Winter CoolSculpting® For Summer Contours

Is winter really the best time to be talking about CoolSculpting®? Chicago-area women and men typically think of how to avoid frostbite in the Arctic-chilled darkest months of the year—not about swimming pools, lake shore activities, and bathing suits that are still two seasons away. Illinois plastic surgeon Dr. Lawrence Iteld recommends patients to always plan ahead.

 Yes, winter is here. But to paraphrase a popular HBO show: Summer is coming. 

A matter of months is not the ideal timeline for cramming in a fad diet to lose significant weight, but it can be the perfect span for taking care of some pesky love handles or an annoying double chin that you just can’t seem to shake (metaphorically, at least). 

CoolSculpting® is a nonsurgical treatment that uses the power of cold to trigger a natural process known as “cryolipolysis” (medical jargon that means fat cells are cooled down until they crystalize and rupture, prompting natural body processes to clear them out of the treatment area). This process typically takes a few months to see the final, desired results. So while CoolSculpting® is effective, it is not an overnight solution to the problem of stubborn pockets of fat. 

Each fat-“freezing” session can reduce the number of fat cells in a given area by 20 to 25 percent. That means a single visit can slim down a pocket of fat to four-fifths to three-quarters of its original size. A follow-up visit can reduce the size of that newly reduced collection of fat cells by a new 20 to 25 percent. And so on. The effects of treatments are both cumulative and gradual, which makes planning ahead an essential strategy for anyone who wants to get help with a belly bulge or thicker-than-desired inner thighs in time for bikini weather. 

Fortunately, cryolipolysis is a one-way process: Fat goes out. This makes it different from diets and exercise regimens, which—though fantastic for improving health—do not actually kick fat cells out of the body. Scientists believe that an adult’s number of fat cells is essentially fixed, which means gaining and losing weight does not change the number of cells in an area or the body. They merely grow or shrink as they either swell to contain triglycerides, which are molecules that make up a slippery, oily substance, or deflate as they release them. 

This can be a problem for people who do not faithfully commit to their lifestyle after losing weight, since those smaller fat cells are still there in the same concentrations they were before. Eating more calories and burning fewer will give the cells more material as filler. 

Another problem is what medical professionals like to call “diet-resistant” adipocytes, which are fat cells that—for one reason or another—remain at a fixed size and fail to release triglycerides despite the body “burning calories” throughout a diet. 

CoolSculpting® is not a weight-loss method, but it is ideal for toning and shaping body contours that can draw attention away from other, more compliant areas of the body.  

Those who want a more dramatic look with results that appear sooner may consider liposuction, which involves a plastic surgeon making small incisions in the treatment area, inserting a specialized tool known as a cannula, loosening the fat cells, suctioning them out, and closing up the incisions. This requires more recovery than CoolSculpting®, but a talented plastic surgeon can approach the procedure with healing in mind, planning for a lack of significant pain and discomfort before the first cut is ever made. Most patients find that with current techniques, recovery is minimal. 

No matter the choice—CoolSculpting® or liposuction—the key is to reduce the number of fat cells, not just shrink them. Fat cells that have left the body are fat cells that can no longer add their bulk to a bulge. 

Want to learn more about CoolSculpting®? Board-certified Chicago plastic surgeon Dr. Lawrence Iteld can help individuals determine ideal timing for their own treatments. Contact Iteld Plastic Surgery in Chicago by calling 312.757.4505, or send a message online.