Pat Henry

There are so many products on sale to help you with weight and figure problems that it is easy to become confused or even to be misled. The prevalence of 'cottage cheese' thighs in Ireland is a boon to the cosmetic industry.

Anti-cellulite creams abound, all making different claims as to how they deal with the problem. Some claim they break down cellulite to release the toxins that 'are the main cause of cellulite' or to release water trapped in unsightly ripples under the skin. Some go so far as to claim that their creams will remove cellulite altogether.

But there are no toxins and there is no trapped water. Dr Peter Fodder, president of the Lipoplastry Society, emphasises that cellulite is just ordinary body fat sitting under the skin in tiny pockets separated by connective tissue. Creams or lotions cannot remove a molecule unless they contain a drug that can penetrate the skin and enter the fat underneath. All such drugs are still at the experimental stage. This leaves changes in your lifestyle, in your diet and exercise levels in particular, as the only sure way of beating cellulite.

Over-the-counter weight loss remedies don't have such a good record either. A lot of over the counter products that are being sold for weight control can be ineffective, including teas, pills and artificial sweeteners, and you should never be tempted to use drugs to lose weight.

The majority of people who take drugs to remove body weight quickly put the weight back on and may have side effects such as increased blood pressure, nausea, insomnia, permanent nervous feelings and heart palpitations -- its just not worth it!

Another alarming development in the slimming business has been to convince people that attaching machines to themselves at home and lying back to watch TV will help them lose weight. It just isn't true. At best these machines will keep the body toned. No such machines will ever burn off body fat and it is a shame that people often believe it.

These muscle-stimulating devices were designed to treat people who had paralysis of the face and legs etc. In a lot of cases, they help with muscle contractions and improve circulation to the affected areas. But remember it will never burn off fat, especially the claims of spot reducing of an area of your body fat. You must change your eating habits and exercise more. Cellulite can be caused

by hormone imbalance, junk food, high sugar foods and drinking too much alcohol.

We are now drinking more calories than we are eating which in itself is scary. For example, one bottle of white wine is equal to 1,000 calories -- mainly of sugar. Additives in foods and consuming large quantities of fast foods are causing havoc with our systems.

Surgery has been suggested as the next new treatment to remove cellulite. It will only be a temporary fix for you and if you don't improve your lifestyle, it will show its ugly face again. Another alarming sign is that some men have now a similar problem on their chest, back and arms, another example of a hormone imbalance.

For permanent results you have to change your lifestyle, eat a low-fat diet, exercise with light weights and aerobic exercises, cut down on tea, coffee, alcohol, sugar and junk food. Have a regular Ki massage to help break down the waste and fat that has accumulated over a long period. It may take a while to achieve the desired results but see your progress as a long-term project. Allow yourself one year to reinvent yourself with your new figure or physique. Remember, if you have a lot of fat on your tummy, hips or legs, the only real way of reducing it is to stop eating so much. Fat builds fat. Always avoid all low-calorie diets, starvation diets and liquid diets. They will never yield permanent results.