Freezing Fat: Can Body Sculpting Help with Weight Loss?

Dr. Christopher McGowan
March 12, 2021

Frosty the Snowman may have been threatened by melting away when it got too hot, but humans don’t really share that same trouble. Having extra body weight simply melt off sounds pretty tempting, but can a change in temperature really help you change your waistline? It turns out that sometimes the answer is “yes.”

Many people may be familiar with liposuction, a surgical procedure where fat is directly removed from the body. Body sculpting is different in that the excess fat you are targeting is killed, allowing your body to process out the dead fat cells naturally over time. 

What is Body Sculpting?

Body sculpting, also known as body contouring, is a form of non-surgical weight loss. Though it comes in a few different forms, each with their associated brand names, the goal is the same. Using cold temperatures, lasers, radio frequencies, and even injections, body sculpting aims to kill fat cells outright rather than burning off fat through exercise.

It should be noted that body sculpting is typically recommended for people who are trying to get rid of a small amount of excess fat for aesthetic reasons. If your doctor has recommended that you lose a larger percentage of your body mass for urgent health reasons, there are more effective and efficient ways to do the job such as non-surgical weight loss procedures

What is more, body contouring procedures like CoolSculpt are not designed to replace changes to diet, lifestyle, and exercise that can help you achieve lasting weight loss. If, on the other hand, you are finding that a little bit of stubborn fat remains after as many hours as you can spare at the gym, body sculpting might just be the answer.

Does Body Sculpting Help You Lose Weight?

Body contouring should not be thought of as a weight loss procedure. Though you will likely lose weight after a treatment session, the amount you will lose is relatively small. It is better to think of body sculpting as an aesthetic choice to help change the way you look rather than the number you are looking at on the scale.

Even if it is primarily used to help you look slimmer, body sculpting does show positive results. Body contouring procedures are more effective on certain areas of the body such as the chin, upper arms, and thighs. Even with the best results, non-surgical body contouring cannot achieve the same level of fat loss you can through liposuction. 

There are distinct advantages to body sculpting procedures over more invasive treatments. One of the most important is that non-surgical treatments don’t require any downtime for your body to recover. There can be side effects, but these are typically less severe than you might experience through more invasive body sculpting treatments. 

Not everyone is a good candidate for noninvasive body sculpting. If you are simply trying to get rid of a stubborn double chin, it might be a good option for you. Losing larger amounts of excess fat is probably going to have you looking at liposuction or other options designed to help you lose a higher percentage of your overall body mass. 

Typically body sculpting procedures tend to work best for people who have a normal body mass index (BMI under 30 and are just looking to lose a few pounds or get rid of some cellulite that has resisted your best efforts at the gym). Another thing to consider is whether your medical history makes body sculpting a good idea for you. For people with certain circulatory conditions, for example, the cold temperatures needed for CoolSculpting present a danger to healthy tissue. 

What are the Different Kinds of Body Contouring?

There are now several different methods employed to help kill unwanted fat cells. These  techniques all operate with different technology, but all share the same aim. Whether it is extreme temperatures, lasers, or sound waves, each of these methods is designed to destroy fat cells, allowing your lymphatic system to break down and remove the remnants of the cells afterward. 

  • Cold treatments (CoolSculpting)
    With the promise of freezing fat away, cryolipolysis uses exposure to cold temperatures for a set period of time to help destroy fat cells. This technique is useful on many different parts of the body, though it is not recommended for people with cold sensitivities or some vascular conditions. 
  • Radio Frequency treatments (Trusculpt, Vanquish)
    Hydration is key with this form of treatment. Using radio waves to excite water held in fat cells, these procedures are limited in effectiveness if you are dehydrated. Though not a heat treatment per-se, it is common to feel a warming sensation during treatment sessions.
  • Heat treatments (Sculpsure)
    Using laser-based energy to damage fat cells, this heat treatment is only suitable for use on some areas of the body due to the flat applicator used in the treatment.
  • Ultrasound (Ultrashape)
    Utilizing ultrasonic energy, this form of treatment takes longer than other forms, but is free of some of the limitations of other kinds of treatment. Ultrasonic body sculpting is done by hand with a technician moving the device around on your body manually to target troublesome fat deposits. 

Body Sculpting and Lasting Weight Loss

The promise of fat melting, or freezing as the case may be, off your body without you having to even step foot in a gym may be tantalizing. It is important to remember, though, that lasting weight loss depends on increasing your commitment to overall wellness in all areas of your life. It is true that the fat cells destroyed in body contouring die and don’t return, but if you are still eating more calories than you are consuming, those love handles may not be gone long.

Reducing stress, forming new habits, lifestyle changes, dietary improvements and the metabolic advantages of leaner body composition you can gain from exercise all play a role in keeping you at a healthy weight. 

Another limitation of body sculpting is that it is designed for people of a certain BMI. There is a limit to the amount of fat you can lose from any one treatment, and for individuals whose body mass index reaches into the range of obesity, more drastic measures may need to be taken to ensure lasting weight loss. 

For some people, exercise, dietary changes, and even coolsculpting to get rid of stubborn fat are not enough. In these cases, the route to lasting fat reduction may involve more permanent changes to the body to help control your caloric intake. This can be a removable device such as Spatz3 or the ORBERA® Managed Weight Loss System. It may even mean permanent changes to your digestive tract through minimally invasive procedures such as endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty

There is no single path to weight loss, which is why it is important to know as much as you can about the risks you are facing by carrying too much body weight, and all the options available to you to get rid of excess body weight. Having someone in your corner who can help you make the best choices for your body and your future is important. Request an appointment at True You Weight Loss today if you are ready to learn more about how you can achieve lasting weight loss.

Dr. Christopher McGowan
Dr. Christopher McGowan
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