Lilly Garcia was cynical of most exercise routines after years of struggling with her weight and related health issues.
After dinner one night, she walked by the Hypoxi studio in West Ave and read its sign: "Design Your Body."
She laughed at the notion but was curious enough to schedule a consultation.
Within one month at Hypoxi, she lost 15 pounds and made remarkable improvements in her health.
"I was always trying to find a way to lose weight," said Garcia, 58, an administrative assistant. "I have high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. After that month, my doctor said I had the best numbers ever. It was the first time my doctor was happy with me."
Founded in 1997 by Dr. Norbert Egger in Germany, Hypoxi is a weight-loss and body-shaping technique that uses vacuum-compression therapy and fat-burning exercise. It's designed to help with problem areas: persistent fat on the stomach, hips, buttocks and thighs, cellulite and weak connective tissue. It uses the natural principles of lipid metabolism to reduce fat. At the same time, the training is supposed to improve complexion and circulation.
Today, Hypoxi claims more than 250,000 users in 2,000 studios in 40 countries, including Europe, the United Kingdom, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the Middle East and South Africa.
Yet, it's new in the United States, with only one location in Houston and four nationwide.
Hypoxi Houston co-owner Caroline Goonie wants more people to experience the benefits of Hyproxi therapy.
"It helps overcome the challenges of stubborn fatty areas you can't lose through diet and exercise alone," she said. "It's a different concept, but we're not a gimmick but based on scientific findings."
There are four Hypoxi machines: HDC for overall cellulite reduction, the Vacunaut treadmill for stubborn stomach fat, the L250 reclined stationery bike for the butt and thigh area and the S120 standing stationery bike for stomach, hips and thighs.
Clients are advised to use the machines up to 30 minutes three times a week for a month. A heart-rate monitor ensures clients stay within a fat-burning zone. Also, Goonie and her staff provide clients with dietary guidelines, including no food two hours after a session to avoid spiking insulin levels, which can trigger the storing of fat.
Goonie discovered Hypoxi while living in Australia. She tried it for a month, lost 6 pounds and developed a slimmer tummy, her problem area.
She and her mother and business partner Mireya Marache, opened the Hypoxi studio in Sugar Land in 2010 and relocated to West Ave in 2012.
"I didn't like to exercise at all and never could find the time for it," said Goonie, a Houston native who formerly worked as a financial analyst with Wells Fargo.
Hypoxi is especially helpful for those with poor circulation since the vacuum pressure can help increase blood flow, she said.
Shadston Pittman, fitness director for the City of Houston, is a skeptic of targeted weight-lost programs but admits he's not familiar with Hypoxi.
"I try not to discourage people, but I tell them the combination of diet and exercise is tried and true. I think the leaner you are, the easier it is to work on trouble spots, but it still reverts back to losing body fat through diet and exercise."
Pittman added the techniques, like Hypoxi, can offer more fitness options than the traditional gym workouts.
"Now people are getting fit and enjoying it doing things they like to do," he said. "It doesn't have to be hard, but just consistent."
Garcia said she did five Hypoxi sessions a week for a month during lunch breaks because with a job, home and children, she didn't have time for long workouts at a gym. She stopped the sessions in January because of the cost, she said.
Hypoxi isn't cheap. Training sessions are $30-$71 a session with one- to three-month memberships available.
Garcia does plan to return soon to help lose a few more pounds.
"To live good, feel good and for my doctor to take me off all the medication I was on, the expense is worth it," she said. "My life is worth it."
To learn more about Hypoxi Houston, visit www.hypoxihouston.com or call the studio at 713-524-3950.