I Blasted My Love Handles With Lasers

I Blasted My Love Handles With Lasers

One of the few proven ways to permanently get rid of that pesky layer of fat

Valet.'s editor Cory Ohlendorf getting WarmSculpting procedure done

The author, moments before the lasers started heating up.

For the past five years, I've been going to the gym regularly and trying to make responsible choices about my nutrition. I eat fairly clean during the week, but come the weekend, there is plenty of indulgent foods, sweets and alcohol. It's all about balance, right? And every few months, I really ramp things up and push myself in the gym, hoping to see new progress and results. But of course, this doesn't last very long. And while I've certainly leaned down and toned a few vanity muscles, there's one area that never seems to budge. Those damn, dreaded love handles.

This matching set of soft adipose fat has hung on for dear life. Even when my efforts in the gym and my carb cutting has brought forth the faintest hint of abs, those love handles remained defiantly squishy. Which is just the thing to sap you of enthusiasm and motivation. After all, you can do your best to boost your metabolism, but you can't target where your body burns fat.

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Apparently, men hang on to the fat in this area more than any other place on their body. And bonus, two important factors that contribute to love handle formation—stress and lack of sleep—will be familiar to anyone living and working in the 21st century. Another disadvantage? Once love handles appear, our biology makes them incredibly difficult to ditch. "You lose fat in the reverse order that you deposit it," says Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., an instructor of exercise science at Quincy College. "And typically for men, the last place they lose fat would be that midsection area—the first place they put it on."

But all hope is not lost. Not when technology is making strides in the name of self-improvement. Case in point: WarmSculpting with SculpSure, a relatively new procedure that uses heat to destroy fat cells in specific areas on the body. How? It uses high intensity laser light to heat up adipose tissue just under the skin's surface to 107.6 to 116.6 degrees Fahrenheit. It's the first FDA-cleared, non-invasive laser body contouring treatment for the reduction of fat cells.

Always one to try new things in the interest of research, I happily volunteered my body (and fat) to try WarmSculpting on my love handles. Anique Bryan, MD, a Miami-based physician specializing in anti-aging and regenerative medicine walks me through the procedure on my first visit and explains why the treatment is so effective. "When we gain and lose weight, often the fat cells in our midsection simply expand and shrink," she says. "They rarely go away entirely, which is why it's so hard to lose fat in that area." But the WarmSculpting process actually kills fat cells, rendering the heat-damaged cells into waste that is then excreted by the body. Yep, you essentially pee out your fat. Which is why I'm instructed to increase my water intake over the next few weeks.

SculpSure machine

The SculpSure machine.

SculpSure machine

The SculpSure machine.

"So, how hot is the laser?" I ask Dr. Bryan as she straps a belt around my midsection and lays me down on a padded table like I'm about to get a massage. Instead, she attaches the arms of the SculpSure machine, which look a bit like a robot with octopus-like tentacles, each equipped with laser modules at the end. The tentacles get clipped onto the belt so they're aimed right at the fat we're looking to destroy. "Well, everyone's a bit different," she says, explaining that the machine alternates between heat and cold to help you tolerate the 25-minute procedure. "And we give you this too," and hands me a silvery stress ball to squeeze.

SculpSure stress ball
SculpSure stress ball

The doc taps a few buttons on the machine's touchscreen and away we go. An icy blast of cool from the applicators chill my skin for a few moments before I feel the heat rising, ever so slightly. More heat follows, then a blast of cool brings it down. More heat, this time maybe hotter? Then relief by a chilly shot of cool. And now we're cooking as the heat seems to last a little longer and I imagine the fat cells in my flanks popping like microwave popcorn. The heat intensity comes and goes in undulating waves. Just when it seems like I can't bear the discomfort of the fat-scorching, it switches to the icy cool break. Is it painful? Not exactly. After all, it's just a touch warmer than your average hot tub. But that stress ball definitely came in handy.

When we're finished, Dr. Bryan tells me to massage the area in the shower to help move the fat cells through the system and prevent any unwanted side effects or soreness. There's no downtime—I left the doctor's office and went right back to work. And while there was some slight tenderness in the area in the days that followed, it felt like I'd done a really good workout and had sore oblique muscles. As for the cost, the actual price varies by state and practitioner, but generally ranges from $1,000 to $1,500 per treatment. (The company waived the fee for me to try for the purposes of this article.)

Over the next few weeks, the zapped fat works its way out of your body. I did notice a slight cloudiness to my urine at times, which can be expected as you expel the cells and other waste. We schedule a follow-up appointment six weeks later for a second treatment. Most people see optimal results after two to three sessions, and the results are fully noticeable at the 12-week mark.

Valet.'s editor Cory Ohlendorf before and after WarmSculpting procedure

The humble before and after.

Valet.'s editor Cory Ohlendorf before and after WarmSculpting procedure

The humble before and after.

I'll be honest, at first, you don't see any change. But then slowly, I began noticing my waist looking smaller when I'd catch myself in the mirror before a shower. Now, six weeks after my third treatment, I've got less flab around my flanks, my pants fit much more comfortably and I can appreciate the fat starting to whittle away, while definition is easier to spot.

The results are noticeable, but modest. This isn't liposuction and isn't for clearing away large swaths of fat. But for active guys who can't seem to make progress in certain hard-to-lose areas, it's pretty damn effective. And scientifically sound. Medical studies have quantified the sort of effect a 25-minute treatment with a 1060 nanometer laser has on fat cells. One study found that "macrophage infiltration" (the Pac Man-like process of white blood cells devouring dead fat cells) begins two weeks after treatment and was complete around three months after treatment.

I'm definitely impressed. Especially when I compared the "after" pic I took today in the bathroom to the photo Dr. Bryan snapped in her office on the day of my first treatment. I’m wearing the same jeans, though admittedly, my bathroom light is more flattering. But I can assure you, dear reader, that I did not crash diet or try to "cut and tone" for said after photo because, you see, I didn't think there'd be after pics. Because it seemed crazy I'd be publishing a shirtless selfie on the internet. But here we are. At least I can feel pretty good about my love handles now ... or lack thereof.

Interested? Ask your doctor or go to the SculpSure website to find a practitioner near you.

Where It
Works

The areas men will most likely want to attack are the abs, love handles, or the chin. But the procedure is good for inner and outer thighs and the back as well.

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