By Valerie Foster, originally published in Healthy Life Magazine
Eighty percent of women don't like their bodies. This stat from Psych Central - an online independent mental health social network run by mental health professionals - should come as no surprise to most women. Nor should this: Women comprise 87 percent of the population who opt for cosmetic surgery.
We are nip-tucking ourselves into our skinny jeans. But thanks to technology, the knife is not our only option.
For the past three decades, women have turned to liposuction to suck the extra fat from our bodies. In fact, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, liposuction is the third most popular cosmetic procedure with women, right behind breast augmentation and nose reshaping. "Liposuction is still the gold standard for ridding the body of large collections of fat," says plastic surgeon Dr. Jack Fisher, president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. It is the technique he uses because it's a one-shot procedure, which although invasive surgery that requires anesthesia and a recuperation period, has been proven to be effective in his practice.
Other doctors are turning to less invasive processes that don't require surgery. Plastic surgeon Dr. Alan Gold, spokesman for ASAPS, says all of the new processes accomplish the same end - removing localized fat under the skin. They are divided into two groups:
Plastic surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Rockmore, of the Plastic Surgery Group in Albany, has been using Coolsculpting since it first came out a few years ago. He says it's an attractive option for his patients for many reasons:
Rockmore explains that Coolsculpting currently is only FDA-approved for removing fat from the torso - abdomen, flanks, back, thighs - but he can see a time when it will be expanded to remove fat from other areas, including the arms. And if you are expecting instant results, Coolsculpting is not for you. It takes three to six months for the body to metabolize and excrete the frozen fat cells.
And although the fat cells are eliminated, patients must eat a healthy diet and exercise to keep the results.
"People have to do their research," Rockmore cautions. "With liposuction, although the cost is higher and it requires surgery and recovery time, we can remove more fat, do more of an area, and the results are quicker and more dramatic." With Coolsculpting, although he says the results are impressive, only about 20 to 25 percent of the fat cells in the treated area will freeze; additional sessions are usually required.
Dr. William I. Anyaegbunam of Complete Women's Care of Clifton Park has been using Zerona for a few years. He's an OB/GYN whose patients are always looking for ways to rid their bodies of baby weight.
"Basically, it helps women - and men - reduce inches from their waist, thighs and hips," Anyaegbunam says. "It is a cold laser that penetrates the skin and punctures holes in the fat cells. These punctures cause the fat to slowly leak out and leave the body over time. It does not destroy the fat cell." He likens it to a balloon: Prick it with a few tiny holes and the balloon collapses.
He stresses that if patients eat or drink too much and don't exercise following the procedures, those fat cells can plump right back up.
Most patients see a difference after two weeks. And although reported results say some patients have lost 20 inches, Anyaegbunam says the majority of his patients lose between 3 to 11 inches, which usually translates into a dress size. In most cases there is not a drastic drop in weight. And the patients with the greatest results are those who drink lots of water to flush the fat away, maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly.
The machine looks like an octopus, with four laser "tentacles" that circle over the patient, who is lying down during the procedure. Each session takes 40 minutes, and most of his patients come after work and head home following treatment. There is no downtime, no scarring, no incision, no anesthesia, and the patient feels nothing. He recommends six treatments for $2,000, and if needed, a series of three additional treatments for $500.
Although the FDA has approved Zerona for use on the torso, Anyaegbunam says it is not uncommon for his patients to lose inches all over their bodies, just as they would if they were dieting and exercising. "We are not sure why this happens, but the thinking is that fat cells communicate with each other," he says. "So if one fat cell is shrinking, it will communicate with other fat cells and they begin shrinking, too. Obviously, more research has to be done."