Positively Beautiful: The future is here with body shaping, fat loss technology

You might think that cosmetic surgery is a relatively new innovation, but in fact, it's been around for quite a long time. Back in 6000 B.C., ancient Egyptians performed rudimentary "nose jobs" to achieve their desired profiles. I shudder to thin...

Susan Mathison
Susan Mathison

You might think that cosmetic surgery is a relatively new innovation, but in fact, it's been around for quite a long time. Back in 6000 B.C., ancient Egyptians performed rudimentary "nose jobs" to achieve their desired profiles. I shudder to think of the tools and sterile field they used, but wanting to enhance your appearance is nothing new.

Happily, medical technologies have evolved tremendously since those early days. And surgeries to reshape and contour are tried and true. Liposuction and tummy tucks are still the gold standard and the right choice for many patients.

I've always dreamed of a tiny room about the size of a phone booth that you could pop into and push a few buttons for a new you, all while getting a really nice spray tan. Well, it's not quite that easy, but over the past few years, a number of new body sculpting procedures have emerged and are minimally invasive. No injections, no incisions, no surgery, no scarring, minimal bruising and brief recovery time.

The future is here. I'll share a couple of favorites with you-CoolSculpting and Thermage.

Who knew that Popsicles would lead to a scientific discovery for losing stubborn fat? Pediatricians long ago noted that some kids who ate a lot of ice pops lost their chubby cheeks. They deemed this condition "Popsicle panniculitis."


A few years later, Harvard laser scientists decided this might be the holy grail for noninvasive fat loss, and the quest for cryolipolysis, now called CoolSculpting, was born.

Turns out that the lipids in fat cells crystallize at a warmer temperature than skin, muscle and nerve cells, so we can focus on fat cells without injury to the other tissues.

It's nonsurgical fat reduction, which is mostly performed in physician offices. It's FDA approved and supported by numerous studies and clinical trials. Sounds too good to be true, right? I'll have to say, it's pretty darn good.

Now, you can't drive around town without seeing billboards from a variety of places for CoolSculpting.

I admit, I was skeptical. I've been to the big Laser meetings. To be honest, what I saw initially didn't impress me. But, I kept my eye on CoolSculpting. And now I think the company, the handpieces, applicators and the protocols have come a long way.

Are you a good candidate? Ideally, a candidate is within 5 to 20 pounds of his or her goal weight. CoolSculpting is not a weight-loss procedure. It is not a procedure for excess skin or cellulite. The ideal candidate should have a "grab-able" area of subcutaneous fat. Excess skin will not tighten or loosen. Visceral deep fat will not be reduced. Weight may not change. The only area that is influenced is the subcutaneous fat that is drawn into the applicator. These applicators are like suction cups, and there are several different shapes and sizes to accommodate different areas of the body.

What if you are overweight, like me? I did my first CoolMini neck treatment last month and am seeing a nice reduction in my double chin. It felt like tingly Jell-O for a couple of weeks after, but I didn't see any obvious swelling. I plan on doing one more treatment. And for my lower body, even though I am not the ideal candidate, I look forward to reducing the roll around my hips and having my pants fit better. I am not looking for miracles, but this can help even though I'm over my desired weight.

Just like any procedure, side effects can occur. Symptoms include erythema, edema, decreased sensation and pain in the treatment area, but none have been reported as permanent. Biopsy studies of nerve fibers confirm this short-term decrease in sensation being temporary, with no permanent changes in nerve fibers, and sensation returning in patients by three to four weeks


Studies used ultrasound pictures post-procedure and showed 20 percent to 33 percent reduction of superficial fat in the areas treated.

Thermage CPT is a different option, and it uses heat delivered by radiofrequency energy. This stimulates new collagen production over a two- to six-month period and tightens and smooths the skin.

This system has been around for several years but it also keeps evolving with better treatment protocols that improve results. I've used it primarily for the face, but it can help to tighten loose crepey skin on the body, too. It can also work as a nice combination with CoolSculpting.

My advice: Keep up with your New Year's resolution and eat a healthy diet low in inflammatory foods. Get your body moving every day and work up at really good sweat two to three times a week. But know that technology can help when the going gets tough.

Dr. Susan Mathison founded Catalyst Medical Center in Fargo and created Email her at .

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