Right now, as I type this, my stomach is getting sucked up into a vacuum-like machine and my fat cells frozen and destroyed so that my body can eliminate them. Welcome to my CoolSculpting appointment.
So, let's talk post-baby bodies....I've had three kids and by all accounts, I know I've fared pretty well. I was able to lose most of the baby weight and only have a few stretch marks, but the stomach...oh the stomach. As many of you know, things are stretched and moved around just don't look like they used to. I was left with diastasis (a separation of the abdominal muscles) as well as pooch. After having my third and final child, I got serious about getting my body back in shape. I ate healthy foods, watched my portions, and exercised regularly.
The result? My stomach looked worse. I could feel my stomach muscles getting stronger, but any weight that I lost, well, none of it seemed to be in my stomach. The end result was that as my body started to look slimmer, my belly pooch look even more prominent as highlighted by the store clerk who, after a month of especially good workouts, asked me when I was due. This was frustrating. I was willing to work hard to regain my shape, but three years and many workouts later, exercising had only made it look worse. I went for a consultation for a tummy tuck, but both the price and the downtime were hard to swallow. Then I learned about CoolSculpting.
Below I'll do my best to answer some of the questions I had before I began and those that some of you have asked me so you can decide is CoolSculpting might be right for you. Then, I'll post my before/after shots in about a month and a half and try to answer any additional questions you leave in the comments below.
What is CoolSculpting?
CoolSculpting is a non-invasive fat removal procedure designed by two Harvard University scientists, Dieter Manstein, MD and R. Rox Anderson, MD, who noticed that children would get dimples when they ate popsicles. This led to additional research to find the perfect temperature that would freeze fat cells without destroying the surrounding tissue. Unlike working out or dieting that reduces the fat in your fat cells, CoolSculpting actually destroys some of these fat cells, decreasing the total number of fat cells in the treated area. Then, your body naturally eliminates these dead fat cells over the course of a few months.
Is CoolSculpting safe?
CoolSculpting was approved by the FDA in 2010 and more than 1 million treatments for men and women have been performed to date, with over 427,000 in 2013.
What areas can treated?
The most common treatment areas are the stomach, love handles, and back, but CoolSculpting can also be done to the under arms, thighs, saddle bags, bra fat, inner knees, gynecomastia , and waist. As my CoolScultping technician told me, you usually need to have enough to pinch to be able to treat the area.
What happens during a treatment?
A technician will take before/after photos and then mark the best position on your body to place the CoolSculpting device to create the best results. A thin gauze with a skin protecting gel is applied to the area and then the CoolSculpting suction device is attached. There are different shaped devices for different parts of your body (love handle vs. stomach vs. thigh), but as you can see below, the stomach one is roughly 2" wide by 7" long and as it is applied to your skin, it sucks the skin up into the device and begins to freeze it. Yes, that's my belly fat being sucked into the CoolScultper. Each treatment lasts one hour during which time you are just sitting there reading, resting, watching TV or working, like I am right now. If you are treating multiple areas, some can be done simultaneously like the lower left abdomen and your right inner thigh, for example.
Finally, studies have shown that vigorous manual massage done immediately after CoolSculpting improves the destruction of fat cells. But as you can image, massage techniques can vary greatly from center to center and technician to technician. At Marina Plastic Surgery where I received my treatment, instead of manual massage, they use a device called the Zimmer Z-wave that uses Radial Pulse Therapy (imagine a tiny jackhammer inside of a handheld baton) that is rubbed over the treated area for about 2 minutes to help break down the frozen fat cells and improve your results.
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What does it feel like?
When the CoolSculpting suction device is attached, it feels pretty much like you'd expect - your skin getting sucked into a mini vacuum. Then the freezing kicks in and for the first 5-7 minutes this is mildly uncomfortable. My technician said the less fat you have, the more uncomfortable it is since then the machine is pulling more on the skin. But then that section of skin goes numb and you don't feel much of anything for the next hour. After the treatment is done, the machine is removed and I'll say that this was the worst part of the treatment.
One person described it as a frozen stick of butter - except it's your fat in this oddly rectangular frozen block. I'll spare you a photo of this. The second part of the treatment with the Zimmer feels a bit odd - imagine a baton-shaped device giving you shiatsu massage - you know, the karate chop one? - but since it's being done on your frozen skin, you don't feel much. That is until they hit the edges where frozen skin meets not-frozen skin and then it can feel like a repeated rubber band snap.
What are the side-effects of CoolSculpting?
Potential side effects from the treatment are bruising, swelling and numbness. My technician recommended taking arnica (found at most health food stores) for 2-3 days before my treatment which is supposed to reduce the chance of bruising and also limiting alcohol before the treatment. I did both of these before my first treatment and had no bruising though I did have numbness and swelling for the first two weeks. For this second treatment, I completely forgot about both these recommendations so we'll see how I fare with no arnica and a glass of wine with dinner last night.
(Update: Second treatment with no arnica AND wine and I still didn't have any bruising, but this can vary from person to person). Immediately after the treatment your skin looks red and a bit swollen so you shouldn't plan on donning a swimsuit after your session, but you can walk, sit, drive and bend. Below, my stomach immediately after the treatment and two hours after the treatment.
How much does CoolSculpting cost?
Rates vary slightly from practice to practice, but on average CoolSculpting is about $750 per cycle (A cycle is considered one one-hour treatment on one body part). So doing your inner thighs would be two cycles, one for each thigh. The abdomen can be divided into up to four cycles - two upper and two lower areas - though depending on your body type and where your fat is you may not need all four areas treated.
How long does it take to see results from CoolSculpting?
Like most non-invasive procedures, CoolSculpting is more in the "slow and steady" category. It's not an overnight fix. In fact, for at least two weeks following my first treatment, my abdomen was a bit swollen, making it look worse than it had before the procedure. CoolSculpting claims it can take 12-14 weeks for your body to break down and eliminate the destroyed fat cells, so you'll need to be patient to see your results. Some patients may need two treatments on an area for the best results.
* Check out my before/after post & pictures here! *
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Momtrends was not paid for this post. We were provided with a CoolSculpting procedure to facilitate the review.