New York Magazine April 2000
Your Trainer’s Secret
Go for the burn? Fat chance. These days, it’s just as likely to be go for the epidural.
Personal trainers, as a golden rule, have fearsomely perfect physiques and tend to reel off their miniscule body-fat percentages as eagerly as if they were peddling low-interest mortgages. After all, their bodies are their calling cards. So if, after you’ve spent several months pumping up and working out under their tutelage, your handles are still lovely and your thighs still have dimples, the thinking goes, you have only yourself to blame.
At least, I always thought so. Until the other day, when I was moaning to my trainer during my umpteenth set of crunches. Every time I sat up, I was treated to the sight of another trainer across the room inspecting/admiring his six-pack in the mirror. “Why can’t I have abs like that?” I growled. My trainer looked around furtively, then made a sucking sound, as though taking a long sip from an imaginary straw.
“What’s that?” I asked, slow on the uptake. “Some wonder steroid drink?”
He rolled his eyes at my naiveté, leaned forward conspiratorially, and murmured the magic word. “Lipo.”
Let’s assume, then, that your trainer has no qualms about baring her supple thighs or his rippling stomach. That doesn’t mean that she or he isn’t hiding something: a teeny, tiny liposuction scar.
You heard it here first, Prominent Manhattan plastic surgeons report that liposuction is regularly performed on personal trainers, aerobics instructors, and sundry other fitness pros, athletes, and bodybuilders.
The flawless form you attributed to all those crunches may in fact be the work of a plastic surgeon. More and more fitness pros are turning to liposuction to lose those love handles. And only a fearless few are admitting it to clients. Shocked? Suck it up.
So it was three weeks ago that Lia Sanfilippo, a personal trainer at the Trainer’s Place in Manhattan and a physical-education teacher in the New York City public-school system, went to the cushy Fifth Avenue offices of Dr. John Sherman and permitted him to draw all over her with a magic marker. Making himself a map, Sherman would soon go where no exercise regime or diet had gone before: into her saddlebags and love handles.
“I trained like crazy,” Sanfilippo said before the surgery. “I did everything – teaching classes, taking classes, dieting – and those areas never went away.”
Sherman was only too happy to help. In little more than an hour, he suctioned out two pounds of fat, fore and aft, on the trainer. And then all there was to do was wait. “It takes about a month for you to see the results, and about three months for everything to look really perfect,” says Sherman.
But trainers aren’t about to be liposuction poster children, given how few of them are liable to own up to having it. Case in point: another trainer in her early thirties who’s a columnist for a prominent fitness magazine. She was ready to have liposuction on her legs and be interviewed for this article. Then her editor got wind of it. If she talked to me, or went through with the liposuction, the editor said, she would never write for the magazine again. That was the end of that. (Not the liposuction, necessarily. Just talking about it.)
Or take the trainer who gave a glowing account of her liposuction but declined to give her real name, and says she doesn’t generally tell her clients she had it. “I don’t gain from it – in fact, I could stand to lose a client,” she says. But she doesn’t feel as though she’s being dishonest in keeping it secret. For her, liposuction was a last resort to getting a stubborn reserve, and she argues that it’s in her clients’ best interests that they not think of surgery as an option until they absolutely need – or want – to. That is, after they get fit and develop decent eating habits. “I like to get them to have a relationship with food, get the bad stuff out of their diet, and not be so obsessed with being skinny.”