This Is What It Actually Feels Like to Get Your Belly Fat Frozen Off

POPSUGAR Photography | Maria del Rio
POPSUGAR Photography | Maria del Rio

Imagine if you could spend one hour sitting back and relaxing while your love handles were literally frozen off your body, never to be seen again. This wishful dream may just be a reality thanks to the FDA-approved technology CoolSculpting.

CoolSculpting uses controlled cooling to freeze off stubborn fat cells most commonly found in lower belly, arms, love handles, and thighs. The procedure is noninvasive with no downtime, and it's allegedly pain free. Sounds too good to be true? It just might be. With a high price point of $1,000-$1,500 for just one session, some patients complain of bruising and discomfort lasting upwards of a week. And many patients need at least two sessions to see noticeable results. So, is CoolSculpting worth the hassle?

According to Dr. Sheena Kong, a board-certified internal medicine physician who works at the Sheena Kong Med Spa in San Francisco, it is a worthwhile procedure. However, there is a limit to what CoolSculpting can achieve. "CoolSculpting is for people who have a small amount of fat and who wouldn't want to have any invasive procedures," Dr. Kong said. "For the fat bulges that are too big to go away with diet and exercise but not big enough for a surgical procedure."

Like many women, I work hard to look my best, relying on a somewhat healthy diet and daily exercise. Truth be told, for the most part I feel great in my body — love handles and all. But when you are asked to be a bridesmaid in your best friend's wedding in Mexico, you start to rethink how great you are feeling. I, like most, have a "problem area," and it has always been my lower belly. No matter how much yoga or how many crunches I do or salads I eat, I still have the infuriating lower belly bulge that drives me absolutely nuts, especially when I envisioning the amount of days I would be in a bikini in a few short months. When I heard about CoolSculpting, I was sure there had a to be a catch — other than the price tag. After much research, I could not find the downside, so I decided to take the icy plunge and get that lower belly frozen off. After a recommendation, I made an appointment with Dr. Kong.

POPSUGAR Photography | Maria del Rio

One week later, I was anxiously waiting in the modern-looking doctor's office. I was told to undress and put on a paper robe. Dr. Kong arrived moments later and got straight down to business. She asked me what results I was hoping for and then after opening my robe, she felt around for bulges of fat. It was a humbling experience. Before going any further, I asked Dr. Kong about the possible side effects from the procedure (I was still convinced that there had to be a catch).

She said, "CoolSculpting is really amazing with almost no side effects. Usually patients won't even get bruising from CoolAdvantage (the latest CoolSculpting technology). Once in awhile, a patient may have some irritation from the treatment that is originated from nerve endings being inflamed. This is only transient and with medication it shall go away very quickly."

I was comforted by her answer and continued on with the appointment. She let me know that I was an ideal candidate since I was in good shape with a few problem areas. After finishing the examination, Dr. Kong recommended that for the best results she would suggest focusing on the low belly and love handle areas — double whammy. After hearing the price tag of $3,000, I sadly told her that I would have to pick one area as the price was a little out of reach (and I by a little, I mean a lot!). Dr.Kong suggested starting on the low belly (to help me look better in a bikini) and get to the love handle area later on. I agreed and scheduled my appointment for the next week.

One week later, I was laying on a luxurious chair that was a hybrid dental spa chair. With a cozy blanket draped on top of me, Dr. Kong brought out the CoolSculpting machine and got right to work. She warned that I would experience mild discomfort, and it would feel like my skin and fat were being sucked away from my body.

She applied blue gel onto my my belly and sucked the fat up and into the CoolSculpting machine. The sensation was definitely uncomfortable, and every part of my body wanted it to be over in those first few moments. But once I got used to the feeling, it was not too bad. It felt cold, like there was an ice pack on and was about to sting, but never quite got to that point. I settled in and started to watch the feel-good movie, Old School. I quickly realized that laughing was not a wise activity as it made the skin pull away every time I moved, so I switched to a more somber Grey's Anatomy to entertain me.

About 45 minutes later, Dr. Kong came in to switch the machine to the other side of my belly. Before removing the CoolSculpting, she warned that if I was squeamish I may not want to look. I am not squeamish, but that sight was not pleasant. When the machine was removed, it appeared as though there was a large stick of butter sitting above my stomach. Oh wait, it wasn't butter — it was my fat! Gross.

She then massaged the frozen fat back into my belly which was also not altogether pleasant but again not painful. She then put the machine on the other side and repeated the hour long process. In total, the process took about two hours and was unpleasant but never full-on painful.

Dr. Kong let me know that I did not need to do anything afterward other than wait for three months for all of my frozen fat to be eliminated naturally through my system. All in all, the process was a positive one, and I would absolutely do it again. I did notice that my lower belly was smoother and slightly less protruding. I was assured by Dr. Kong that if I did do a second treatment on the same area, I would see much more noticeable results.