MELT AWAY

Freezing off love han­dles sounds too good to be true? Wel­come to the next gen­er­a­tion of body con­tour­ing, writes

VOGUE Australia - - News - Remy Rip­pon.

Wel­come to the next gen­er­a­tion of body con­tour­ing.

Let’s take a minute to fully ap­pre­ci­ate the splen­dour of Spanx. De­spite their uni­ver­sal abil­ity to re­pel the op­po­site sex, the un­der­gar­ments are now a firmly estab­lished sta­ple in women’s un­der­wear draw­ers (and in their hearts), as the brand rev­o­lu­tionised the mar­ket and the way cloth­ing, par­tic­u­larly dresses, hugged the body. Like ren­der over brick­work, there’s lit­tle that these loin­cloths of elas­ti­cised ma­te­rial won’t mag­i­cally con­ceal. But that’s where the magic stops. Sure enough, those reg­u­lar prob­lem ar­eas re­turn as soon as your reg­u­lar ros­ter of Calvin Kleins does.

The fact of the mat­ter is, de­spite a healthy diet and tar­geted ex­er­cise, of­ten­times those prob­lem ar­eas – love han­dles, f lanks, muffin tops, sad­dle bags (all so cre­atively nick­named, too) – are the most chal­leng­ing to shift. Lit­tle pock­ets of con­tention that oth­ers sel­dom no­tice have likely grown into your bug­bear, im­ped­ing a slip dress from slip­ping, a waisted dress from cinch­ing, cig­a­rette pants from skim­ming.

“With any­one who’s ex­er­cis­ing, there are ar­eas that you just can’t move no mat­ter what you do,” says Dr Ro­hit Ku­mar, cos­metic plas­tic sur­geon at Syd­ney Cos­metic Sanc­tu­ary. A study by Univer­sity of Con­necti­cut re­searchers, in which par­tic­i­pants com­pleted 12 weeks of tar­geted re­sis­tance train­ing on their non­dom­i­nant arm, found no ev­i­dence to sug­gest lo­calised fat loss or spot re­duc­tion oc­curred, putting paid to the no­tion that although crunches will go some way to smooth­ing out a trou­ble­some muffin-top, it’s less likely to nix it al­to­gether.

The pur­suit of tar­geted fat loss or, to put it more elo­quently, body con­tour­ing, is above all a num­bers game. Con­ven­tional weight con­trol meth­ods only con­tract the size of ex­ist­ing fat cells, mean­ing that while the dig­its on the scales may drop, there are

“THERE ARE AR­EAS THAT YOU JUST CAN’T MOVE NO MAT­TER WHAT EXERCISES YOU DO”

still the same num­ber of cells in those nig­gling zones. Un­til re­cently, only in­va­sive (and painful) pro­ce­dures, of­ten with lengthy down­times, such is the case with li­po­suc­tion, were able to al­ter the num­ber of fat cells in a given area.

A hot topic State­side, the TGA- and FDA-ap­proved con­tour­ing de­vice CoolSculpt­ing is lead­ing the charge in body sculpt­ing. It de­ploys con­trolled-freezing tech­nol­ogy to re­duce fat cells con­tained in a cer­tain area of the body. “It’s a break­through pro­ce­dure,” says cos­metic and laser der­ma­tol­o­gist Dr Michelle Hunt. “It’s a quick, easy, non-in­va­sive and ef­fec­tive way of get­ting rid of those un­wanted bulges of fat that don’t dis­ap­pear de­spite diet and ex­er­cise.”

“I have pa­tients come to me and ask for a tummy tuck and I say: ‘I could give you a good re­sult with tummy tuck, but it is very ex­pen­sive and you prob­a­bly don’t need that.’ I could prob­a­bly give you 90 to 95 per cent of that us­ing CoolSculpt­ing,” says Dr Ku­mar.

Heat­ing de­vices have been used in the past to sculpt and tone, but more re­cently ex­perts have un­cov­ered the ground-break­ing ben­e­fits of cooling. Rather iron­i­cally, sci­en­tists made the un­likely dis­cov­ery of the ben­e­fits of sub-zero tem­per­a­tures by ob­serv­ing that chil­dren who con­sumed ice-blocks, of all things, were los­ing the full­ness in their cheeks as a di­rect re­sult of fat cells dy­ing off. While heat will nix ev­ery­thing it en­coun­ters (in­clud­ing nerve cells), cooling tech­niques are more se­lec­tive in their ap­proach. “Some cells are more re­silient than oth­ers, so when you drop the tem­per­a­ture to neg­a­tive seven [de­grees Cel­sius] for CoolSculpt­ing, the fat cells are go­ing to die, but the nerve cells don’t, the skin doesn’t, the sur­round­ing cells and col­la­gen don’t,” he ex­plains. “The cells then un­dergo a process called apop­to­sis, which is the same as when any­thing dies in our body. Our cells are un­der­go­ing this con­stantly, but this is do­ing this specif­i­cally for our fat.” To put it into terms were all fa­mil­iar with, con­sider CoolSculpt­ing the neck-down coun­ter­part to Bo­tox: a rel­a­tively pain­less lunchtime treat­ment that won’t dras­ti­cally mod­ify but will de­liver a small, no­tice­able tweak. It’s by no means a Band-Aid so­lu­tion (un­like Spanx, bless them) to re­place a balanced diet and ef­fec­tive ex­er­cise reg­i­men. “It doesn’t work like that at all; that’s not what it does,” says Dr Ku­mar, who sees his fair share of pa­tients in search of a mir­a­cle pro­ce­dure to sub­sti­tute break­ing a sweat. “It’s re­ally for some­body who’s fit, ex­er­cis­ing and near their goal, but just wants to go that lit­tle bit fur­ther.”

That “lit­tle bit” equates to around a 20 per cent re­duc­tion in bulge from the tar­geted area: abs, flanks, in­ner or outer thighs, arms and, if you’re game, even the chin. As Dr Ku­mar af­firms: “If you can pinch it, we can freeze it.”

For one col­league, it was her mid-sec­tion that met the pinch test. What she equated to a spare tyre was lit­tle more than an inch or two of stubborn bulge she re­tained af­ter giv­ing birth. De­spite a ros­ter of spin classes, Pi­lates exercises and even gru­elling cir­cuit train­ing – “surely en­gag­ing al­most ev­ery mov­ing mus­cle will get rid of it”, she protested – they all failed to shift that stubborn layer.

On a Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon at Dr Ku­mar’s clinic in Syd­ney’s in­ner west, my road-testers’ stom­ach is first as­sessed, be­fore the space-age CoolSculpt­ing de­vice is ap­plied via a suc­tion mech­a­nism that pulls in the fold of skin like a vac­uum. The first four min­utes are un­com­fort­able, she says, but not un­bear­able. She likened it to an acutely cold bag of frozen peas she puts on her kids’ bumps and bruises when they in­jure them­selves. She calls her hus­band to take her mind off the tin­gling sen­sa­tion, and by the third ring her mid-sec­tion is all but numb.

She works her way through her in­box (Dr Ku­mar says some clients have been known to order take­away, go fig­ure) then the hour is up and it’s time to re­move the ma­chine, leav­ing the area less like a tyre and more like, iron­i­cally, a frozen slab of but­ter. The rock-hard area of the stom­ach is then mas­saged us­ing a spe­cific de­vice and tech­nique, which soft­ens the area back into its pre-treat­ment shape.

Af­ter re­ceiv­ing a glow­ing re­port from my col­league, I probe Dr Ku­mar on the pos­si­ble side-ef­fects. He’s quick to of­fer that

“it is pos­si­ble that if you had the treat­ment in one area and did it again you could end up with a scal­lop­ing. So the doc­tor needs to be very care­ful in the way the head [of the de­vice] is ap­plied and to take into ac­count the whole sur­face.”

Mean­while, im­i­ta­tions are rife, but not all sculpt­ing de­vices were cre­ated equal: there is a slew of me-too de­vices that give mixed re­sults. Like­wise, as is the case with all cos­metic pro­ce­dures, the skill of the physi­cian is tan­ta­mount. “You’ve got to rely on, to a de­gree, the eye and aes­thetic skill of the per­son ap­ply­ing it,” says Dr Ku­mar. As are man­ag­ing ex­pec­ta­tions: if you think you’ll look down and in­stantly see cen­time­tres melted from your stom­ach, then pre­pare to be un­der­whelmed. A 2014 study pub­lished in Clin­i­cal, Cos­metic and In­ves­ti­ga­tional Der­ma­tol­ogy found an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of re­spon­dents who had cooling pro­ce­dures re­ported a pos­i­tive per­cep­tion of the du­ra­tion, dis­com­fort level and sat­is­fac­tion post-treat­ment.

For my col­league, the real proof came around 10 weeks later, via her wardrobe. Modal tees no longer hung at her mid-sec­tion and ev­ery­day work dresses felt ever-so-slightly roomier. And the real test? The Spanx were rel­e­gated to the back of the un­der­wear drawer. “I didn’t re­alise how much I was ac­tu­ally suck­ing in my tummy to coun­ter­act that stubborn spot,” she says. “I felt it was dis­pro­por­tion­ate to the rest of my body. Now the real plus side of it is that I don’t even have to think about it.”

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