The Problem With Fat
Though building muscle and burning fat go hand in hand, they are the results of two different approaches to body shaping. It is entirely possible to have strong, well-defined muscles that are nonetheless buried under large fat cells, hiding that hard-earned definition. Because of this, men who want to be sure their muscles can be seen turn to everything from dieting to body-sculpting treatments like CoolSculpting®. Albuquerque’s Western Dermatology Consultants is no stranger to patients seeking information about what can be done about stubborn fat. In fact, the quest to shrink down love handles and double chins alike is common to people from the Southwest to the Northeast.
With that in mind, the board-certified dermatologists at Western Dermatology Consultants compiled this explanation of what works to reduce fat in the body—and why.
While the science of fat is a field still being explored and expanded by medical researchers, the general consensus is that fat cells grow in number throughout a person’s youth, then become roughly fixed in adulthood. Weight loss or gain is due to the size of the fat cells changing—not their numbers. More calories coming in that going out means the fat cells get larger. Reverse that, and they start to shrink back down.
Though weight loss can have positive health benefits, as can regular exercise, daily jogs and properly portioned meals can’t be tailored to generate results in a specific area. Some people consistently lose fat from all over their body, while others have trouble shaking it from, say, their thighs.
For anyone having trouble getting results where desired by eating carrots instead of donuts, there are other options.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported in an annual survey that liposuction—surgical fat removal—was the second-most performed cosmetic surgery of 2017, with more than 246,000 procedures in the United States. Fat reduction is obviously a popular choice, though not every person looking to slim down and improve definition opts for the incisions and sutures that lipo requires.
Non-surgical fat reduction—such as CoolSculpting®, which destroys fat cells with cold—has proven to be even more popular, with the same survey revealing that non-invasive treatments rose from 2016 to 2017 to total more than 356,000 treatments. A minimally invasive option, Kybella®, adds another 62,500 to the non-surgical total. This also works to destroy fat cells, but instead of a temperature drop, the injectable makes use of a formula based on a digestive acid known for breaking down fats.
No matter the method chosen, the key to nonsurgical fat reduction is damaging the fat cells so thoroughly that they are marked by the body as waste and processed. These methods actually do alter the total number of fat cells in the body, bringing it lower as opposed to maintaining the same number of cells as before, with some just smaller in size.
As noted above, CoolSculpting® uses cold to accomplish this. The FDA-approved device quickly drops the temperature of targeted fat cells to damaging levels—a strategy that works only because the same temperature fat cells can’t stand is actually tolerable to other types of tissue. So skin, muscle, and more stay intact while fat cells die off and are broken down over weeks and months.
Similarly, Kybella® renders fat cells unable to maintain their cohesion by attacking their integrity. Unlike CoolSculpting®, the active ingredient in Kybella® can impact other cells—not just fat—so it’s important to choose a provider with the experience and skill necessary for injecting with precision, a commitment to safety, and an eye for facial aesthetics.
Note that fat cells remaining in an area treated by CoolSculpting® or Kybella® may grow larger if given adequate resources. Medical professionals recommend maintaining a consistent weight in order to best enjoy the results of these treatments long term.