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Body of Work
There's only one Gisele, but the rest of us can still thrive for that ideal figure.

By Jane Larkworthy View W Magazine Web Article

How can anyone expect us to be satisfied with the bodies God gave us, when God also gave us Gisele?

Well, at least the bod that launched a thousand fitness-club memberships provides us with an image to aspire to. Ever since Gisele first attained supermodel status—and she may be her generation's sole holder of the title—many a female has entertained thoughts such as "Are those real?" and "How can I get my midriff to look like that?" At the ripe age of 21, Gisele maintains her shape simply by living an active life. (A "friend of Gisele's" tattles, "She eats like a pig, and she's the last one to exercise. She rides horses now, but that's it. She's a total freak of nature.") And, while speculation abounds as to whether anything's been enhanced, Gisele flatly denies it. Meanwhile, there's still hope for the rest of us. The Bündchen standard is not as unreachable as we might think.

Frame Work
Gisele's body owes its appeal not to bulk, but to sensual grace, which could explain the increasing popularity of Pilates and yoga, which improve posture and lengthen and tone muscles rather than building them up. Brooke Siler, founder of the model-packed New York Pilates studio Re: AB, has recently introduced Cardio Circuit, a 40-minute personalized workout that combines the fat-burning benefits of aerobic exercise—using no-impact cardiovascular machines—with traditional Pilates. For those more into buffing up in the privacy of home, there's the impressively untacky exercise video New York City Ballet Workout. Don't expect any jetés or pirouettes, but, with NYCB ballet master in chief Peter Martins leading viewers through graceful exercises tailored for strength and balance, it's possible to indulge prima ballerina fantasies in the living room, no barre required.

Sweating It Out
Sometimes, when burning fat is the goal, there's no substitute for working up a good, old-fashioned sweat. David Kirsch, the founder and owner of New York's Madison Square Club, keeps many of Gisele's model cohorts on a strict exercise regimen tailored to their usual requests—according to Kirsch, "a perkier butt, a flat stomach and sculpted arms." Kirsch's plan includes two or three circuits of 25 to 30 thigh-burning squat-walks, up to a minute of shadow-boxing with dumbbells and three sets of 15 to 20 push-ups (starting on the toes, then moving to knees when necessary). "These exercises are amazing for sculpting the body, while also burning a ton of fat," he says. Kirsch, whose book, Sound Mind, Sound Body (Rodale Press), comes out next month, is equally adamant about the importance of getting both sufficient water (at least two large bottles a day) and sleep. "Your willpower is not as keen when you're sleep deprived," he points out.

Figure Food
Although Gisele may get away with eating anything, the rest of us, say the experts, are better off following a few rules. "Obviously, everyone is obsessed with excess body fat, but we haven't been very successful in controlling it," says Barry Sears Ph.D., the man behind the Zone Diet. Sears, whose most recent book is The Top 100 Zone Foods (ReganBooks), says that the key to maintaining an ideal body weight is to control insulin levels with a consistent diet that is about one-third low-fat protein—chicken breast, turkey, fish, egg whites, tofu—and two-thirds fruits and vegetables, with a dash of heart-healthy fats, such as olive oil or guacamole, to round it off. Such meals, says Sears, "will keep insulin levels under control for the next four to six hours. The secret is being consistent." Sears stresses avoiding carbohydrates such as rice, bagels, pasta and bread ("Treat them like condiments," he says) and eating several small meals throughout the day to help control blood-sugar levels. "As long as you're maintaining that level, your body says 'I'm OK.'"

Cinching In
When diet and exercise fail (or when you fail to diet and exercise), don't discount the wonders of that old standby, the girdle—the modern, high-tech version, of course. Disdained by a generation that associated them with a bygone era that was restrictive in more ways than one, foundation garments—now more comfortable, better-looking and with hipper names—are making a comeback. Warnaco's Bodyslimmers Nancy Ganz has recently introduced the Belly Band, a wide swath of firming fabric that tightens around the tummy and has comfortable panties attached. The company also makes the Unitard, a torso-length bodysuit that, according to vice president of sales Marc Kimmelman, "attacks the abdomen, slaughters the thighs and cups in the tush."

Ab Fab
With the current popularity of low-rider jeans and mini Ts, tummies haven't seen this much daylight since the '70s heyday of the tube top. Elliot Jacobs, a New York plastic surgeon, is performing "mini tummy tucks," in which he uses fine instruments to remove fat, reshaping the abdomen. Afterward, the skin of the abdomen is drawn tighter (as in a facelift), creating a tauter torso. Jacobs describes the procedure as several subtle changes—reshaping a stretched-out, horizontal navel back into a vertical oval shape, re-creating that sexy little groove just above it ("like all those Victoria's Secret models have," he says), defining the waist by suctioning love handles and even firming up the pubic area—that together make up one substantial change. It's an outpatient procedure, and the recovery period is about 10 to 14 days. "It's a giant leap ahead for plastic surgeons to be able to basically rejuvenate the abdomen," says Jacobs. "Thanks to finer instruments and an emphasis on sculpting vs. simply removing fat, the results are far better than what we did five years ago. It speaks of youth and athleticism."

Smooth Operators
Some find the cure for a stubbornly unsleek rear view among the growing ranks of anticellulite professionals. Lately, a few enterprising doctors have been plotting to give traditional cellulite-zapping techniques—such as Endermologie—some stiff competition with Mesotherapy, a recent import from France. "Mesotherapy has shown significantly less need for follow-ups," says Dr. Lionel Bissoon, a New York-based osteopathic physician. "With Endermologie, you need to go back once a month for the rest of your life." While Mesotherapy uses a homeopathic method that can be applied to everything from hair loss to rheumatism, a specialized version targets the connective tissues that cause the orange-peel effect of cellulite and breaks them down. The procedure involves injecting a mixture of the enzyme hyaluridonase; an herbal ingredient, melilotus, which is known to increase circulation; and a local anesthetic into the cellulite-afflicted areas.

Dr. Lionel Bissoon flew to Paris three years ago to study under top Mesotherapy practitioner Jacques Le Coz after seeing Le Coz's impressive long-term results. Since then, Dr. Lionel Bissoon has performed his own modified version of the procedure on more than 100 patients, and so far only two have returned for follow-ups. He proudly notes that, at a recent demonstration in Paris, his method showed more dramatic results than those of his French colleagues. (The reason seems obvious: A standard Mesotherapy cellulite session consists of about eight injections, while Dr. Lionel Bissoon's involves somewhere between 200 and 300 tiny ones—a dose per dimple, so to speak.) The average number of sessions required is 10, but extra dimpling might require upwards of 15 to 20. Dr. Lionel Bissoon charges a $350 consultation fee, with subsequent treatments at $250.

All the medicines used in the procedure are FDA approved, and, according to Dr. Lionel Bissoon, the procedure has been a recognized medical specialty in Europe since the early '50s. He chalks up the lack of attention in the States to American physicians' hesitancy to delve into alternative medicine. "As doctors and scientists, we're trained to be conservative," he says. Dr. Lionel Bissoon offers a little extra cellulite-busting advice that some might deem impertinent. "I want to tap on the shoulders of women who have visible panty lines and say, 'That's not good for you,'" he says, explaining that, among his female clientele, those who wear thongs have less dimpling. "The elastic sidebands in regular underwear cause lymphatic stasis, or pooling, essentially backing up the system. You can see where the elastic goes across their buttocks, and right along those lines is where the most—or biggest or deepest—dimples are. If you can see panty lines through a skirt or pants, imagine the amount of compressive force on the tissues." He stresses that switching to thong underwear is a simple way to slow down cellulite buildup, adding with a laugh, "I'm waiting for an endorsement call from Victoria's Secret."

Top Rack
And then there are those full yet perky Bündchen breasts. Last Summer, after the 34-C model starred in her first TV commercial, for Victoria's Secret, the company noticed a major upsurge in interest in the bra she was modeling, from its Body by Victoria collection. "Who knows if the same level of interest would have happened if Tyra [Banks] did the ad?" says Victoria's Secret spokesperson Monica Mitro. "But customers remember Gisele's name, and they want the bra she's wearing."

Women clearly are deciding that a bit of a bust is a good thing. For her next Victoria's Secret campaign, Gisele will use her gifts in that department to send customers racing to buy one of the company's new cleavage-enhancing "Very Sexy" Miracle Bras. Other women are clearly opting, in growing numbers, for a permanent fix: During the last two years, the number of women undergoing breast-augmentation procedures has increased by 12 percent. Coral Gables-based surgeon Leonard Roudner reports, "I've seen women say they'd never do it—ever. Then they come in and say, 'Let's do this tomorrow.'"

Although newer breast-augmentation procedures involve "hiding" scars by making incisions in the navel area, some physicians, including Roudner, pooh-pooh the techniques. Not only does such an operation make correct placement of the implants trickier, but the scars, according to Manhattan plastic surgeon David Hidalgo, aren't always that much less visible. "In fact, the scars around the navel can sometimes be larger than hidden ones elsewhere, like under the arms," he says. "In this case, newer is not better."

One welcome development on the horizon is a new form of silicone, called cohesive silicone, that is currently used in Europe. Since the substance sticks together, unlike silicone gel, it doesn't leak if the implant breaks. But, as it hasn't yet been presented to the FDA, approval could be many years in coming.

Most surgeons agree that, when it comes to size and shape, it still takes all kinds of breasts to make women happy. "Brazilian girls, for instance, want smaller breasts than girls who dance for a living," says Roudner. "We can usually gauge from what patients do and where they come from—for example, you wouldn't have an attorney walk in and say, 'Give me a D cup.'" Just as hairstylists do, Roudner asks clients to bring in pictures. "It's the easiest way to see what they want," he says. So what's the most common reference these days? Surprise: the Victoria's Secret catalog. "I think it's more popular than Playboy, which had always been the gold standard," says Roudner. "And Gisele's always on the cover."

"Body of Work," by Jane Larkworthy, has been edited for STYLE.com; the complete article appears in the December 2001 issue of W.

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