A blog from our Practice Director, Amber Moncrieff, on her non-surgical fat reduction experience, including lots of before and after photos!
Isn’t the best way to know if something works is to try it yourself? That’s why before deciding to offer CoolSculpting in our practice I had 4 treatments myself, and then went on to have a total of 15 treatments because I love the results so much. This blog provides regular updates about my experience with CoolSculpting, including photos, and details of further treatments I’ve had to totally transform my tummy, love handles, thighs and ‘bra puffs’. I hope you find it useful if you are considering this procedure or you have recently had it and are wondering what the next stage might be like. And of course you can check out all the details about CoolSculpting, including our money back guarantee, here.
Why I had CoolSculpting
As the Director of Hunter Plastic Surgery and the wife of Plastic Surgeon, Dr Nicholas Moncrieff, people often ask if I’ve had things like liposuction or a tummy tuck and are surprised when I say no! Yes, I do enjoy having anti-wrinkle injections, some laser treatments, the odd peel and use good skin care, but even if it was ethical for my husband to operate on me, I simply can’t afford the downtime associated with body surgery.
That’s not to say I don’t have areas I’d love to change… having been 25kgs heavier in my late teens and then having 3 little boys in less than 2 years (including twins), I can’t say I love my tummy or love handles. And I do make an effort to keep in shape the hard way – lifting weights at the gym twice a week, walking most days and watching my diet. But even if I get really serious for months, like in the recent lead-up to my 40th, I simply can’t shift those stubborn bulges. And there is a limit to the amount of protein shakes and tins of tuna a person can handle!
When my husband first mentioned CoolSculpting as a possible inclusion in our practice I was very hesitant – we’ve all heard about “quick fixes” for decades but how many really work? However while we were at a Plastic Surgery conference in Hobart I got to hear from some pretty no-nonsense Plastic Surgeons from both here in Australia and from the US about how CoolSculpting had become a big part of their clinics. The clincher was when one surgeon from Canberra, who is a leader in tummy tucks, told Dr Moncrieff and I that after 5 treatments he’d run out of fat to do it on!
So we decided it was worth more research and spent the next few days reading the clinical papers showing how it worked, the results it could achieve and the safety record of the technology. Then we had it performed on ourselves.
The day of the procedure (early August 2014)
The first part of CoolSculpting is the consultation and a 360 degree assessment. This is a bit confronting as the consultant has to look at all your lumps and bumps (in underwear of course) and then prepares a treatment plan. Of course I’d done my research on the different handpieces and was quick to tell the consultant what I thought I needed and where.. wrong! Rather than one large handpiece across my tummy, which he said I wouldn’t fill up so it wouldn’t work, I actually needed two small cups offset like a “v” on either side of my belly button. This would give me a more sculpted result he assured me. He also marked out two sections on my hips with an “x” at the peak of each bulge. (I should say that the person performing my treatments was a male sales rep, but all consultations and treatments we perform are by female CoolSculpting University accredited Dermal Therapists).
The next step was to be weighed so we could ensure any result could be properly attributed to the procedure, not weight changes. I also had photos taken wearing both underwear and the skinny jeans I had before kids as my “aspirational” goal.
Next I got to lie down on the bed in our treatment room and a gel sheet was placed over the first treatment area. It was very cold but that passed quickly. Next the CoolSculpting handpiece was positioned over the marked up area on my love handle with the vacuum turned on. What happened next was quite surreal – the amount of fat I had led to almost cheers from the consultant – not very often the bits you hate become the source of excitement! The reason was that my love handles were quite fatty and soft which meant they were drawn into the cup of the handpiece really well – the more fat in the cup, the more fat that you get to expose to the cold panels and therefore the better the result I was told!
After a few minutes the cooling mechanism was activated. I really felt nothing unpleasant during the vacuum or cooling stage, but apparently some people do until the area becomes numb over the first few minutes.
Then the biggest issue was filling in the time as you are literally not able to move off the bed for 1 hour for each area! I was happy to chat to the team about what it was like and then later do my emails on my phone. But if I’d not been at work I could easily imagine dozing off as it really wasn’t unpleasant.
As the hour drew to a close the consultant put gloves on and got ready to massage! This is vital to do immediately after the handpiece cup comes off as it spreads the cold fat cells to ensure the final result is smooth. As the cup came off the sight was a little strange – it looked like a long, somewhat pink, stick of butter under my skin. But after around 90 seconds of vigorous massage it flattened out and warmed up. Again, for me this part wasn’t painful but the second the massage stopped, the pain did kick in. It was like jumping into the shower on a cold day when your toes are very cold. Sort of a stinging pain. It is caused by the warm blood returning to the treated area which is still cold and for me this was about 7 out of 10 on the pain scale and lasted for about 5 minutes after each treatment – not great but I kept thinking about the goal and trying to distract myself.
After that initial painful sensation, I really felt fine. In fact, after the first treatment I continued on with my normal work duties and then in the afternoon after I had 3 treatments in a row, I got straight up off the bed, put on a pair of Spanx and a nice fitted dress and went to a black-tie function as we were finalists in some local business awards! I was definitely a bit swollen and red, I can truly vouch for the claim that CoolSculpting has no downtime as neither side effect stopped me getting on with normal activities.
Week 1 (mid August 2014)
The day after my treatments I had some mild “hickey-like” marks on my love handles (from the vacuum) and I was still a little swollen. After about 24 hours a bit of discomfort kicked in, it felt similar to the pain you get when you really overdo a workout and your muscles ache for a few days. This lasted about 3 days.
I also felt numb in the treated areas – only something I noticed if I did something like put my hands on my hips (which apparently I do a bit more than I realised… generally when dealing with the kids).
Overall, the discomfort in the first week was quite minimal for me, but again, for some people it will be more intense and require over the counter pain relief and some people get relief from wearing support underwear or fitted exercise gear.
From a clinical point of view, the process in the first few days is that the fat cells that have been exposed to the cold die through a natural process called apoptosis and then the body’s normal inflammation response kicks in to start eliminating these dead cells from the body, which peaks around 8-12 weeks but then continues on for up to 6 months
Week 3 (late August)
This is the point where all the studies say the first results may start to be visible. So I was checking in the mirror daily in the lead up to the 3 week day to see if I could tell. I was sure things felt different, especially on my tummy, but it was only when I put on exactly the same clothes and got one of our nurses to take some new photos that it was clear something was starting to happen!
My tummy was clearly flatter – the peak bulge was smaller and the “v” placement of the handpiece has created a look of more clearly defined abs – I knew they were in there somewhere!
The love handle change was less visible in the photos but the following day I put a pair of skinny jeans on and there was definitely less “overhang” in that area than there was 3 weeks ago.
During this week I really embraced the clinical side of CoolSculpting. I was studying the great training material CoolSculpting provides and read almost every review and blog of people’s personal journeys with the treatment available on the internet. I can almost guess what result they will have by reading their first post and seeing their initial photos – I will just say that CoolSculpting isn’t a replacement for surgery on those who need it and those who seem disappointed probably were not great candidates for the treatment from the outset. But when properly selected and treated, patients who have had CoolSculpting seem to love it, although you generally have to wait until their 8 week post for them to say that as many people require at least that time to see noticeable changes.
And finally, I’ve ordered a new iPad mini which I’ll load up with movies and shows so that our patients have lots of options while they have their Coolsculpting treatments – those who don’t want a little sleep of course!
Week 4 (early September)
The pictures don’t lie! It was so exciting today to spend the time getting my 4 week photos done.
While the tummy numbness went within a week but it took a little longer for my love handle area but it now feels completely normal, albeit thinner!
Week 5 (mid September)
This week I saw a lady I’ve not seen for a few months and she remarked on how much weight I’d lost. Of course, I’ve not actually lost weight, just inches, so I was happy to share my secret with her.
I also couldn’t resist and went ahead with an inner thigh treatment myself… the clock is now ticking on that area too! It is 11 weeks ’til summer after all.
Week 6 (mid September)
Our official VIP launch of CoolSculpting! A very exciting event, not only because we got to share this great procedure with patients who already know our practice, but also because it meant I got to present my own results.
Again, I was very careful that morning to ensure the photos were exactly like the before pictures – same underwear, same lights, same camera. And again, the results were amazing. I even put together a series of photos to compare my befores, 4 week after images and now 6 week after images and just in the last fortnight the results have continued to progress (see photos below).
We offered our VIPs mini-consultations on the night and booked in treatments for our special weekend sessions. I can’t wait to see the results on others as I know how powerful CoolSculpting transformations can be!
Oh, and I also bought a bikini this week.. like many women, I avoid bathers shopping but I thought with the warm weather and newly sculpted body, I deserved it. There are still things I’d like to change about my body, but I feel more confident about it now than before I had kids which is pretty amazing given all I’ve done differently in the last 6 weeks is making my fat bulges cold for a little while.
Week 9 (early October)
We just got back from 10 days in Fiji! I felt great as my bikini looked better on me that it has for years and I really enjoyed time by the pool… perhaps a little too much as those cocktails and steak sandwiches did a fair amount of damage to my weight. By the time we got home I got on the scales and was 4kgs above my weight at the start of my CoolSculpting experience! WOW (not in a good way)!
But I justified it in the name of science by coming into work on the public holiday and getting one of the team to take my photos again. The results really tested the theory that even after weight gain you can still see the benefit of CoolSculpting. While it was clear I was bigger all over, the curve of my tummy and love handles remained flatter than my pre-treatment photos. So despite putting on 4kgs, I’ve stayed smoother! I’ve posted a photo to this blog so you can see it for yourself. Now, just have to focus on getting back to my normal weight in time for my 12 week photos!
Week 11 (late October)
This week’s update should be called “Taking it for the Team”! That’s because I now have results of an inner thigh treatment I had 6 weeks ago, but to prove how effective CoolSculpting is, I only had one leg treated.
As you can see from the latest photos below, this means I now have one smooth inner thigh, and one still with a noticeable bulge as it hasn’t been treated. I’ve been waiting until the 6 week point so the result was clear before I jumped back on the table today and had the other thigh done straight after taking my post-procedure photos.
But even with only one side smoother, I can feel a difference. I just got new work pants and they were fairly tight, but more so on the untreated side. And when wearing shorts for walking I’ve noticed they bunch less at the top of the thighs which is great. It will make wearing skirts and dresses more comfortable with the weather warming up too.
I’d have to be honest and say this was the least comfortable CoolSculpting treatment I’ve had. The tummy and loves handles were less sensitive so the “sting” that I experienced with the other treatments was more like an “ouch” for about 7 minutes. Although today having the other side done it wasn’t as painful – weird! For the week after the first side I felt fairly uncomfortable, like a muscle soreness but it didn’t stop me doing any of my normal activities.
I should note that this is NOT a treatment for those wanting to be part of that silly and dangerous trend of “thigh gap” where even women with very slim thighs want them even smaller so they don’t touch when knees are touching. It can only be performed where there is a clear fat bulge and simply smooths out the inner thighs. We can’t perform it on thighs which are already smooth as it is too effective and will actually create a “scoop” result which is not what we want for our patients!
On my tummy and love handle results I’ve been working on getting all that holiday weight off in time for my week 12 photos next week. I’m determined to be exactly the same weight next week as I was on the day my pre-treatment photos were taken so I can be confident in telling patients they will see results without changing their normal diet or exercise regime. Stay tuned next week for my final results!
Week 12 (last day of October)
Well – I made it and managed to overcome the week 8-9 holiday weight gain to be back at the same weight I was 12 weeks ago! I had all my “after” photos taken again today and it was very interesting to see that they actually differed very little to the dramatic changes I could see at the 6 week mark. The studies show that the most dramatic results for the majority of people are seen between week 4 and 12 so clearly there is a lot of variation and we have concluded I respond fairly quickly.
But to spice things up and offer another interesting comparison, I’ve posted before and 12 week after photos in the same pair of “skinny jeans”… goodbye muffin top! Ok, I still don’t look like a 20 year old, but I really feel like this process has taken 10 years off my body and made wearing clothes a lot more comfortable and a lot more fun again!
I’m now excited to have another few treatments. I wanted to wait until I could say I’d seen the full results of the first round, but now I’d like to treat some areas on my upper and lower tummy as well as further around my back which were not treated in my first session. Part of my motivation is that I bought a fantastic, but very fitted red dress for a Christmas party this week and I’d love to not have to wear any “support garments” at all. Of course I’ll keep you updated.
This week we have also seen the first of our patients treated after we launched come back for a 6 week review. The results were already visible and I can’t wait to see them again in a month. The key to proper review is the same underwear – hence you see my photos always in the same boring black pieces! It just means it is easier to see the true outcome, not pushed up or down by different clothing. So if you are preparing for your treatment day make sure you wear underwear you are happy to come back in a few times in the coming months.
This month I travelled with our CoolSculpting team to the US for a CoolSculpting education trip. First stop was one of the world’s largest Coolsculpting clinics, Marina Plastic Surgery in LA run by celebrity Plastic Surgeon, Dr Grant Stevens. It was great to see how they manage their clinic with 9 (!!) machines and offer patients the ability to have multiple areas treated at the same time, a technique called DualSculpting (because you use 2 machines on different bulges at the same time).
A few days later we travelled to San Francisco to attend CoolSculpting University at the global headquarters of the manufacturer, Zeltiq. The content was a mix of theory and hands-on practice using the latest techniques and handpieces which was great as it reinforced our experience so far but also gave us a few new ideas for treating complex issues for patients. And of course we all passed the test they conducted with flying colours which means we are amongst only a handful of Australian CoolSculpting Therapists to graduate from CoolSculpting University!
When we arrived back we had a very busy week as there were so many patients booked in for treatment and consultations, including a number of people who have booked in for 8 cycles in 1 day. This means a significant transformation, but also makes for a very long day for both the patients and us as Therapists. Soooo…. we have just decided to invest in a second machine and offer DualSculpting ourselves! So now instead of being here for nearly 10 hours to have 8 cycles, the patients can be in and out in just over 5 hours – it will be like having a whole new body from spending just a morning or afternoon with us!
It has been 8 weeks since the I had my second inner thigh CoolSculpted. I originally did just one side so we could have a “before and after” on the same body but of course I didn’t want to stay lop-sided! My final results are now clear and I’m really happy with the outcome. It means I feel so much more comfortable in summer clothing, especially skirts and dresses. And I don’t get that annoying “bunching” when I wear walking short any more.
Our second CoolSculpting machine has just arrived so we can now halve the time most people require for multiple treatments. Given we have already performed 200 treatments on patients since we launched 3 months ago and are at the point we were are booked out for a large part of most weeks, I’m excited to be able to treat even more people more quickly!
March 2015 (8 weeks after final tummy and love handle transformation treatments)
I’m excited to be able to share with you my final before and afters of my tummy and love handle transformation. I had a final couple of treatments performed in January, bringing the total to 12 bulges treated around my core. This total number of treatments is definitely more than most of our patients, who generally have 4-8 bulges reduced, but I wanted to experience the full power of CoolSculpting and eliminate as much as I could.
It now means that I’m wearing a full size smaller in clothing, despite my weight remaining steady and lifestyle not changing. This not only means I’ve been able to enjoy a little shopping, but moreover, I’m wearing more of my old (read “pre-kids”) wardrobe.
So just when I think I’ve had my final CoolSculpting treatments ever, the innovative team at CoolSculpting HQ go and invent a new handpiece. This time it is the CoolMini – targeting small pockets of fat such as pesky double chins, bra puffs and knees.
I’m keen to give it a try because I don’t like how there is a little bulge of fat at the top of my bra that I notice when I’m in gym gear or a tank top.
The treatment was similar to the other cycles I’ve had in that it works on suction, but being a smaller area and having 360 degree cooling, the vacuum pull wasn’t quite as intense. And an hour later I was done and ready to get back to work. I’ll check in again in the new year with an update.
I’ve been seeing the change in my bra puff for the last few weeks and again, the photos don’t lie and show one side is clearly fuller than the other, but in real life the impact is more dramatic because you really need to see the change in volume in 3D. I’m very pleased and will try to jump on the machine soon to even myself up – the only problem is that we are so busy that whenever I seem to have a spare hour, we have patients on our machines. That’s because we are now the leading CoolSculpting clinic in the country – we have 2 of the 130 machines in Australia but are doing more treatments than any other practice because we focus on obtaining 5 star results for our patients (even if it means we have to tell some prospective patients that it isn’t for them and offer alternatives sometimes).
If you want to book in for your free consultation, please give our friendly team a call on 4920 7700 or send a message for us to call you via our contact form below.
Amber Moncrieff, Director, Hunter Plastic Surgery