Six million people have had stubborn fat removed by a nonsurgical procedure called cryolipolysis since it was approved by the FDA in 2010. But can "freezing" your fat off really work?
courtesy Grace Spencer
I first heard about CoolSculpting at a plastic surgery conference back in 2008. CoolSculpting is the trademark name for a nonsurgical procedure called cryolipolysis that effectively spot-reduces subcutaneous fat tissue by essentially freezing fat cells, while sparing Skin, nerves, and muscles in surrounding areas. At the time, surgeons on the panel expressed doubts, concerned that processing extra fat might affect cholesterol levels. Fast forward almost a decade and subsequent research observes multiple studies demonstrating that cholesterol, triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein, high-density lipoprotein, aspartate transaminase/alanine transaminase, total bilirubin, albumin, and glucose remain within normal limits.
I had been skeptical—until I attended a CoolSculpting event last fall. Actress Debra Messing was the event spokesperson, and she shared her own experience and opinions. “CoolSculpting gives people the ability to feel better in their own skin and doesn’t require major surgery or anything aggressive,” she said. “It’s safe, fast, easy, and comfortable and you can do it for yourself.”
My interest was piqued further when I learned that CoolSculpting is approved by the FDA for the upper arm, banana roll (underneath the butt), submental area (neck), thigh, abdomen, and flank, and it can also reduce back fat and love handles—two areas I had struggled with forever. My back “bra fat” bothered me most when I would wear a tank top and the folds of skin would peek out the sides. As for the love handles, I’m sure I don’t have to explain to anyone what a muffin top is. It seemed no matter how much weight I lost or how many HIIT classes I took, these stubborn areas of fat weren’t budging. (Here are some more ways to lose love handles without exercise.)
I cast my doubts aside and signed up for a session to have the two areas treated. I went in not really knowing what to expect, except that I would not need anesthesia and I would be able to drive myself home afterward. Best of all, I would be awake and alert and could even bring a laptop to get some work done during treatment.
I met with Omar Ibrahimi, MD, of the Connecticut Skin Institute, a.k.a. Dr. Omar. CoolSculpting works best on those who are at or near their ideal weight—it isn’t intended as a weight-loss procedure. He examined me, and confirmed that I was a good candidate for the treatment.
Up first: back fat. The CoolSculpting applicators come in five sizes, depending on the area being treated. The nurse applied gel to the area, then clamped the CoolAdvantage Petite applicators to my back and cautioned that I would need to sit very still or the panels might fall off. Suddenly, things got very cold very fast. Luckily it was a level of cold that just naturally numbed the area, which is one of the reasons the treatment is virtually painless.
Fortunately, the treatment room had a TV streaming Netflix to distract me. The nurse left me in the room while the panels did their work. It was marginally uncomfortable to have to sit in the same position for 30 minutes, but that was about as bad as it got. There was an emergency call button at my disposal, in case I felt too uncomfortable, but I never needed to use it. The nurse came back to check on me about midway through the procedure and I was fine.
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The only time I was uncomfortable at all was near the very end. When the 30 minutes were up, the nurse removed each panel individually, set an egg timer for two minutes, and massaged each area with her hands to bring back circulation. That feeling was intense and unlike anything I had previously felt—not painful exactly, but definitely a strong and weird feeling.
Then it was time to treat my love handles. She repeated the same procedure, placing gel and applicators on four spots total on my hips and back. Two spots, one on each side, were treated at a time for 30 minutes each. This time, I was able to move my arms freely, so I distracted myself by working on my laptop.
When the time was up, the nurse massaged each area and again I experienced the same odd sensations.
courtesy Grace Spencer
Following the procedure, I was checking the mirror every day. I’d been told that though some people start to see results at three weeks, it can take others about 30 days. Sure enough, right at the 30-day mark I noticed my back fat was disappearing! A week later, my jeans were zipping up easier. Fast forward four months, and I can officially say that in my experience CoolSculpting works: I’m so happy to see those stubborn areas of fat have disappeared—without surgery and virtually pain-free.
courtesy Grace SpencerNote that according to CoolSculpting literature, “Patients who undergo the CoolSculpting treatment can expect to see a noticeable reduction in the treated area, an average of 20 to 23 percent.” Some people may continue to see improvement up to six months after the treatment. Others may have to get more than one treatment to get the results they want.
Read on for 50 more ways to lose weight and tone up without exercise.