You’ll remember me mentioning that a couple of weeks ago I went down to London to meet Midlifechic reader Sarah Baldwin. Sarah got in touch before Christmas because she’d been reading my blog for a while and she wanted to tell me about her job as a Lead Therapist at Attune Clinic in London. As we were chatting, she started to tell me about Coolsculpting which is one of the treatments she offers. She very kindly offered me the opportunity to give it a try and once I’d looked into it a bit more I decided to accept. I’m going to write quite a thorough review because there wasn’t much information available online so I’m hoping that my experience might be helpful.
What is Coolsculpting?
This is my non-medical definition (Sarah would explain it far better). Coolsculpting is a non surgical procedure that attacks the stubborn patches of fat that exercise and diet can’t reach; so we’re talking about the podgy bit around your tummy button, inner and outer thighs and bingo wings. The Coolsculpting machine uses a vacuum to suck the flabby flesh into a funnel. It is then frozen for an hour and when the time is up, it is palpated back into human form. The idea is that the fat cells are permanently destroyed and, over a period of about 4 months, the body metabolises them as waste and they are excreted by your body naturally. Coolsculpting is only available in medical premises.
Who is a good candidate for Coolsculpting?
Each body needs to be assessed individually but Sarah’s guide was that you need to be roughly within 2 stone of your ideal body weight.
Is Coolsculpting safe?
It is backed by the FDA and is growing rapidly as a procedure in the UK having been established first in the US. The Attune Clinic is headed by Miles Banwell who is a consultant plastic surgeon at the St Andrews Centre in Chelmsford which is one of the largest NHS plastic surgery units in the UK. Attune is his private clinic and he was one of the first people to introduce Coolsculpting into the UK so his team have significant experience behind them.
Why did I decide to go ahead with Coolsculpting?
If Sarah hadn’t contacted me, it would never have occurred to me to think about a treatment like this. I’m very at ease with my body, I’m grateful to it for carrying me through the last 48 years and magically producing 3 healthy sons.
I’m grounded enough to know that the state of my body is largely in my hands – if I exercise and eat healthily it will look as good as it can. However, having been pretty consistent with Pilates and the gym since I was 33, I am aware that however hard I work, there is always a soft loose area on my abdomen. Mr MC refers to it lovingly as my ‘velvet cushion’ and both he and the boys have enjoyed squidging it over the years. Despite their despair at losing a favourite toy, I confess that I wasn’t reluctant to get rid of it.
My Coolsculpting day
So, I travelled down to London on Friday 12th February and arrived at Attune at about 11am. It is very easy to find, just behind Liverpool Street Station near the Gherkin. For some reason, even though I had communicated with Sarah a lot before I met her, I had the idea that a clinic offering cosmetic surgery would be a slightly intimidating environment. I was worried that as soon as the consultation started, I would be made to notice other areas of imperfection that needed dealing with and that I would never look at myself in the same way again.
I was also a bit nervous about meeting Sarah herself. Despite being perfectly nice on the phone, I imagined that she was going to be an amazonian creature of honed perfection. Anyway none of my fears were realised. Here she is – a very kind, down to earth person juggling a career, children, home and commute like the rest of us.
The Coolsculpting procedure
So, this is how it went. In the consulting room, Sarah took me through the whole Coolsculpting procedure, explaining its origination in a Harvard study and the science behind it. She then spent a long time describing exactly what would happen, how it would feel and showing me pictures of the outcomes of other clients. Usually at this point, the consultation would end because they like clients to have a little time to think things through and be sure they want to go ahead but because I’d travelled so far, we decided to move straight onto the treatment.
There are then a number of documents that Sarah reads through with you and that you sign. They explain what will happen, potential after effects or side effects and she does her very best to be clear about how it will feel. The most serious warnings are for people who may have underlying abdominal issues such as a hernia which could be exacerbated by Coolsculpting. I should add that Sarah has been through the procedure herself on both tummy and thighs so she knows exactly what she is talking about and she shows you her photos.
By now it was about 1pm and Sarah provided me with lunch, a gown and a very large pair of new M&S knickers to change into. She then took me over to a full length mirror and we discussed the area that she would work on. She took some very unflattering photos (headless thank goodness, we focussed on my tummy in all its glory) and she weighed me. She then drew elaborate diagrams all over my abdomen to use as guides for the equipment. She explained that the tummy is probably the most uncomfortable target for Coolsculpting. It is worked on in separate quadrants surrounding the navel which means you need to undergo the same procedure 4 times.
As soon as I was ready she settled me into the large space age chair and brought the machinery over. At this point I started to feel a little apprehensive.
What does Coolsculpting feel like?
I must admit that I quickly realised how glibly I’d taken Sarah’s careful briefing. She had done her very best to describe the discomfort but at the back of my mind I’d been thinking ‘I’ve given birth 3 times, how bad can it be?’ She started with what would be the South East quadrant of my tummy. First of all a sheet of very cold gel is placed across the area to protect the skin. Then an attachment a bit like the one that you would use to clean upholstery but bigger is attached to your flesh and it starts with a sudden vacuum.
It feels very like a super powerful electric breast pump as your flesh is sucked in. As soon as Sarah was happy that it was properly attached, she pressed the button so that it would start to freeze the flesh. The first 15 minutes, as the flesh is sucked in and the freezing begins, is undeniably uncomfortable however it then transitions into numbness and for the next 45 minutes you feel nothing at all. Sarah had given me a remote control and a screen for Netflix and I found a documentary series on the Holocaust that I’d been meaning to watch (as part of the research for the book I’m writing) and settled in.
At the end of the hour I was feeling very relaxed. Sarah switched the machine off and removed the nozzle leaving a nozzle shaped lump of frozen tummy. She encouraged me to touch it and it was completely bizarre, it literally didn’t feel as though it was part of me, it was just like a frozen chicken. Because I needed to catch the last train home (and I was feeling fine), she reattached the nozzle to the next quadrant and it started the uncomfortable sucking / freezing process again. At the same time, she began to palpate the frozen section and I have to say that the pain was quite overwhelming. I went from laughing and joking and chatting about Boden’s superskinny jeans one minute to feeling that I was going to pass out the next. It was at this point that Sarah’s superb nursing skills came in, she told me to breathe through the pain whilst she finished the kneading that she had to do and she then sat and held my hand for the next 10 minutes as the sensation wore off.
I’m not a medic but I think the extreme discomfort was caused by a mix of the machine starting again on the other side; the kneading and the sudden rush of blood exiting every other part of my body in order to defrost the frozen flesh. Think about what icy fingers feel like when they suddenly warm up. All the way through, Sarah promised that the feeling would soon go completely – and it did.
So, by now I was far less chatty but I was still determined to watch the documentary rather than watch a comedy as Sarah suggested. She brought me a cup of tea and a plateful of delicious cookies and instructed me to be kind to myself and eat them – which because she is a therapist I did! At the end of the hour we repeated the painful bit, it wasn’t as bad second time around because Sarah had suggested that we slow down and wait before we moved onto the third quadrant. She then gave me a break to walk around before we started again.
At this point I was weakening and I took up her suggestion of the easy movie which helped the next 2 hours to pass. I didn’t feel faint or nauseous again after the first quadrant but you should know that for the duration of the 10 minutes it lasts for, the discomfort is pretty extreme. I’d say I have an average pain threshold and if the most painful stages of childbirth (with gas and air) are a 10, I’d rank it at a 7/8. Sarah says that everyone reacts differently though and one lady she treated recently felt nothing at all.
When it was finally time to remove the last quadrant I was cutting it fine for my train back home. I confess I was feeling a bit tearful (and I hardly ever cry) and I was wondering how I was going to manage the tube and train journey home. Again Sarah told me to trust her, that it would be fine and in fact it was. I was wearing a loose Hush jumpsuit so nothing was pressing on my tummy and I didn’t feel any discomfort navigating the underground in rush hour or sitting on the train for 3 hours.
Cool sculpting recovery time
I slept fine but the next morning, my tummy was sore and distended and I was a bit more tired than usual. We went out with friends for lunch and I chatted away as normal but I was a bit wary of our various dogs / boisterous boys jumping around.
Whistles jersey dress; Hush Nina cardi; Whistles shoes; Claudia Bradby necklace
You are prescribed with a 2 week course of medication to ensure that any potential nerve disruption doesn’t cause pain. The very happy side effect of the medication for me was that I was fine during the day but I slept as I haven’t since I was a teenager – deep, dreamless sleep.
My abdomen was slightly swollen for about 10 days but I didn’t need to take any time off work and commuting was no more of a problem than usual! I wore jersey dresses and jumpsuits for both work and home. There was no bruising, scarring or grazing but I did avoid going to the gym, I just didn’t feel like moving around unnecessarily.
After a fortnight my tummy was back to normal apart from being completely numb – when I touch the skin it feels the same as your cheek does when you have been frozen for dental work, it isn’t unpleasant, just strange.
How long will it take to see results from Coolsculpting?
I’m working on Sarah’s worst case prediction that it could be up to 4 months. We catch up again monthly until that point when she will measure, photograph and weigh me to monitor progress and she says it is possible that we will notice some changes during that time. Quietly I’m hoping that there will be a difference before I go to Paris which would be at the 3.5 month mark.
Would I do it again?
Without seeing results it’s hard to say for definite but I think I would. It was certainly more uncomfortable than I’d anticipated but the discomfort was over very quickly. The aftercare has been great – Sarah emailed me over the weekend to check that I was ok and has been in touch since. I’m confident that if there were any problems they would deal with them immediately even though they are at distance.
The best thing about it?
Although I’ve always said I would never have Botox or fillers, there are a number of other procedures such as peels and skincare that they offer that I would be interested in. The team were just so gentle as well as being professional that I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to them. If you’re looking for an extremely approachable team for cosmetic surgery, Coolsculpting, Botox or Dermal Fillers then I honestly would recommend getting in touch with the Attune Clinic. Consultations are free so you could call Sarah or go along for a chat with her and see if you feel as confident as I do about them. Obviously I will keep you updated with my progress and let you know if I suddenly uncover my hidden six pack! In the meantime I should say thank you to Sarah not only for my treatment and for being a reader but also for holding my hand when I felt sick – not my most glamorous blogging moment but I was truly grateful to her for being so very lovely to me all day long.
Disclosure: my treatment was free but I covered my own travel expenses and I have not been paid for writing this post. My opinions are not medically qualified but they are all honest and my own.