Fat Busting Options That Don’t Require Surgery
There is no denying that our culture is obsessed with losing body fat. Just ask anyone who has been up during the wee hours of the morning channel surfing, and they’d be hard-pressed to deny that they weren’t bombarded by infomercial after infomercial touting pills, potions and some odd looking contraptions that are “GUARANTEED” to help one lose fat or get their money back. And the fat-busting industry is no longer the domain of D-list celebrities - remember Suzanne Somers and her Thigh Master? These days many A-listers like Jennifer Hudson have attached their names and reputations to a slew of diets, pills and procedures claiming said regimen has rid them of their fat.
In my personal experience, any time I have attempted a fad diet and managed to lose pockets of stubborn fat, I’d gain it back tenfold the second I reverted back to a “normal” routine. But perhaps it was because I didn’t partake in the right fat-busting technique. And I know I am not alone. I also know that shedding fat without serious work and commitment including diet, starvation and extensive exercise is a goal of countless people worldwide and that short of liposuction, remains to be something anyone looking to drop some pounds seeks on a daily basis. I questioned expert Dr. Jennifer Walden about the current options available to bust fat without surgery and their respective effectiveness, long-term benefits and possible risks.
1) Do you believe there are effective nonsurgical procedures to shrink fatty areas of the body and tighten skin?
Yes, this is a growing component within the aesthetic industry for obvious reasons. It's like we are searching for the Holy Grail and are getting much, much warmer! There is solid scientific data behind some of these modalities to substantiate the findings of mild to modest fat loss and skin tightening.
2) Have you heard of, and can you discuss and compare the following fat reduction therapies and their benefits and effectiveness?
a) Ultrasound -There are several different manufacturers of devices that use ultrasonic waves to disrupt fat cells and cause skin tightening, with one example being Ultherapy. Ultherapy uses ultrasound energy to heat targeted tissue under the surface of the skin. I have tried one of the more common ones and it was painful and didn’t provide much in the way of change to my lower face and neck, but I only did it once so that may be why. I have heard there is a newer generation of this particular modality that’s not as painful and uncomfortable as the one that gained a lot of media attention when it first came out several years ago.
b) Cryolipolysis – CoolSculpting is the most popular one of these modalities. Freezing the fat is another way to do it-- and we know it can work. I have tried this too and it squeezed my tummy and bra roll area so tightly it was not exactly pleasant. It also took a long time (numerous hours) to perform the treatments and my skin felt a bit numb after. But, I was able to work on my laptop and get administrative work done during the treatments. Again, there is a newer generation device that doesn't squeeze your skin and fat between paddles - now it’s more of a handheld modality rubbed over the skin, so a lot of these issues are no longer issues with the device that freezes fat. It's very popular and some of my close colleagues stand behind the device and its scientific data, and I believe it really works for isolated fat pockets. With all of these devices you may need several treatments to achieve the desired effect.
c) Exilis - Another effective device using radiofrequency waves to diminish fat and tighten skin. Good for the neck and bra roll, thighs, etc. I know aestheticians and practitioners who swear by this device yet I have never used it, or had a treatment done myself. The manufacturer went on to make the Vanquish device which is quite effective from what I understand, and therefore competes head-to-head with CoolSculpting.
d) Thermage - An early radiofrequency device, one of the first in this evolution--- I received one of these treatments on my lower abdomen when I was back in New York. I nearly jumped off the table it was so painful, like electricity zapping you. It was the precursor to some of the less and non-painful radio frequency devices that evolved over the past few years like Venus Legacy and Exilis. These newer radio frequency devices are so painless I actually fall asleep when getting treatments done (disclaimer- I'm a luminary/spokesperson for Venus Concept and have that device in my office). Oh - and I have twin four-year-old boys and a busy practice which explains the falling asleep part!
e) Fractora Forma by Invasix is also an effective RF modality that also has the capacity for resurfacing. Endymed is another RF device on par with Forma and some of the others.
f) Velashape – This one also uses bipolar radiofrequency which is touted to treat cellulite and tighten skin. From what I understand this device, which has been around for a while, may not be quite as effective as some of the others.
g) Liposonix - Another of the ultrasound fat reducers. From what I understand this is one of the more effective at both fat reduction and skin tightening. I have never used or tried it. It competes head-to-head with Ultrashape. Both have peer-reviewed clinical studies backing them.
3) What are the risks or shortcomings of nonsurgical weight loss/fat loss compared to liposuction?
They are time-consuming and can be expensive for multiple treatments, whereas a liposuction procedure can be done in a few hours or less, lasts much longer and may cost around the same amount when all is said and done. They are good for those who don't wish to undergo or are poor candidates for a surgical procedure, don't have the downtime, or just require a modest amount of skin tightening or fat removal. Liposuction is the gold standard for permanent fat removal.
4) How much do these procedures cost? How long do they last?
Usually they require 4-6 treatments and maintenance in later years, with a package costing anywhere between $1,500-$3,500. There are many variables in how physicians/providers market and sell these packages so that's not an easy question to answer.
5) Are there any specific areas of the body where it would be better to use these procedures or not use them? How do they work on cellulite?
They are better at targeting: submental fat, neck, bra rolls, muffin top, thighs and isolated pockets of fat.
They are worse at targeting: large abdominal fat area, back, etc. and larger, broad surface areas of diffuse fat.
There is no cure for cellulite. Some of the radiofrequency devices like Venus Legacy and Exilis do a fairly good job with cellulite. Some patients respond better than others, and we don't really know why in regard to these particular treatments.
6) How much weight or how many inches can a person expect to lose from the best of these procedures?
Probably anywhere between 1-3 inches depending on the device, the patient, the skin’s elasticity and the amount of fat/ thickness of the fat.
Now that the doctor has weighed in on weight loss procedures that do not involve liposuction or surgery- although they might not be the gold standard - it is clear that they can an effective option for those of us not quite ready to go under the knife or for those of us who only have a little extra flab we’d like to eliminate.