Different Ways to Freeze Fat

At-Home Treatments vs. Doctor's Office

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If you have stubborn bulges that are resistant to diet and exercise, you may be able to freeze your fat to slim down. FDA-cleared medical procedures are widely available to reduce fat pockets with cooling methods. In fact, some people are trying fat freezing at home to avoid the high price of in-office procedures. But can you really freeze your fat off yourself?

Before you invest any money into a fat-freezing garment, device, or medical procedure, compare the science behind fat freezing to make sure you get what you pay for.

Medical Methods to Freeze Fat

One of the most popular methods to eliminate stubborn fat bulges is a treatment called CoolSculpting—a procedure that freezes fat in a controlled enviroment under medical supervision.

What Is CoolSculpting?

This FDA-cleared procedure (called cryolipolysis) is comfortable for most people, doesn't require surgery, and it is performed in a doctor's office under close supervision.

CoolSculpting uses controlled cooling to freeze belly fat (abdomen), fat on the flanks (often called "love handles," or a "muffin top"), inner thighs, outer thighs (sometimes referred to as "saddlebags"), and the upper arms. CoolSculpting claims the procedure can also reduce the size of a double chin.

How It Works

Each procedure lasts approximately 30 to 60 minutes, although your actual time in-office may be longer than an hour because your clinician will need to prep your body for the procedure. Specific fat bulges will then be identified and targeted by your physician.

The fat will then be gently pulled into cooling panels and heat is then removed from the cells. This causes the fat cells to die and become broken down over a period of a few weeks before ultimately being flushed out by the liver. Most patients begin to see results in three weeks, but it may take up to three months or more to see the full effects of the procedure.

Side Effects

CoolSculpting is not painful, but some patients have reported minor discomfort. There are some rare and mild side effects that your doctor will discuss with you before beginning treatment. After the procedure is complete, you can resume your normal activities, including work or exercise. You may experience some bruising or soreness in the area, but it generally resolves within two weeks.

Cost

The cost of CoolSculpting depends on the number of area(s) that need to be treated, the size of each area, and the number of treatments required. Where you live may also play a role in the total cost.

A single treatment for a single area may cost $600 to $900. But multiple treatments are generally required.

If you are treating the arms or the legs, each arm or leg may be charged separately. Physicians estimate that the total cost of a CoolSculpting treatment plan ranges from $2,000 to $4,000.

Effectiveness

So, are these fat freezing procedures worth it? Part of the answer depends on your expectations. CoolSculpting is not an effective weight-loss solution and isn't ideal for people who are obese. But clinical studies have shown the method is effective at reducing fat in trouble spots that are resistant to diet and exercise.

A review of short-term clinical studies published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal concluded that cryolipolysis appears to reliably decrease fatty deposits on the body with few complications. A long-term case study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology demonstrated that at two and five years, patients showed lasting fat loss results despite natural fluctuations in overall weight.

While CoolSculpting can be effective for permanently reducing some fat in certain targeted areas, your results will not be as dramatic as fat loss from a surgical procedure such as liposuction. To determine if CoolSculpting is right for you, consult with a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon.

CoolSculpting + Emsculpt

Freezing your fat with CoolSculpting can be an effective way to trim certain trouble spots, but the treatment cannot give shape to your physique. For that reason, some practitioners are pairing the fat freezing method with Emsculpt to build muscle and give targeted areas muscle definition. The result is not only a leaner body, but a more shapely, toned body as well.

Emsculpt is an FDA-cleared treatment that helps you to build muscle and lose fat without having to work out at the gym. Currently, the treatment is approved for use by medical practitioners on the buttocks, thighs, and abdomen.

Each Emsculpt treatment lasts about 30 minutes and feels like an intensive workout. The device uses electromagnetic energy to stimulate "super maximal" muscle contractions to more effectively burn fat and tone muscles. Though the vibrating sensation may take some getting used to, it is not a painful procedure.

Four treatments are scheduled two to three days apart. Results are usually seen within two to four weeks after the last treatment. For lasting results, maintenance treatments at six month intervals are recommended. The cost of Emsculpt varies but may run $1,000 per treatment for a total cost of $4,000.

So is Emsculpt or CoolSculpting a replacement for a healthy lifestyle? "Nothing is one and done," says Dr. Barry DiBernardo, a board-certified plastic surgeon. He has had success using the treatment solo paired with other fat loss procedures. But Emsculpt should not be used as a replacement for a nutritious diet and regular exercise.

Alternatives to Coolsculpting

If targeted fat loss is your goal, there are alternatives to CoolSculpting procedures. But none of the FDA-approved medical procedures involve freezing your fat. Most of the common alternatives involve using heat or radiofrequency to reduce fatty pockets.

If you are considering CoolSculpting or Emsculpt, talk to your physician about the different treatment modalities available. Then consider your lifestyle, your budget (including your ability to pay for any required maintenance treatments) before making a final decision.

Fat Freezing at Home

So if freezing fat works in a doctor's office, why can't you just freeze away fat at home? It may seem reasonable to assume that you can just ice away those trouble spots yourself. And there are products on the market that claim to help you do just that. You've likely seen personal products that use cold and ice to freeze your fat.

Contouring Shorts

The Isavera Fat-Freezing System claims to effectively target problem areas by freezing and destroying fat cells, and is available on Amazon at a fraction of the price compared to CoolSculpting. But the product doesn't use the same medical technology as CoolSculpting, and some experts say you may not get your desired result.

"The CoolSculpt machine has an applicator that incorporates suction with it," says board-certified plastic surgeon Michael Fiorillo, who performs CoolSculpting in his New York City and New Jersey offices. "In my opinion," he says, "you wouldn't get the same result with a take-home device." 

Some board-certified physicians point out that simply applying ice to your skin would be ineffective for fat loss and potentially harmful to your skin.

Brown Fat Garments

You may also see cooling garments such as the Cool Fat Burner that are either stored in your freezer or packed with ice to help you activate brown fat to lose weight. Many of the ads for these products provide extensive links to scientific research about brown fat activation. According to some research, stimulating brown fat production may provide some metabolic benefits.

Though many studies have investigated the potential of using brown fat to lose weight, more research is needed as most results have been inconclusive. In 2015, biomedical researcher Eric Ravussin, Ph.D., wrote in a Medscape article that though there is some hope for brown fat, "it's not going to be the magical bullet for losing weight."

In addition to garments and other tools that you can buy, you may see articles in magazines or online that say you can freeze your fat at home by sleeping in a cooler room or even by turning down the thermostat during the day.

Not all experts agree that fat-freezing methods and techniques will yield noticeable results. Authors of one on brown fat science write that, "much remains to be done in order to translate basic research into clinical practice."

A Word From Verywell

Whether or not you freeze your fat at home or head to the doctor's office to eliminate your bulges is up to you. Both avenues come with pros and cons. While you're not likely to pay a high price for freezing your fat at home, you're not as likely to see the same significant results as you would with professional treatments like CoolSculpting and Emsculpt.

Before you decide which method is best for you, be sure to ask smart consumer questions about risks, costs, and possible refund procedures to keep your body— and your wallet—safe and healthy.

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