Is fat freezing, or cryolipolysis, the answer to stubborn belly fat? Alison Izzo tried it, and thinks yes.
Ok, asking for friend… how long can I legitimately use the ‘new mum’ excuse for my belly fat?
My daughter is now 14 months old, I’ve finished breastfeeding and am back at work. Life has settled into a more manageable routine, and I’m well clear of those hazy newborn sleep-deprived months. My day-today is starting to look like as used to pre-baby, but my body is not.
Tiffany Hall would beg to differ with me here – she’s all about the ‘bounce-forward’ not the ‘bounce-back’ – and I take her point. Things are never going to look the same, and I accept that. Post-baby, my arms are more muscular (hauling around an 11 kilogram toddler will do that), my boobs are smaller (meh), butI now have stubborn pockets of fat around my belly and hips that no amount of barre classes seem to be able to shift.
Which led me to the wonderful world of non-invasive body sculpting, or the less-appealing sounding ‘fat cavitation’.
How do you get rid of belly fat?
Body sculpting, or fat freezing, has been around for a while, but like laser hair removal and injectables, clinics are now popping up in local shopping centres – suggesting that Australians are keen to try these kind of ‘tweakments,’ and come back for more for.
Samantha Barakat Light, founder of Body Catalyst, is mum of two who knew my frustration. After seeing the results for herself, she’s now a passionate advocate for sharing the treatment with time-poor mums in the same boat. Since starting her clinics in 2015, Samantha has seen a 60-80% growth in consumers demand for this non-invasive alternative to liposuction, and compares the rise of fat freezing to “where Botox was 10 years ago”.
Bolstered by the promise of a 20 – 30% reduction of fat in the areas treated, with no downtime (or gym time) required, I book in for a fat freezing treatment on my lower belly and ‘love handles’.
What are the risks associated with fat freezing?
I’m put through a rigorous information session in the days prior. My diet, exercise and lifestyle are quizzed – and the therapist doesn’t seem as worried about my twice-daily coffee addiction, or 3pm chocolate habit, as I am. Thankfully.
My therapist flags the potential side effects: bruising, hyperpigmentation, or in very rare cases something called paradoxical (adipose) hyperplasia where treated fat cells actually grow and expand, as opposed to shrink and die. Yikes! I can’t help but laugh at the cruel irony of getting a ‘body sculpting’ treatment only to end up with double or triple the amount of fat. Hunter reassures me she’s never seen a case in her career and the chances of it happening are 0.0051%. I silently pray I’m not one of those unlucky few.
Nervously I arrive for my appointment at the Body Catalyst clinic in Bondi Junction, which looks and feels more like somewhere you’d get a facial than your fat frozen off.
Does fat freezing hurt?
After covering my stomach with cold glycerine to protect the skin, my therapist Hunter places the suction head (which looks a vacuum cleaner head) of the Clatuu 360° machine on my lower belly and I feel a distinct lifting feeling. The feeling is akin to someone taking a strong but not unpleasant pinch of my flub with their fingers.
Then, it changes and I feel some discomfort; cold but not like frostbite, more like a strong pressure that’s a bit bite-y. It lasts about seven minutes before everything goes numb and I can only feel the weight of the suction head on my abdomen. I get back to my emails, and before I know it 49 minutes have passed and the machine pipes up: a clinical voice in a slightly American accent tells me ‘the treatment will end in one minute.’
Then, the fun begins. Hunter removes the suction head holy moley it’s like a scene from Alien. Or Botched. The soft pouch below my navel has turned into a bright pink, hard, oblong brick of lard. Hunter massages my belly to break up the fat block (charming), and this isn’t painful but it does feel a bit odd.
This is what happened when she took off the suction head. If you’re squeamish, perhaps keep scrolling.
Hunter warned me about the ‘after pain’ – which she describes as a strong cramping, not unlike period pain. I’m lucky enough to get a severe case and I’d definitely put it at the upper-end of unpleasant experiences I’ve subjected myself to in the name of vanity. It feels like someone’s sliced open and then pinched my abdomen, and the shock of the pain leaves me feeling faint and clammy.
I try to ‘walk it off’ in the small treatment room but that makes me feel dizzy, so I lie down and take lots of deep breaths. The feeling starts to lessen after about five minutes, and then – thankfully – completely disappears.
Apparently there’s no way the therapists can tell who will or won’t be affected – even if they’ve experienced it before in a prior treatment. I take this on board when Hunter asks if I still want to proceed with treating my ‘love handles’ and I take a deep inhale before saying ‘Sure.’ No pain no gain, right?
I lie on my stomach and the same – glycerin-suction head-discomfort-numbness routine happens again, this time on both sides of my hips. I could easily go to sleep, if my bulging inbox wasn’t calling my name.
In readiness, Hunter brings in some jelly beans as low blood sugar can make the pain worse. I dutifully gobble them up. Again, I get the ‘after pain’ but at least this time I know what I’m in for.
What are the side effects of fat freezing?
Afterwards, the treated areas are a bit red and tender but I’m up and dressed and on my way to work within 15 minutes. For the following few weeks my tummy and hips feel numb on the surface, and like they’re bruised underneath, but otherwise I don’t experience any side effects, apart from the impatience of wanting to see results.
So, does fat freezing actually work?
In a word, yes.
Two weeks after the treatment I start to notice the skin and area treated softening, like the areas have been deflated.
Around the six-week mark, my love handles are no longer peeking over the top of my pants, and by the eight-week mark my clothes feel looser around my waist too.
After 12 weeks I can see how my hips have changed shape and my stomach – whilst still far from a JLo six-pack – is noticeably flatter.
When I go in for my final measurements actually weigh more when I than I did when I had the treatment (I’m blaming a week-long birthday festivus just prior…), but that only makes the results more astounding.
I lost a total of 11 centimetres; four and half from my waistline, half a centimetre from my lower waist and six centimetres from my love handles.
My clothes fit better than before I fell pregnant, I feel more confident and more like my ‘old’ self. It feels a bit like magic, and I guess it is.
So would I do it again? Absolutely. I’d just be sure pre-load on jelly beans beforehand.