Fat Freezing

Experts Break Down How to Reduce Stubborn Fat

Laura Johnstone / Top Shelfie Illustrated

With age comes perks — like life experience, touching memories, and invaluable wisdom. But unfortunately, the years can also bring on less-than-ideal aesthetic changes, such as a poochy belly or inner thigh bulges. To make matters more frustrating, getting rid of stubborn fat only becomes harder over time.

“[As we age] changes in hormones and metabolism can make it easier to store fat and more difficult to get rid of it,” explains Senior Nutrition Manager at Virtual Health Partners, Alyssa Tucci. Beyond sporting Spanx and standing in flattering poses, you’re likely wondering if there’s anything that can smooth away the bulges. We consulted with experts on what to do (and what to give up on) for minimizing stubborn fat.

Hitting the Gym Only Goes So Far

You may have heard the phrase, “you can’t spot reduce fat.” Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how much you loathe sit-ups), that is true. According to Tucci, the energy you exert during exercise affects the whole body in terms of fat loss — not just the particular bulge you’re trying to eliminate. “When your body draws on fat as fuel for activity, this is a systemic response throughout your entire body,” she explains. “Just because you are moving your leg, for example, does not mean the fuel (i.e. fat) will come from that part of your body.”

But that’s not to say you’ve been doing those planks in vain. Strengthening and building muscles has a myriad of benefits, one of which is that muscle is more metabolically active than fat. Translation: more muscle, more calories burned at rest. More calories burned, more fat loss overall.

Continuing to develop muscle as you age is especially important because of a natural process called sarcopenia. As you get older, this process slowly replaces muscle with fat tissue. “Sarcopenia causes our metabolism to slow down,”explains Tucci. This makes it easier to gain fat.  Keep up those pilates classes!

Your Diet Doesn’t Dictate Where You Store Fat

As much as we’d love to discover one single food that melts individual fat pockets away, no such miracle exists. That said, eating to maintain a healthy body fat percentage helps keep the overall body contour looking its best. “Most patients can identify a specific body part that enlarges when they gain a couple of pounds,” explains NYC-based plastic surgeon Dr. Ulysses Scarpidis. “If they gain a few more, a second body part is recruited in the weight gain process, such as their love handles or saddle bags.” In other words, keeping your overall weight down prevents additional “stubborn” areas from forming.

A food repertoire rich in leafy greens, fresh fruit, whole grains, and lean protein is the ultimate recipe for a healthy body, thanks to its optimal balance of nutrient-dense foods. One absolute don’t: extreme calorie slashing. That means that juice cleanses and strict dieting should be removed from your fat reduction toolbox. Yes, our metabolism naturally slows down with age. But cutting calories too drastically can cause it to get sluggish even further; thereby making it even more difficult to shed fat — anywhere — let alone in targeted areas, Tucci says. Not to mention, extreme calorie reduction can impact your hair, nails, and skin by causing them to become brittle and lackluster.

You Can Literally Freeze Your Fat Cells Away

Pockets of fat can be whittled away with a simple in-office procedure, CoolSculpting®, also known as fat freezing. The treatment has a similar goal to liposuction, in that it eliminates fat cells from the body. Unlike liposuction, though, CoolSculpting is non-invasive, virtually pain free, and provides an appealing result, says celebrity esthetician Joshua Ross of SkinLab in West Hollywood. Fat freezing differs from exercise-induced fat loss; instead of promoting overall fat reduction, the treatment is targeted to specific problem areas. Most importantly, it accomplishes what exercise can’t: literally eliminating the fat cell itself.

[Editor’s note: The CoolSculpting treatment is a non-invasive fat-freezing treatment that effectively reduces fat in certain self-proclaimed “problem spots” in the submental and submandibular areas, thigh, abdomen, flank, and upper arm, along with bra fat, back fat, and underneath the buttocks (you know, those bulges that just won’t go away, regardless of how much you sweat it out on the treadmill). While it isn’t a weight loss solution, fat-freezing can reduce pouches of fat. As with any procedure, there are risks and side effects, so talk to a licensed provider to see if it’s right for you.][Editor’s note: The CoolSculpting® procedure is not for people that have cryoglobulinemia, cold agglutinin disease, or paroxysmal cold hemoglobinuria.]

“It triggers a process in the body, called apoptosis, which is a natural death of the fat cell,” Ross explains. What’s more, CoolSculpting is cleared for a multitude of areas, including the abs, love handles, thighs, and even the double chin area. And ultimately, the only way you can ensure you help reduce fat from a specific area is to kill those treated fat cells for good.

Don’t worry — killing fat cells is not as intense as it sounds. In fact, treatment is simple and virtually painless. It involves placing a specially-designed suction panel onto the treatment area for around 35 minutes, give or take. Results may show as early as three weeks, with full results showing up usually after a few months. Cost varies depending on the area treated and number of sessions required — but once the treated fat cells are gone, they’re not coming back. Want to chat about CoolSculpting? Our trained aesthetic specialists are here to help! Get real aesthetic answers, right now from our trained aesthetic specialists!

CoolSculpting® is an Allergan®-owned non-invasive fat reduction treatment.

CoolSculpting® Treatment Important Information 


The CoolSculpting® procedure is FDA-cleared for the treatment of visible fat bulges in the submental (under the chin) and submandibular (under the jawline) areas, thigh, abdomen and flank (love handles), along with bra fat, back fat, underneath the buttocks (also known as banana roll), and upper arm. It is also FDA-cleared to affect the appearance of lax tissue with submental area treatments. The CoolSculpting procedure is not a treatment for weight loss.

Important Safety Information 

The CoolSculpting procedure is not for everyone. You should not have the CoolSculpting procedure if you suffer from cryoglobulinemia, cold agglutinin disease, or paroxysmal cold hemoglobinuria.

Tell your doctor if you have any medical conditions including recent surgery, pre-existing hernia, and any known sensitivities or allergies.

During the procedure you may experience sensations of pulling, tugging, mild pinching, intense cold, tingling, stinging, aching, and cramping at the treatment site. These sensations subside as the area becomes numb. Following the procedure, typical side effects include temporary redness, swelling, blanching, bruising, firmness, tingling, stinging, tenderness, cramping, aching, itching, or skin sensitivity, and sensation of fullness in the back of the throat after submental or submandibular area treatment.

Rare side effects may also occur. CoolSculpting may cause a visible enlargement in the treated area which may develop two to five months after treatment and requires surgical intervention for correction.

Ask your doctor if CoolSculpting is right for you. To learn more about what to expect, visit the CoolSculpting website and comprehensive Important Safety Information.

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