) Yet they clearly have completely different metabolisms as my son is much smaller than my daughter.

In addition to the blatant fabrication of the truth pictures were taken from my blog which were related to reviews I had done of vitamin infusions and fat freezing and attributed to my weight loss surgery.  I was quoted as saying weight loss surgery was a magic wand.  Again anyone who has read anything I have written knows this is not my opinion.  Weight loss surgery is an extreme solution and not an easy journey.

But, the saddest thing for me about this is that the whole reason for raising awareness was to prevent children from being bullied in the way I was as a child.  Yet this disgusting rag chose to use this in order to incite bullying and fat shaming against me and my child.  I am a big girl now and over the many years of being shamed and bullied I have developed thick skin.  But, what is absolutely deplorable is to deliberately set up a child to be ridiculed and bullied.   This is reprehensible for a journalist to feel it acceptable to body shame a six year old.  Anyone who has read my blog knows what I went through as a child at the hands of other children.  For an adult to set up a child like this is nothing short of evil.

I am choosing not to use a link or screen shot of the original article as I do not wish to give it any further power.

Fatty

love a bit of cakeI have been thinking lately about why my relationship with food is so bad.  I think that for much of my life food has been my method of self-harm.  Instead of cutting myself I have chosen to fill the cracks in my psyche with fat.  Sadly, there is little sympathy for those with my particular method of self-destruction.   If I were jones’in for a line or syringe of something a bit more rock and roll I believe there would be so much more help available.  I wish it didn’t hold so much power over me.  To a certain degree I think that had so much of my journey not been public I probably would have gained it all back by now.  It kills me that I struggle to see myself as I am and not as the little fat girl that everyone hated so much (or at least that’s how I felt).

I cannot pinpoint the exact point it started.  But, I can still vividly remember being bullied to the point of peeing myself so a teacher would send me home.  I must have been around 9 or 10.  An older girl pushed me to the ground and got right in my face.  She said you make me sick fatty!  This was one of many, many episodes that sadly dominated my most formative years.  I would do literally anything to stay home from school.  Throwing myself into a ditch, riding my bike into a wall, anything I could to cause enough damage to warrant a pass from school.  Finally, when I was 11 my mum finally relented and I was home schooled from that point.  I look back and wonder if by doing that I allowed the bullies to win.  But, I suppose nobody knows what to do in that situation.  All I craved was respite from the daily cruelty and abuse.

szwet4rh7yjtrtdgmqrmBut, by leaving school I am not sure the outcome left me any better.  I had very few friends and I soon learned adults could be just as cruel as children.  I suppose this is part of the reason I crave some of that youth I missed out on.  I have the body I so desperately wanted at 18 and feel like I need to recapture the many, many moments I missed out on.  Is trying to cheat Mother Nature a little really the worst thing in the world?  Surely not…   There was so much pubescent loneliness.  I remember hearing about the various dances and school events I missed.  I tried to tell myself it didn’t matter, that I didn’t care.  But, I did and I do know I can’t get those things back.

I realise there will never be an opportunity to go to the prom.  Although if anyone should be interested in a slightly over the hill prom date I probably wouldn’t say no.

Unbotched

1235099_10151916503800955_1325535349_nIt seems at the moment we are saturated with headlines and television shows all about the horrors of plastic surgery and aesthetics gone wrong.  Now don’t get me wrong I love a bit of reality television.  My own massive physical transformation was the result of participating in  reality/documentary television.  But, I have been thinking lately that the emphasis seems to have shifted from the “feel good”, albeit cheesy style of the ugly duckling that in the end becomes a beautiful swan to the disasters.  Because if you unpick the whole aesthetic and plastics industry you will find that for every botched boob job or filler fiasco there are thousands and thousands of very happy patients whose lives have been changed for the better following their procedures.  I do love a fairy tale! But, what this is really about is celebrating the amazing work of those who do get it right the first time. 

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Before reconstruction

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After

My own experience could not be further from the “Woman’s implant explodes on the school run” horror stories that get so much attention.    Following a huge weight loss I had a disfigured body.  Even the biggest body confidence cheerleaders could not possibly argue that the body I had following weight loss was nothing less than a train wreck.  Masses of loose skin that hung from every bone on my body, which even the most vigorous boot camp, would not be able to shift.  In addition to the unpleasant aesthetic, the skin was a health hazard that only served as a dark reminder of what decades of obesity had done to me.  It was a dark cloud that hung over the success of my weight loss.

 But, I was offered the holy grail!   My loose skin was removed under the most professional and expert conditions.  Mr Paul Baguley is nothing short of amazing!  He, like the many other professionals registered with The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS – Ya I know!) that do amazing work.  These are in fact the very people often left with the task of putting humpty dumpty back together again following a fall off a dodgy surgeons table.  But, sadly what we see most of the time are the disasters.  These are often the ones that will be discussed on internet forums for what is seen as “stupidity in the name of vanity”.  Putting aside that at some point there was probably a really good reason they wanted the surgery in the first place.  One should never be punished for the desire to improve how they look or correct something that is not quite right.

IMG_20140227_110505Yes, as a matter of fact I am trying to recapture my lost youth, what is wrong with that?  Sadly when I was in my 20’s the world was not ready for the 300 pound pin up.  Keep in mind this was a pre-Beth Ditto/Tess Holiday world.  As glamourous as I tried to be I was never going to be anyone’s pin up girl.  Unfortunately I was relegated to the fat heap with the rest of the retro rejects.  I am not in any way condoning that but, it was what it was.  As a result I never enjoyed the body freedom that I wished for.

The fact remains that plastics along with the non-surgical options such as Botox, fillers, thread lifts, etc give those that choose it a much needed boost some times.  It is not about making you look like someone else, but about looking like a better version of yourself.  I understand the politics and this essay is not about that.  I will save that for another time.  But, what I am talking about is focusing on the safe and talented professionals out there that are making people’s lives better.  I for one am grateful for every nip/tuck and syringe I have had.  It has allowed me to be the person I didn’t get to be at 18.

**There are of course situations when things do go wrong and luckily there is help out there when that happens.  The Safety in Beauty Campaign is an initiative that supports those who have had less than satisfactory results.  They use their position to educate the public about safe practice and advise those who in extremes are left disfigured by poor practice.

Cereal Killer

Food, food food!! How I love you!!  My long term love affair with the bastard is not a secret.  In fact it is my best friend, lover, confidante and arch enemy all wrapped up into one dysfunctional package.  Due to this crazy dynamic I have to keep myself fully on top of the food situation or literally I can guarantee I would eat myself to death!  So, when someone offers me a free meal and not just a meal but delivers it to me at work I can hardly say no. Can I? Well, can I?  The answer is a big fat juicy no!  But, this is a bit different.  A company in South East London called Bed N Breakfast prepare a gorgeous breakfast tailor made to your dietary specifications, which for me can be quite a vast list.  Obviously, with my main concern around how things are prepared and the use of any fats as minimal as possible.  What I received was amazing!  I chose the veggie breakfast which was a massive portion big enough for me to share with one of my colleagues. The gorgeous Hannah, in between her many media commitments managed to deliver heaven on a plate.  It was gorgeous!!  Everything was piping hot and looked amazing.  As a lover of all things yummy, the fact that I can order something this gorgeous that is also healthy is a huge bonus.  I am literally salivating thinking about it!  For me the commitment to healthy food is something I really value.  As I have to balance my love of all things yummy with the absolute need to keep it clean and healthy this kind of care and attention to the important details is vital.  I would certainly order again, in fact has anyone seen my phone?  I need to put this chick on speed dial.

Un-ageing Gracefully

In the run up to my 45th birthday I thought it only right to look at some of the ways to beat back the hand of time. This is the first article in a series about women and ageing.  More accurately the lengths at which I intend to go to in order to look the way I feel.  I suppose it is all part of the bigger transformation.  As a young woman I was so overweight I didn’t have any self esteem.  I don’t think I was ever able to fully experience the luxury of “youth”.  I spent the years I should have been having fun and being carefree stuck inside wallowing in my relative fatness.

So, call it a mid-life crisis or perhaps just complete unadulterated insanity, but I want my youth back, now that I can fully enjoy it!  The fact is I don’t feel old.  I have young children, I am active and love all things trendy.  I don’t see the point of letting father time win.  So, I have made a decision that I am going to opt out of the ageing process or at least fight it kicking and screaming.

Having relatively decent skin for a pre-geriatric I have gone on a quest to find out the most advantageous ways to un-age gracefully.  Over the course of the next couple of months I will be undergoing treatments involving needles, infra-red probes, heat, electricity, more needles, exercise and just plain old good nutrition.   So, with the help of some of best Aesthetic Professionals in the world the clock stops here!