Treatment offers cold comfort for those who want to lose stubborn fat

Having one's body fat sucked into a handpiece and then frozen, only to melt away over the coming weeks is a strange experience indeed.

Dr Abeer Sawwaf of Icon Clinic in Abu Dhabi massages out Ann Marie McQueen's belly after the CoolTech handpiece has been removed. A second handpiece is still attached to the lower belly. Photo credit: Ann Marie McQueen
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There is nothing stranger than seeing two tight, hard, compact red loaves of skin and fat where your belly used to be.

I had gone to try the non-invasive fat-reduction procedure, CoolTech by Medica, at the new Icon Clinic in Abu Dhabi. The treatment, which is approved by the United States Food and Drug administration, is designed to freeze and then melt away stubborn fat deposits.

During a tense 70 minutes, I felt as if all of my stomach fat had been sucked from my body into what looked like two rectangular ice cube makers, each about the size of a loaf of bread.

My panic subsided a few moments after the first of the two CoolTech freezing instruments was lifted off and Dr Abeer Sawwaf – a Lebanon-born, American board-certified plastic surgeon and general surgeon who recently started the clinic – began to massage the part of my stomach that had been frozen, with the help of an assistant.

During the treatment I had felt nauseous but Dr Sawwaf said this had nothing to do with the process (and probably everything to do with my own anxiety about what was happening to my belly).

I had also felt a strange combination of hot and cold, and she explained that an extreme cold sensation was just confusing to the body and so can also feel hot.

First Dr Sawwaf and her staffer put cooling gel and a cooling pad on my lower and upper belly before placing the two freezing instruments on my skin, into which the fat is sucked.

After the freezing process, I watched as they massaged the initially alarming-looking frozen skin and fat “loaves” away in just a few moments with soothing lavender oil.

Dr Sawwaf warned me the treated area would ache and feel numb for at least a week – and it did, it ached quite a lot. The numbness lasted much longer and even now, six weeks after my only treatment, I find both areas are still faintly numb and sometimes itchy.

She also said the results would be gradual and take two to three weeks to notice, and then continue to become evident for up to three months – and that is exactly what happened. I swore nothing had changed for weeks, and then one day, suddenly, it seemed the two stubborn pockets of fat that sat at the bottom of either side of my rib cage were much smaller. About a week later, I noticed that a prominent bit of belly fat I’d had for years had gone.

Basically the treatment works like liposuction, except rather than being sucked out, the fat cells are frozen to death, then slowly absorbed into the body and excreted as waste.

Dr Sawwaf explained that the fat will not return to the treated spots, because the fat cells have been killed, but should I gain weight, it will appear in other areas.

The spectre of chubby shoulders does freak me out, and is enough of a spectre to keep me working out regularly for the rest of my life.

According to Dr Sawwaf’s research, freezing is the most effective non-surgical intervention against fat on the market, and holds up the best over time.

• Cool sculpting can be done during one to three sessions, for Dh1,000 a session. It can be used to treat the stomach, thighs, love handles, double chin and arms. For more information, or to book an appointment, call Icon Clinic at 02 551 6699. This review was carried out at the invitation of the clinic

The National was a guest of the venue.