Q: Dr. Eppley, I am looking for a non-surgical way to reduce my belly fat. I have had two kids and as a result I have a little loose skin on my lower belly but it is really not too bad. I don’t have any stretch marks except a few fine ones. My problem is this little bulge below my belly button which just won’t go away no matter how much I exercise or do situps. I can’t justify in my mind to go through liposuction surgery to get rid of it and I know my husband would never permit it anyway. I have read about several non-surgical methods but what do you think is best and do they really work?
A: Let us start with the premise that surgery, liposuction, is the most effective method of SPOT fat reduction that we know. And any non-surgical method is never going to be as good. Whatever result any non-surgical method can achieve can never compare to that of actual surgery. And thus by comparison it will be a have a poorer return on one’s economic investment.
Once one accepts that premise then the consideration of non-surgical fat reduction can begin. While there are many energy-based devices that currently exist to reduce fat without surgery, my current one of choice is Exilis. This is a deep radiofrequency device that targets fat below the skin but can also do a little skin tightening as well. (I said a little skin tightening, not to be confused with more than a small pinch) Treatments are fairly comfortable and a series of 4 to 6 sessions over 6 weeks can make a very visible reduction. The radiofrequency energy breaks down fat cells walls, causing them to spill their lipid contents which is then absorbed. In addition, there is no recovery or pain afterwards and one could go and work out immediately afterwards if they were so motivated. For the devout non-surgical person with some localized fat collections, this can be a good alternative to liposuction. You might also consider Smartlipo done under local anesthesia. While this is still surgery, small areas can be done without being put to sleep for the best result in the shortest period of time.
Dr. Barry Eppley
The concept of non-surgical fat reduction has been around for over a century. From belt machine devices in the Sears and Roebuck catalog in the early 1900s to the infomercial weight loss supplements of today, hope is eternal when it comes to getting rid of unwanted fat. No one knows the number of fat reduction methods that have been proposed over this time but it is fair to say it must number in the thousands. So many approaches tell you that not only is there no one single method that is best, but how one loses fat varies for different people.
One concept that is important to understand is the difference between non-surgical vs surgical fat removal. Without question, the definitive way to lose spot areas of fat is liposuction. Liposuction is a proven surgical method to reduce spot areas of fat and trim down specific body areas, but it is an operation and involves expense and recovery. Non-surgical fat removal, no matter what the method, will never be as effective for spot reduction. One pursues that approach in the hope that enough fat may be lost to not need or desire the surgical solution. In short, non-surgical vs surgical fat reduction are not comparable methods. They have different outcomes.
Now enters one of the newest non-surgical fat treatments known as Zerona. Touted as a painless body slimming method that is proven to remove fat and inches without surgery with zero pain and downtime. Could such a thing be really true? Is this hype or hope?
Zerona works by using a low frequency ‘cold’ laser that passes through the skin without injury and targets the fat cells. The laser energy targets the fat cells through a photochemical process. Not to be confused with a photothermal (heat) or photoacoustic (vibration) method, this non-heat generating process makes the fat cells ‘leaky’. The fat cells shed their liquid fat content, now known as free-fatty acids, which is then absorbed through your lymphatic system. The lymphatic system transports it to the liver where it is processed and broken down, and most importantly, not re-circulated and stored again as fat.
Zerona is more than just a machine, it is a process. Treatment sessions number six to nine and have been shown to be able to take off three to five inches in the hips, waist and thigh in two to three weeks. But to aid the lymphatic clearing process, one must significantly increase their water intake and take a twice-daily niacin supplement during the treatment process. The treatment sessions require a commitment and must be done every two to three days to really be effective. Once the fat cells get leaky, you can’t let them heal themselves by missing treatments or having them too far apart. Each treatment session takes just under an hour and is painless. You literally get up and go afterwards. Daily exercise (such as brisk walking, light running, or other cardio training) can increase the final results by aiding in lymphatic clearance and an increased metabolism.
Is Zerona fat reduction too good to be true? It is if you think it is a replacement for liposuction or a significant weight loss method. But if you are looking for a safe and no risk method to lose some fat areas, Zerona may be a good option. For some, it is an alternative approach to try before submitting to liposuction and may eliminate the need for that experience and expense altogether. For others it is a commitment and a jump start to a healthier lifestyle…and along the way you may find a few things in your wardrobe that fit again.
Dr. Barry Eppley