How to Stop the Swelling? Four Answers to Love Handles

Confront your holiday bloat! Do it now! Spring merch is already starting to hit the stores; meanwhile, you need to hit the treadmill … and try not to break it–or eat it!

It all started last September, when–egged on by well-intentioned Katie Couric–type people–you went on a post–9/11 comfort-food ingest-athon. Who can blame you? Macaroni and cheese, washed down with vats of vino, proved highly effective in taking the edge off things. But, unfortunately, you saw fit to continue munching and guzzling right through the holidays. The result: You are now officially “jolly”–i.e., you went up a frock size and a half, i.e., you can’t fit into the high-priced designer drag I talked you into buying last spring.

Maybe you’re quite happy with the stout new you. If so, then mazel tov! If, on the other hand, you’re ready to kill yourself, then read on. The following lard-fighting strategies are currently finding popularity with your fellow flab-fighters here in New York and may work for you.

Liposuction: the old standby for gym-phobic, orally fixated, undisciplined folk. Here’s the new twist: In increasing numbers, the aging Manhattan cognoscenti are combining their annual sun-drenched winter break with a little quelque chose d’autre. They’re abandoning St. Barts for Brazil in order to avail themselves of the legendary expertise of one Dr. Carlos Fernando Gomes de Almeida (011-55-21-2286-8255). Loyalists now return every year for a touch-up; they call themselves the “Angels of Dr. Carlos.” Lipo on the torso will set you back about $5,000; throw in your neck and chin and you’re up to $12,000 (the price of an Hermès purse).

Recuperate for three weeks at the Ipanema Plaza (011-55-21-3687-2000; $150 a night, negotiable) as opposed to the Copacabana Palace, which has become too touristy. Ask for a sea view. While you wait for the swelling to go down, you can pass the time by fantasizing about the moment when you confidently insert yourself into the Mario Testino–ish, thong-clad throng. If you want to save money on your accommodations–and spend more on procedures–get your travel agent to find you a hotel apartment. Get comfy: Rio is the new Miami Beach. Stick around till Feb. 9 and flaunt yourself at Carnival.

Heads up for ultra-chubs: Dr. Carlos will not liposuck more than 5 percent of your body weight.

(Agoraphobics, take note: There is now a plastic surgeon in New York who makes house calls. Dr. Oleh Slupchynskyj will come chez vous and, for $1,200, give you your Botox shots. P.S.: He is not, as his name would suggest, a venerable old geezer with nose hair and a thick accent. Au contraire! He’s young and attractive. Call him at 628-6731 and see for yourself.)

The French call them poignees d’amour; we call them “love handles.” When I heard that the men-only Nickel Spa at 77 Eighth Avenue offered Love Handle for Men Wraps, I hightailed it over there to road-test them for all you fellas. And guess what? They work … sort of.

The Love Handle for Men Wrap is a 60-minute treatment ($85) that starts with a light massage and a rousing round of “cupping”–i.e., Mauro, the masseur, used his cupped hands to batter my midsection, thereby producing a noise like horses trotting. He then applied a tingly Nickel poignees d’amour unguent (not yet for sale in the U.S.). I was then asked to stand while Mauro maypole’d around me, mummifying my waist with a Saran Wrap corset. I was then told to lie still for 40 minutes, during which time I got bored and nodded off. The removal of the Saran Wrap was followed by a final and annoying round of “cupping.” The big shockerooni? My midsection felt tighter and leaner. Spa owner Philippe Dumont came clean: “Ze love ’andle wrap doesn’t get rid of fat. Zis feeling of tightness lasts five or six days. Then you ’ave to repeat ze treatment.” Go for the package deal: $380 for a series of five.

Now back to you girls! Reclaiming your old frock size is not going to happen overnight. In the meantime, you can chicly reduce your jiggle quotient with a new product from Oprah favorite and inventor of the famous Spanx Footless Pantyhose, Sara Blakely. Ms. Blakely now brings you–drum roll–Spanx Control Top Fishnets! Features include a comfy waistband, extended control top to smooth hips and thighs, and that old favorite, a hand-sewn cotton gusset. Ms. Blakely also guarantees that Spanx fishnets will eliminate forever the dreaded grid-butt phenomenon ($26 at Bloomingdale’s and Saks Fifth Avenue).

Re pantyhose gussets, here’s a tip I learned from designer Betsey Johnson: If ever you find yourself stranded without coffee filters, simply cut the cotton gusset out of a (fresh) pair of pantyhose.

Happy New Year!