Fat Reduction vs Weight Loss in CoolSculpting®

Knowledge is key to success

Header image for Fat Reduction vs Weight Loss in CoolSculpting®

It’s common to hear people say that they want to “lose weight,” but that phrase is actually misleading. It’s a misconception that people lose fat or fat cells when they go down a dress size — but that’s not the case.

The actual number of fat cells in your body is set during childhood and adolescence and levels off in early adulthood. After that, there’s little fluctuation, and the total number stays roughly the same for the rest of your life.

So then how do people “lose weight”?

Read: Signs Your a Good CoolSculpting® Candidate 

The Basics of Fat Cells

While the number of fat cells is more or less the same once you reach your twenties, the size of the cells can change drastically — and quickly.

As you gain weight, fat cells store lipids and other nutrients and expand in size as they do. When you lose weight, those cells release their contents and shrink. This growth and shrinkage of fat cells are what change your appearance, not the number of fat cells changing. The fat layer gets thicker or thinner as the cells do.

Weight Loss vs Fat Reduction

Weight loss

During traditional weight loss,  fat cells release lipids and other stored fats and nutrients into the bloodstream. Once there, they are broken down until they finally exit the body through breath, urine or sweat. This release leads to the shrinkage of fat cells, a thinner layer of fat tissue and a decrease in the number on the scale.

Unfortunately though, as many people experience throughout their lives, fat cells are quick to restock and swell, leading to weight fluctuation.

A 2008 study by Kirsty Spalding, a molecular biologist studying fat at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, confirmed that as cells shrink, they stop producing the hormone leptin. Leptin signals to the brain that we should stop eating. This means that as you lose more weight, the harder it can be to keep it off. Our cells naturally want to restock on what they’ve lost and regain their former, larger size.

Fat Reduction

With fat reduction, on the other hand, the actual number of fat cells is reduced, not their size. The process known as apoptosis, or natural cell death, happens all the time in the human body, but because it’s part of the natural life cycle of a cell, they are replaced as quickly as they die.

Apoptosis is a reaction that happens when cells are damaged. More often than not, it’s because of disease, but as in the case with CoolSculpting®, it can also be due to extreme cold. Once the apoptotic death sequence is triggered, the cell condenses in certain areas until the cell membrane is breached and its contents spill out into the bloodstream. Once this happens, it’s absorbed into the metabolic system and eliminated.

Since the cell and its contents were deliberately eliminated outside of the normal cell-replacement process, no new cell will take its place and the area that was targeted will see the sculpted results people search for — and don’t often get — with traditional weight loss methods.

In CoolSculpting®

Since fat reduction, especially with CoolSculpting®, is not a tool to lose weight or get fit, you need to consider your goals before exploring this option.

After following CoolSculpting® patients for several years, one study showed that while the weight of their patients fluctuated over the years, the areas that had undergone CoolSculpting® had remained more sculpted than the areas that had not.

So if you’re less concerned with the number on the scale and looking instead for a sculpted and chiseled body, fat reduction through CoolSculpting® is the way to go.

How Does CoolSculpting® Work?

Harvard University scientists Dieter Manstein, MD, Ph.D. and R. Rox Anderson, MD discovered that fat cells freeze at a higher temperature than the other cells around them. The direct targeting of the unwanted fat cells with cold and freezing them in order to eliminate them is the core of how CoolSculpting® works. This fat-freezing process is known as cryolipolysis.

Cryolipolysis triggers apoptosis in the targeted cells. Over the next few months following a session (typically one to three), the cells are broken down, absorbed into the metabolic system and eliminated. Once fully eliminated, most patients see a 20-25% reduction of fat in the treatment area.

Read: What is CoolSculpting® and How Does it Work?

Rid Yourself of Stubborn Fat

If diet and exercise aren’t getting at those stubborn pockets of fat no matter what you do, it’s time to add CoolSculpting® to your to-do list.


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