- Sandrine Lungumbu
- BBC World Service
Fat freezing or cryolipolysis is a popular cosmetic procedure. It is estimated that clinics and spas carry out more than eight million treatments of this type each year in the world.
But lately it has been making headlines.
The Canadian model Linda EvangelistaKnown as one of the supermodels of the 1990s, she has filed a US $ 50 million lawsuit for the treatment that she claims “brutally deformed” her.
He says he has developed paradoxical adipose hyperplasia (PAH), a rare side effect that it produced just the “opposite of what was promised”, by increasing fat cells; a risk, according to the ex-model, about which she was not informed.
The company Evangelista is accusing has not responded to the BBC’s request for comment. She now states on her website that “patient results may vary” and that “rare side effects may also occur,” which Evangelista advisers said was added after she underwent the procedure.
But what are the risks and what does the treatment entail? Below, three people share their experiences.
“You feel like being sucked into a vacuum cleaner“
Cosmetic treatments are nothing new for the 39-year-old British Ailsa Burno-Murdoch.
She has suffered from her appearance since she was a teenager and at 21 she had already undergone liposuction and breast implants, something she did not tell her friends or family.
“I had liposuction, but I had an eating disorder and body dysmorphic disorder.”
“I shouldn’t have even submitted to it. I was pretty thin then,” she told the BBC.
A move to the Caribbean unleashed old fears of showing off her body, so she opted for a fat freezing treatment last year, receiving a total of three sessions over two months in back, arms, abdomen and inner thighs.
After learning about the treatment, he opted for the cheapest alternative.
“I had to choose between a place that was basically a room under a hairdresser where a woman operated, or go to one of those fancy clinics in a department store. ”
“In the end, it was the price that made me choose and I ended up going to the cheapest place.”
Ailsa spent 650 pounds sterling (US $ 875) on her treatment.
Depending on the parts of the body to be treated, the cost of cryolipolysis treatments in the UK ranges from 400 pounds (US $ 545) for a succession of treatments to 800 (US $ 1,090) for a single treatment.
Ailsa assures that she did not have any consultation prior to the treatment and she met the same day of the treatment who would carry it out.
Each session usually lasts about 45 minutes for each part of the body treated, where clamps are placed connected to a machine.
“It feels like a vacuum cleaner is sucking you in. I remember my stomach looked like a block of frozen butter. It was very cool to the touch and solid, “he recalls.
“I had a few rectangular bruises very dark. I think the worst were on my back, where they turned purple, but they weren’t painful. ”
He assures that the treatment was as planned, but did not find many differences between before and after.
“I didn’t really see any results and in the end I spent the money for nothing”, dice.
You suspect it could be because you chose the cheapest treatment. “I wonder if if I had gone to the more expensive clinic the effects would have been different.”
How do you feel after all this?
“I have that kind of feeling of shame for having conditioned my self-esteem if the fat protruded above the bra on my back. It makes me feel very basic that that part of my appearance is still so important,” he responds.
“I’m smart, I understand that my body is not a problem and that treating fat superficially is not the way to do it if you want to focus on your overall health.”
What is cryolipolysis
It is a non-invasive procedure.
It aims to destroy very resistant fat cells by cooling many of them.
Clinics around the world offer this treatment that promises reduction of pockets of fat usually found under the chin, around the thighs, abdomen, or upper arms.
It is not suitable for those who are obese and want to lose weight.
The side effects habitual include bruising, itching, and numbness of the affected areas.
A rare side effect, which the Evangelista model claims to have suffered is paradoxical adipose hyperplasia, in which fat cells, instead of shrinking, increase in size.
There is no known cause, but it is believed to be more common in men.
“These treatments work”
London-based photographer Joanne Muhammad underwent cryolipolysis four years ago, after losing 15.9 kilos.
“I realized that I had some belly and it was a bit of accumulated fat that I could not eliminate no matter how many different squat exercises I did,” he told the BBC.
“My decision was more for my own image, for how I felt about myself,” she says.
Insists that it was more of a personal care issue than for having an ideal body.
“I did it so that when I got up in the morning and looked in the mirror, he could give me the ok.”
After finding out, he underwent three sessions, costing him 450 pounds (US $ 613) each, a special offer from a London clinic.
The sessions were conducted by a trainee under supervision.
“They were very careful at every step and made sure that before starting she was interviewed by a doctor.”
“They were extremely meticulous and warned me (about possible side effects),” he says, adding that if something had gone wrong and I had developed HPA the clinic would have paid for the liposuction.
“I am a mother and they eliminated the abdominal fat (accumulated by the pregnancy). It looked wonderful, but then the confinement came.”
Joanne, who is more than 50 years old, has returned to the same clinic to undergo other non-invasive procedures in the same area of her body, but she believes that aesthetic treatments they should not be seen as “easy fixes”.
The treatments “work, but you have to do the right things, like physical exercise, drink plenty of water and lead a healthy lifestyle“.
“Everyone should be able to choose what to do with their body”
Mining engineer Rainer Juati, from Accra, Ghana, felt pressure to change her appearance.
Although she considered cryolipolysis, after learning the risk of suffering HPA from the news of what happened with Evangelista, she now believes that it is not the best option for her.
As a child, Rainer watched her weight fluctuate. She went from being made fun of at school for being too thin to being made fun of for having put on weight.
For her, culture and social media are the main reasons you want changes to your body.
After a year of diet and exercise, albeit erratic, he began to contemplate “the easy way out.”
“I think that, coming from an African tradition, you have relatives who somehow laugh at you for being fat,” says this 29-year-old woman.
“In Ghana there is even a word, obolo, that is used to make fun of someone who is overweight, “he explains.
“I’m in favor of choice and I think everyone should be able to choose what they want from their body.”
You want to lose weight without having to wait long to see physical changes.
Surgery is rare in Ghana, but Rainer says he now looks a little more normal.
“Is now less taboo. In the past, no one wanted to undergo surgery or talk about surgery, but someone they knew traveled abroad and came back with a different appearance, “he recalls.
Rainer feels that despite current awareness of the risks and complications of cryolipolysis, most would not be deterred by them.
What the experts say
Marc Pacifico, Vice President of the British Association of Plastic Surgeons, cautions against treatments that sound too good to be true and are offered by people who do not have a medical degree.
“It is important to make sure that anyone who offers a treatment is transparent with their patient, not client, because it is a medical treatment,” he says.
Pacifico says that people considering having a fat freezing procedure should keep in mind that “no it is painless and (Your results) not always son predictables“.
A recent study by the British Association of Plastic Surgeons revealed that their surgeons have encountered 21 cases of complications.
“Paradoxical adipose hyperplasia is rare, but it is usually significant,” notes Dr. Pacifico.
“To treat HPA, these patients have to go from liposuction to large operations on the abdomen.”
Pacifico indicates that, in addition to HPA, surgeons encounter necrosis cases on the skin as a result of fat freezing.
The Asociation calls for better regulation of how these treatments are promoted and marketed.
“We are concerned about the advertising that presents non-surgical treatments as something that does not require subsequent rest, so that it is seen as something easier than a surgical one and still obtain the same or better results,” says Mary O’Brien, president of the Asociation.
“When we talk about non-surgical treatments does not mean there are no risks and I think that’s a common mistake, “he concludes.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.