If fitting into your favorite holiday outfit is getting a little more difficult each year, it may be time to try cosmetic medicine. Innovative, nonsurgical fat freezing methods, such as CoolSculpting, provide a convenient and low-risk way to get rid of unwanted body fat. If you’re a healthy weight but your belly won’t budge no matter how much you work out, CoolSculpting can give you back your shape.
Why Abdominal Sculpting is Often Necessary to Achieve a Flat Stomach
The flawlessly taut bellies we see so frequently on TV and in magazines are seldom found in nature. Many otherwise slim, healthy people have a small “muffin top” simply due to genetic or hormonal factors. This is especially true for women; their lower testosterone levels and higher estrogen levels lead to a tendency to store more subcutaneous fat, especially around the lower abdomen and flanks. Pregnancy can also reduce the strength of the abdominal muscles and create additional fat deposits.
For many people, small but troubling “problem areas” are a fact of life—the only “natural” way to get rid of them is usually via extreme dieting, a solution that is neither sustainable nor healthy. What’s more, even if you were lucky enough to be born with great genes and could once get the perfect six-pack through eating well and exercising, you may notice this ability slipping away with age. The fabled “middle-aged spread” is no mere myth; nor is it the simple byproduct of working a sedentary job. Our bodies experience unavoidable changes as we get older, and these changes cause them to store fat around the abdomen. Decreasing hormone levels (in both men and women) reduce the speed of the metabolism and cause the body to create more visceral fat (a type of fat which clusters around the trunk). This occurs even if you don’t gain any weight as you get older, hence why many people over 40 find that they cannot fit into their old clothes even if they haven’t put on additional pounds. Adding to these issues, we tend to lose muscle mass as we get older, making it more difficult to shed fat and develop obvious muscle tone.
For many otherwise healthy people, these issues don’t warrant going surgery. Taking a surgical approach to a relatively minor problem, like an extra inch or two of belly fat, can feel overly extreme to those who aren’t comfortable with the idea of plastic surgery. At the same time, however, these additional fat deposits can have a severe impact on our confidence and quality of life. Even a small “spare tire” can be enough to convince us to avoid wearing our favorite fitted clothing and to give up exercising in public. If you’re tired of feeling uncomfortable with your body but not ready for surgery, then CoolSculpting is probably the ideal compromise. Here’s how it works:
What is CoolSculpting?
CoolSculpting is an FDA-approved treatment that damages fat cells by applying extreme cold to them. This technology, which is known as cryolipolysis, is capable of treating fat cells while leaving the patient’s skin entirely unharmed. This is possible thanks to an anomaly of human biology known as “popsicle panniculitis.” This effect was discovered by two Harvard University doctors, Dieter Manstein and R. Rox Anderson, after they observed that their children developed dimples following frequent popsicle consumption. When the doctors took a closer look at the facial composition of their children, they realized that the repeated exposure to cold was eliminating a tiny percentage of their facial fat cells. The doctors had a flash of insight: If they could take this process and make it many times more powerful—without damaging the skin and surrounding tissues—then they could create a safe, effective solution for unwanted fat deposits. It was the initial work of Dieter Manstein and R. Rox Anderson that led to the CoolSculpting technology we have today.
Not only is the technology behind CoolSculpting effective, it’s highly versatile. Though most people use CoolSculpting to target abdominal fat, it’s not limited to this area of application. Unlike many other nonsurgical fat sculpting procedures, CoolSculpting can be used to treat multiple areas of the body. Some surgeons now use this procedure to remove fat from the thighs, flanks, arms, back, and even the chin and neck. If you have more than one deposit of stubborn fat you would like removed, ask your cosmetic surgeon about which areas he or she is willing to treat.
What to Expect During and After a CoolSculpting Appointment
Thanks to the innovative technology behind CoolSculpting, no incisions must be made during this procedure and it will not cause any burns or wounds. This noninvasive approach is possible thanks to the specially-designed applicators that are used during treatment. They deliver controlled cooling to subcutaneous fat cells while keeping the outer layer of the dermis comfortably warm.
Once the CoolSculpting applicator is applied to your skin, you’ll feel a sensation of suction and possibly experience a bit of tingling or numbness. Some patients also report mild pain and discomfort, but this varies from person to person (depending on the patient’s individual physiology and pain tolerance). One person might find CoolSculpting so relaxing that he or she reads a book during treatment, while another might feel as though he or she is experiencing a rough massage. If you fall into the latter category, just ask your plastic surgeon what he or she can do to make you more comfortable.
After your CoolSculpting session is complete, your body will begin the gradual process of excreting all of the fat cells that were “frozen.” These cells will be released via the lymphatic system and liver over a period of two to three months. This is a safe, natural process and you will not feel it happening. You’ll just notice your abdomen (or other treated area) getting progressively slimmer after several weeks.
If your stomach area actually looks a bit “puffier” immediately after your CoolSculpting appointment, don’t panic. Most patients experience a bit of swelling after CoolSculpting due to the body’s natural inflammation response. While CoolSculpting does not harm the skin, the fact that it does damage to adipose tissue can prompt the body to “protect” the treated area via swelling. This swelling usually subsides anywhere from one to three weeks after treatment. You may also experience some mild bruising in the first week after treatment, if you’re prone to bruising.
In rare cases, patients experience mild nerve pain following CoolSculpting, but this too is purely temporary and will wear off within a few weeks. Only about 10 percent of patients report experiencing pain either during or after CoolSculpting, so you’re unlikely to experience this issue. If you do, however, you can manage it with over the counter pain relievers like ibuprofen. Some people also find that wearing compression garments, such as Spanx undergarments, helps to control pain and swelling.
Once your body has finished excreting the damaged fat cells, you’ll notice a significant reduction in the amount of fat you have in the areas that were treated. (CoolSculpting is capable of destroying about 24 percent of the fat cells in treated areas.) Better still, you’ll be happy to know that this effect is permanent—The fat cells destroyed by CoolSculpting will never grow back. While it’s possible (in rare cases) for patients to grow new fat cells in regions treated by abdominal sculpting procedures, this only occurs after very significant weight gain (i.e., over 30 pounds). Normal fluctuations in your weight therefore will not compromise the results of your CoolSculpting treatment.
Note that while most people need just one CoolSculpting session, some patients require multiple appointments. If you wish to have multiple areas of fat treated (such as both your stomach and your flanks), you will need to book more than one appointment.
CoolSculpting can cover large areas quickly and effectively, making it one of the best nonsurgical treatments for larger fat deposits. At the same time, however, like all surgical and nonsurgical body sculpting procedures, CoolSculpting is not intended to replace healthy weight loss. If you are significantly overweight, you will need to lose the bulk of your body fat before considering cosmetic medicine. CoolSculpting, liposuction, and other similar procedures have been designed to eliminate small to medium-sized fat deposits, not to treat obesity. If you are struggling with your weight, you should talk to your doctor about finding a sustainable long-term solution.
Who Makes a Good CoolSculpting Candidate?
To be a good candidate for CoolSculpting, you’ll need to be a healthy weight and in good overall health. If you suffer from a chronic pain condition, such as fibromyalgia, then CoolSculpting may not be right for you. Those with existing pain issues are much more likely to experience nerve pain and swelling both during and after this procedure. Poorly-managed diabetes, autoimmune conditions, and severe cardiovascular disease may also make you a poor candidate for CoolSculpting. If you have any outstanding health conditions, talk to your doctor about whether or not you can safely have fat freezing treatment. You should also ask him or her if any of your current medications will interfere with your ability to have nonsurgical abdominal sculpting performed. Finally, be aware that you should not have CoolSculpting if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant in the next few months, or breastfeeding.
As long as you’re a good candidate for CoolSculpting, you can rest assured that this procedure is extremely safe. Because no incisions are made during this treatment and no anesthetic is used, your risk of infection, scarring, and other adverse reactions is extremely low.
While the results of CoolSculpting are generally very reliable, some people have especially dense fat that does not respond well to nonsurgical treatments like CoolSculpting. If you cannot pinch at least an inch of fat on the area (or areas) you wish to have treated, then CoolSculpting might not produce optimal results for you. If this is the case, ask your plastic surgeon about getting liposuction instead. You should also remember that CoolSculpting is not intended to treat skin laxity. If your tummy pouch is being caused by loose skin (a common result of pregnancy, prior obesity, and aging), then you will need to have the skin removed via tummy tuck surgery in order to achieve a truly flat stomach.
For those who are well-suited to this procedure, CoolSculpting provides a convenient, low-risk way to improve the tone of the abdomen, back, thighs, etc. CoolSculpting is more affordable than liposuction, both directly and in the fact that it doesn’t require patients to take time off of work. If you’re busy dealing with your career and family life (and who isn’t just prior to the holidays?), then CoolSculpting is the perfect way to start your journey toward a better body. This holiday season, give yourself the gift of CoolSculpting, and enjoy the results!