CoolSculpt: Was It Worth It?

Photos reveal flattering results
Nov. 2, 2015

Brooke French, MD, director of the Cosmetics Program in the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at UCH (left), talks with Klein about her CoolSculpting results.
This is the third and final installment of a series on the CoolSculpting procedure at University of Colorado Hospital, as experienced by UCHealth writer Joelle Klein.

I went for my final photos Sept. 29 after four sessions of the non-invasive, fat-reducing procedure CoolSculpting. It takes about three months to see the full results of the procedure(s), according to Brooke French, MD, assistant professor of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and director of the Cosmetics Program in the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at University of Colorado Hospital. My last fat-freezing session was in May.

Before the photo session, I donned the normal disposable string bikini underwear, boxers, and black paper bra before wrapping myself in a terry cloth robe. French first looked at my stomach, then poked and pinched it to assess the results prior to the photo session.

Abdomen before CoolSculpting
UCHealth Insider writer Joelle Klein shows a somewhat flabby stomach before the non-invasive fat-reducing procedure called CoolSculpting.

Abdomen after CoolSculpting

The same stomach after four CoolSculpting sessions. “I think you’ve had an excellent reduction in focal adiposity,” she announced.

What? Seeing my confusion, French explained that the procedure had basically reduced my fat. In fact, she thought it worked so well that I didn’t need another procedure in the areas she had treated. It’s not uncommon for patients to have the same area treated more than once, she added.

Mixed bag

That was the good news. The not-so-good news was that because my fat had basically deflated, there was some excess skin. French explained that is a side effect more commonly associated with age and pregnancies. I had both. Still, I was pleased with the results. Besides, the bikini I wore this summer (for the first time in about five years) nicely covered the loose skin.

French then took me to the photography room, where she took the final round of photos, snapping shots of me from every angle. There was no tape measure or body-fat caliper used to document the results. French said she measures the final outcome only visually with the photos.

“We take 360-degree photos with standardized arm positioning with the patient exhaling, so there’s no cheating,” she explained. “We use a high-quality camera that I can use to zoom in and zoom out, and I also look at weight fluctuations and take that into consideration.” She added that she had applied for a grant to get a 3-D camera with which she can measure volumetric change down to the cubic centimeter, but was unsuccessful and plans to reapply.

Maintenance after the procedure was the standard instructions to eat well and exercise regularly. There was no need for follow-up or maintenance treatments. The results, French said, should be long lasting.

To me, the results were visible in the photos and in my mirror. I could see that my stomach, while not flat, was smaller. And although my results were not dramatic, as they would be with liposuction, the reduction in fat and bulges did give me the confidence to wear that bikini this summer.

The bottom line

Even before I started the CoolSculpting procedures, I usually exercised and ate well, most days. But now, with visible results, I’m more motivated to keep at it because I want to make sure new fat cells don’t pop up and sabotage the good work that CoolSculpting did.

Would I recommend the procedure? Yes – to the right person. It is not a weight-loss solution. It’s a good option for someone who is in good shape and has only a few lumps or bulges that won’t go away, in spite of working out. It’s not for people looking to lose a significant amount of weight. But for people who want to lose 5 to 10 pounds, I would say that doing this procedure in conjunction with a diet and exercise plan would be something to consider.

Stephanie Farmer, director of finance and administration for the Department of Surgery at the CU School of Medicine, had five CoolSculpting treatments last year, and agrees with me. She said the procedure helped her reduce some areas of her body that she’d had trouble with.

A big plus about CoolSculpting, Farmer noted, is that it is non-invasive. “It’s a great technique, if it can work for you, as opposed to going into the OR, going under anesthesia and getting cut open,” she said.

Farmer said the side effects of CoolSculpting were minimal. She had some tingling, bruising and sensitivity for about a week after each treatment, but her daily activities were not impacted at all. During the actual procedure, she said, there was some minor discomfort.

“I wouldn’t say there was no discomfort but not enough to discourage me, or that would make me discourage anyone, from getting it,” Farmer said. “After the first ten minutes, your skin freezes and then I would just sit and read during the rest of the treatment.”

While undergoing CoolSculpting treatments over the course of nine months, Farmer also followed a diet and ended up losing 10 pounds as result. She said it’s hard to determine what the CoolSculpting contributed versus the 10-pound weight loss, but she’s definitely noticed a difference in the way she looks and has also dropped a dress size.

“The [CoolSculpting] changes are gradual so it’s hard to notice but when I went in and looked at the photos, I realized it made a difference,” she said.

Would she have it done again? Farmer said she’s talked with French and is considering having more treatments, but only after she loses more weight through diet and exercise.

As for me, I am most likely going back for at least two more treatments – one on each of my flanks, a.k.a. love handles – at some point. French admits it can be addictive for some. I can relate to that statement. The treatment is relatively short and painless, with no down time. Compared to surgery, it’s a bargain.

A feminist writer friend in her 40s once wrote that her goal wasn’t to stop her urge to get anti-aging treatments such as Botox, but to stop feeling guilty that she wants them. I admit I feel guilty about spending time and money on beauty treatments. But then again, is there anything wrong with wanting to look better?

CU Plastic Surgery will be hosting a CoolSculpting information session called “Cool Night Out” on Nov.  4 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at the CU Plastic Surgery Center, located on the second floor of the Anschutz Health & Wellness Center. The event is free, but you must call 303.724.8700 to reserve a spot.

About the author

Joelle Klein is a Colorado-based freelance health and lifestyle writer. She regularly writes for UCHealth Today, Colorado Health & Wellness Magazine and Bottom Line Health. Her articles and blogs have appeared in 5280, Skiing, Fit Pregnancy, Pregnancy, the Denver Post, PBS Next Avenue, AARP, and the American Lung Association, among dozens of other health-related print and digital publications.
Joelle earned her bachelor’s degree in English at New York University and her master’s degree in journalism at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ) and American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA). Joelle lives in Denver with her husband and their two daughters. In her limited spare time, she enjoys cooking, reading, hiking, biking, camping, theater, travel, and spending quality time with her family.