How I tried to freeze my fat off

By Angelique Ruzicka

The CoolSculpting machine by Zeltiq looked like something that would rather serve me Slush Puppies than freeze my fat off. It’s a sophisticated piece of equipment though and I got the impression that if I started talking to it that it may just respond. But I refrained from doing so, knowing full well that it wouldn’t be a waiter or engage in small talk.

I’d done my research: it’s a machine designed to suction up your stubborn fatty areas and freeze them at four degrees Celsius for about an hour (the technical term for this is Cryolipolysis).

The aim of this science fiction like treatment is simple: it will crystalise your fat so that it will self-destruct and then be flushed out of your body through the liver over a couple of weeks. The results sound promising – around 20-40% of your fat in the treated area should ‘melt away’. It’s a story I’d relayed a couple of times so far to family, friends and work colleagues – basically to anyone who’d listen to the fact that I was going to go through with this hair brained idea.

I’d read about how this technique had been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), I’d watched some videos (check out this account from a plastic surgeon) on YouTube and I’d even written about the subject on Moneybags earlier in the week after interviewing a couple of experts. So why then was I so nervous?

I guess the disclaimer form and research did not help. The day before I’d been measured and photographed by a clinician at the Cosmetic Dermatology Centre (CDC) where I’d agreed to take the treatment. I took a snapshot of the Treatment Consent Form on my phone. In it were several warnings, including:

  1. That the treated area would look or feel stiff after the procedure.
  2. That I may feel nausea or dizziness as my body naturally warms and regains sensation in the treated area.
  3. I was warned of bruising, swelling and tenderness in the area.
  4. Other changes – including deep itching, tingling, numbness, tenderness to the touch, pain in the treated area, strong cramping, muscle spasms, aching or soreness were also reported.


I’d read about the horror stories too – reports of people suffering from frostbite and burns were openly available to read online. Check out this video on The Doctors about how a woman in the UK suffered severe burns after a treatment in a beauty salon. The CDC however reassured me that nobody who’d used their Zeltiq machine had any severe experiences such as burns or frostbite and that the machine had an in-built ‘advanced cooling technology’ system, which was set to prevent such incidences.

My experience

The clinician put the cooling gel sheet over the area on my stomach that I intended to treat. She warned me that the suction was quite strong and that if I felt claustrophobic that I could have it removed immediately. Once the suction was placed on my stomach I wasn’t prepared for the strength of the machine. A friend who’d come along to keep me company said I went pale and grey when the machine latched to my skin. I asked for it to be removed, and the clinician complied.

After letting me catch my breath she asked if I still planned to go ahead and I said I would. She placed a new gel sheet on my stomach and started the suction – this time it was easier to bear, probably as I knew what to expect.

Once the cooling process had been initiated I felt the suctioned area getting colder and eventually numbing – after which there was no pain. Numbed, I was able to chat happily to my friend for the remainder of the treatment. I glanced occasionally at the machine’s progress bar and the clinician stepped often into the room to check on me. The time flew by.

When the hour was up it was time to remove the leech-like contraption from my stomach. I was met with a cold red lump on my stomach – I’d been warned that the area would look like a blob of hardened butter. It was an angry reddish colour, cool to the touch and hard. If I didn’t know any better it looked like I was giving birth to an alien! If you’re squeamish don’t scroll down to the image below the article. Now it had to be massaged back and this was the other painful part. But the big butter blob soon subsided and I was left with a bit of bruising (like a love bite) and swelling.

When I sat up I felt faint and hot. My friend fanned my face with a brochure which helped. I felt a bit nauseous too but all of this subsided in about 10 minutes. One of the reasons I was so sold on this treatment was the fact that I could get up and go as if nothing had happened. And that’s exactly what I did – I actually attended my 20 year high school reunion an hour later.

I did feel a bit faint that afternoon and on one occasion I had to go and splash some water on my face after again feeling hot and faint. This was a bit embarrassing considering the fact that an old school friend had just sat down next to me and started talking. Hopefully she was not too self-conscious about my mad dash to the loo.

Day two and three after the appointment the area feels sensitive and I experience pins and needles whenever I touch it. It’s also numb still but I’ve been told that this too shall pass within a couple of days or two weeks max. The bruising, meanwhile, has turned yellowish in colour. I feel the need to drink lots of water and wear loose clothing as anything tight-fitting around the treated area is uncomfortable.

Would I do this again?

At this stage it’s hard to say. You don’t see the results immediately but in about six to twelve weeks depending on how my body reacts to the treatment I’m told I’d see results. I’d say the treatment was sore but not unbearable. I feel like I did a week or so after my caesarean. Or I have also described the dull ache as akin to having done a hundred sit ups.

It’s clear that there’s no quick fix or pain free solution to losing weight in those pesky, stubborn, fatty areas. Sure there’s plenty of non-surgical and surgical options out there as well as diets and exercises designed to help you lose weight. But there’s no magical silver bullet out there yet that’s pain or risk free.

When I told the clinician after my treatment that I was not keen on doing something like this again she smiled and said: “That’s what some have said but they’ve been back since to treat other areas.” I guess it all depends on the results. Who knows? Perhaps after 12 weeks I’ll put myself back on ice. Till then, the only thing icy that I intend to try is a Slush Puppie.

For more about fat freezing, click here.

My stomach directly after the CoolSculpting machine was taken off.

My stomach directly after the CoolSculpting machine was taken off.