Australians turn to 'fat freezing' to lose love handles
Thousands of Australians are freezing off their fat, rather than burning it off at the gym, after signing up for a plastic surgery treatment that uses extreme cold to blast away love handles, muffin tops and spare tyres.
The procedure, which can be done during a lunch hour, is proving particularly popular with men who do not want surgery or liposuction.
Those seeking a pre-emptive strike against the festive bulge are hooked up to a machine that uses vacuum pressure and deep cooling to target fat below the skin, freezing unwanted fat cells in the waist, hips, thighs, buttocks, abdomen, arms and back.
Patients can answer emails and telephone calls, read a book or watch a film while having the CoolSculpting treatment. It is used for small areas of fat that refuse to budge with exercise and is done without anaesthetic or medication.
According to plastic surgeons, it is best for those who are about 15lb to 20lb (7kg-9kg) overweight and removes 20 to 30 per cent of fat in the targeted area, with the results showing gradually over a period of weeks after the procedure.
At Marina Plastic Surgery, which has so far performed 4,000 of the procedures in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, Dr Grant Stevens, a plastic surgeon, says: "I had my love handles done myself. The fat dies, the skin tightens, it's incredibly easy and it only takes about an hour.
"The beauty is, it's permanent. If you eat a lot you'll gain weight in other places, so you need to keep going to the gym and watching your diet, but the fat that we freeze doesn't come back."
Dr Stevens said there had been a rush for the procedure by men, who were attracted by its non-invasive nature compared with liposuction. There are no incisions, scars or suction hoses. Only 13 per cent of his usual clientele are men, but for fat freezing it rises to 45 per cent. "The men have their love handles treated," he says. "The other place is the tummy, and they also have their man boobs done. Women go for love handles, muffin tops, the thighs and arms.
"Patients like it because there is no discomfort during the procedure and it only takes one hour to lose one inch.
"Although this method does not offer the more extensive fat loss available from liposuction, it is a great alternative for those with smaller areas of fat."
The temperature of the machines used to freeze away the fat is kept secret, but the idea of using extreme cold to damage fat cells first surfaced in the Seventies, when it was discovered that some children who ate ice lollies developed cheek dimples. According to Dr Mathew Avram, of the Massachusetts General Hospital Dermatology Laser and Cosmetic Centre, who helped to create the technique, it "targets and cools fat cells to temperatures that trigger their natural death".
He adds: "Because lipids crystallise faster than normal cells, there is no damage to nerves or other tissue. Over the next few weeks and months, the fat cells shrink and begin to die."
Doctors have warned that the system, which was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2010, is not a weight-loss treatment. It costs about $750 (£464) for each session, and each love handle is considered a separate session.
Patients have described how the area being targeted feels numb during the procedure and they have seen drops in waist size over ensuing weeks.
However, not all experiences have been positive. A Colorado woman who had fat around her navel frozen wrote on an internet review site: "The swelling was terrible. I looked pregnant. I went from a 32in measurement in the morning to 36in that night. It was gross."