{Beauty} Can You Freeze Away Your Belly Fat?

A new device promises fat loss without surgery, diets or exercise. FOF investigates.

When we first heard about Coolsculpting at the FOF offices, there was one resounding response from our staff: “Sounds too good to be true.”

The claim: A new, non-surgical procedure can actually “freeze” away your fat cells. No dieting, cutting, anesthesia or recovery time. Just an hour in your doctor’s office, hooked up to a non-invasive “Coolsculpting” machine. Then, watch your fat slowly melt away.

But over the last few months, several doctors we trust have praised the procedure, so we felt compelled to investigate.

What we discovered: “Coolscupting” technology was created by Zeltiq, a global medical device company. It’s based on a process called Cryolipolysis, developed by two researchers at Harvard Medical School. These doctors demonstrated that fat cells are more susceptible to extreme cold than other cells and can be selectively destroyed without damaging the overlying skin. During “Coolsculpting,” a machine cools a targeted area of a patient’s body. Within several days of receiving the procedure, cooled fat cells begin a process called apoptosis (natural cell death) and begin to shrink and disappear. Clinical trials showed an average 20-percent reduction in fat in the treated area within 16 weeks.

Here, two doctors who have performed the procedure, and a patient who’s tried it, answer our most pressing questions. Read what they have to say, and tell us, would you try it?


Expert testimony: Dr. Debra Jaliman, dermatologist, American Academy of Dermatology spokesperson and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist

“I’m a doctor and a patient–I used it on myself.  I read all the studies; it sounded good, so I bought the machine for my practice. Before I used it on anyone else, I used it on my own back fat. Afterward I kept pinching my back, and I didn’t notice a difference–6 weeks, 12 weeks. I started to panic. But then at 16 weeks, there was nothing to pinch….it had totally worked. It was amazing.”

Does it hurt?
I didn’t find it painful, but people say I’m the exception. My patients do say they feel pressure–intense suction for the first 7 minutes. Some people find it unpleasant, and after you may have a bruise or a red spot and feel sore for a few weeks. Some people get cramping while the fat is dissolving.

Who do you think is a good candidate for this procedure?

Someone who takes care of herself and maintains a healthy weight, but has stubborn fat she can’t get rid of.

Who is not a good candidate?
Someone who doesn’t have enough fat. You have to have at least “an inch to pinch” we tell patients. Or someone who has too much fat. This isn’t for someone who is 80-90 pounds overweight. Also, it’s not right for someone with loose skin or lack of skin elasticity. This procedure only removes fat cells, so if you have droopy skin from age or weight loss, this procedure won’t help you.”

How many times do you need to have it done?
We normally recommend 1-2 treatments, depending on the person. We’re very careful about recommending a certain number of treatments, in writing, right at the start so that people don’t get upset when they need a second treatment.

How much is each treatment?
About $750 for the belly, and $750 per side for love handles.



Expert testimony:  Dr. Jon Mendelsohn, Medical Director of Advanced Cosmetic and Laser Center, Cincinnati, OH

“I’ve been using the machine in my practice for 16 months. I tested it on several people in my office and on my own abdominal area.”

Did it hurt?
On a scale of 1-10, it’s a 2-4. The suction did make me say, “oh my god” at first, and for several days after the area was hypersensitive.

Who is the best candidate for this procedure?
Someone who has realistic expections.  A typical patient will lose about 20-30 percent of their fat, as opposed to 80-90 percent which is what we can offer with liposuction. Lipo offers more volume, but of course, that’s an invasive, surgical procedure with recovery time. There’s no recovery time for this.

Would this be good for an FOF women, who, for example, has gained weight in her midsection during menopause?

Yes–definitely. This is not for the 350-pound person. It’s for the person who is at a pretty good weight, but has stubborn belly fat, love handles or back fat.

Are there any dangers or side effects? Is it safe to have that fat just dying off in your body?
It’s really no different than what your body would have to process if you ate some french fries. The liver breaks down the fat and you excrete it over time. If you had serious liver disease we would have to take that into consideration, but no, it’s not dangerous.

Have you had unsatisfied patients?
Generally, patients are very pleased. The only patients who aren’t happy are the ones with unrealistic expectations–they expected more extreme results. At this point, we’ve gotten very good at identifying good candidates. There will always be doctors who choose to treat anyone, whether or not he or she is a good candidate, and that’s when people get upset.




Expert testimony: Becky Neiheisel, age 62, Cincanniti, OH, Coolsculpting patient.



When and why did you have this procedure?
I did CoolSculpting this past July, becuase I wanted to get rid of some excess fat on my waist, back and thighs. I’d had liposuction a number of years ago, and I remember it being very painful and uncomfortable for quite a while afterward.  With this they said, ‘you come in for an hour, there’s no surgery, and there’s no pain afterward.’

So it didn’t hurt for you?
The only discomfort is very minor. While you’re having it done they clamp a suction cup on your body and try to grab as much of the fatty area as they can. Then it starts freezing the area.  At first it’s a little cold, but then it gets numb and you don’t feel anything. The biggest challenge is figuring out how to kill the hour.

How long before you saw results?
I saw a little after 2-2.5 months. But I didn’t see full results until about 4 months. I was absolutely astounded at the difference in 4 months. My husband started telling me how great I looked in my clothes. I lost about ½ inch around my waist and around each thigh. The area that’s been most impressive is my back. Before, I hated putting on my bra and seeing that little bit of fat bulge over the top of the straps in the back. I had stopped wearing all my thin knit tops because of it. I’m wearing them all again. The bulge is completely gone. I look 10 years younger from the back.

Have you recommended it to friends?
Yes, I recommended it to my son’s girlfriend, who asked me about it.

You are obviously happy with the results, but can you imagine someone who wouldn’t be?

To me it’s one of the neatest thing to come around in a long time. But, if you’re a rather impatient person–if you want to see results immediately, you won’t like it. You do have to wait.

Were there any negatives for you?

I’m always a little skeptical. When something sounds too good to be true, it’s probably not. But I really didn’t have any negatives.  Other than I forgot a book one time when I went in for the treatment and they had to turn on the TV for me.  I’m thrilled with the results.

So what do you think FOFs, considering the price, results, and everything else, is this something you’d consider?

{My Story} To Heal My Mind, I Had to Fix My Body

[Editor’s note: The essay below, by FOF member Mary Gobbo, is the first in a series of personal blogs from our readers. Have your own story to tell? Email your “What I Know Now” idea to geri@faboverfifty.com.]

I got my life back.

It’s as simple and as complicated as that.

For years, I struggled with my weight. I stand just under 5 foot 4 inches tall, and a year ago, I weighed 315 pounds. My health was in shambles. My kidneys were failing. I had an ocular hemorrhage. My blood pressure and blood sugars were out of control. According to one of my physicians, I was rapidly heading to the point of no return.

My children, all five boys, were very worried that I would not be around for them. I was worried too. I obviously wasn’t worried enough to do something serious about it, though. Oh, I tried Weight Watchers, the Rotation Diet, the South Beach Diet, the Grapefruit Diet, the Cabbage Soup Diet. With each one, I’d lose a little, only to get discouraged when I hit the inevitable plateau, at which point I’d gain back what I lost, plus several more pounds for good measure.

My primary care physician asked me repeatedly to consider weight loss surgery. I always refused, believing I could do it on my own. But when my kidneys began failing from diabetes, I knew it was time. I wanted a normal life. I deserved a normal life.  (We won’t discuss at this point what caused my weight gain. A team of psychologists is not needed. Suffice it to say that I had issues. I knew what they were, but I didn’t know how to really deal with them effectively. I just knew I wanted to live.)

I scheduled an appointment with a recommended surgeon.

After talking with the doctor about the four basic bariatric surgeries, I chose a procedure called the “duodenal switch” which minimized the risk of vomiting, “dumping” (a rapid rush of food into the small intestine, which causes nausea, faintness, sweating, etc) and, most of all, gaining the weight back. I could write a whole other essay about the different surgeries, and maybe that will be my next post!

When I set the date for the surgery, I was nervous, but one final incident gave me the motivation I needed.

The week before I was scheduled to have my procedure, I went on a choir trip to New York City with my youngest son. When I arrived at the bus, there was only one seat left. The man sitting next to me did not speak to me during the five-hours before our first stop. I was more than a little uncomfortable.  After our stop for dinner, I learned that he had told his son and a number of his friends that he didn’t want to sit next to “that FAT woman.” Devastated, I secured a seat in the very back of the other bus for the rest of the trip.

One week later, Dr. Marek Lutrzykowski performed the awe-inspiring, but intensive procedure. I spent a few days in intensive care. Recovery was challenging. I hurt! But I got through it. Once home, I made sure to walk several times a day and eventually hit the treadmill for 30 minutes a day. The weight started falling off.

Five months later, I am down over 100 pounds. I have 85 pounds to go to get to my ideal weight. Physically I’m so much stronger. But the emotional change is even more profound. With perspective, I can look back and admit how much my weight had taken over my life before the surgery. The truth: I had no self esteem. I didn’t want to be around other people. I hated myself.

Before my surgery, I came up with every excuse to avoid going out. Where would I park? How far did I need to walk? How many stairs would I need to climb? I recall a basketball game I attended at our local university. We were seated in the last row. On the way up, I had to stop several times to let other people pass. My heart was pounding and I could barely breathe when I got to the top. Once the game started, I had to go to the bathroom, but I held it in, knowing once I went down I would never make it back up the stairs.

This past weekend I attended a basketball game where we were seated, again, high in the stands. I made it up with my breath intact. The next night, I attended a Sting concert. My husband Steve, a very outgoing individual, had been very unhappy with how introverted I’d become. He loves getting out and about. Now I do too. We are going to Hilton Head for the holidays, and I intend on renting a bike to go all around the island and down the beach. I would never, ever have considered doing any of these things before May 18, 2011, the day I had my life changing surgery. It is now a pleasure putting on clothes. I take care of my hair now, and actually wear (a minimal amount of) makeup. I do my nails. I care again.

I saw a very good friend today.  I recounted to her that I just saw the man from the bus at a recent choir concert. My husband sat beside him, not knowing he was the one. I did not acknowledge him. Later, my husband asked me why I didn’t point him out so he could have said something to him. I replied, “That’s why. You can’t fix stupid.”  The truth is, I’ve forgiven him. Actually, I would love to say to him some day, “do you recall when you said those horrible things about me?  Well, THANK YOU!  It was because of you that I moved forward with my surgery, and now I have my life back.”

I want to help the many ladies out there who find themselves in the same boat I was in. I know I have many “sisters” who could benefit, and I hope to guide them through the troubled waters that are our lives.  Waters that can be calmed. They were for me.

Thank you for listening.

FOF Mary Gobbo, 56, is originally from Long Island, New York. She currently resides in Lansing, Michigan, and works part time for the State of Michigan as a secretary and part-time from home as a medical transcriptionist. She is now considering going back to school to complete her college degree.  She is also at work on a novel about a woman who “comes of age” at 45.