Is it Ever Too Early to Get Swimsuit-Season Ready?

A Writer’s Journey with Non-Invasive Body Contouring

If you’re anything like the rest of us, you’ve probably already given up on your New Year’s resolutions, too. Let’s face it: It’s March now, and it is time to just end the madness already.

Was hitting the gym one of them? Losing weight?

Yeah, you’re not alone.

These are two of the most popular aspirations for those who dare prescribe to the notion of resolutions at the start of a new year. And, yes, I found myself falling into the trappings of a “new year, new me” mentality that so many of gays guys do.

I’m still going to the gym. Really. Problem is: I really like food. OK, let’s keep it real: I love food.

And food loves me.

So much so, that it insists on hanging on for dear life despite the miles clocked on treadmills and the seemingly endless steps climbed on StairMasters. It seems food—or fat—grabs onto my flanks and my what-once-were-abs area, and doesn’t want to let go. This so-loved food has transformed itself into stubborn, not-letting-go, sticking-there-forever fat.

Good times.

So, like any other great resolution not worth sticking to, I’ve given up. OK, not completely. I’m still at the gym 4-to-5 days a week (seriously!), but I’ve realized pizza and tacos are going to happen—especially when you’re a stepdad to a 10-year-old who devours junk like a T-Rex in 25 back-to-back Jurassic movies. It’s just life.

Because of this, I decided to try another tack to attack my stubborn fat: SculpSure.

That’s right, it sounds like sculpture, and it’s almost spelled like it. But, it’s SculpSure, and it’s the latest no-invasive laser contouring technology to target and eliminate stubborn belly fat and those love handles that, let’s be honest, nobody really loves at all.

My journey with this procedure actually began last summer. Since results are generally not visible for 60-90 days, I figured that by the time I had had two sessions, 60 days apart, enough months would have passed that I’d be svelte and gorgeous by the time I was ringing in 2017.

So, how’d it go? Read on, and learn about my very personal six-month journey with SculpSure from July 2016 until January 2017.

Initial Consultation/First Treatment Session: July 13, 2016
I knew very little about SculpSure when my appointment was set with Dr. Dianne Quibell at MD TLC in Wellesley, MA. Learning that she’s been the Vice President of the American Board of Laser Surgery since 2008, a world-renowned cosmetic laser surgeon, and an Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School helped set my anxious mind at ease.

Although the office name promised TLC, upon meeting Dr. Quibell, I was further assured by her genuinely warm and effervescent personality that assuaged my deepest fears and my mild reservations. Her medical Assistant, Alex, was also top-notch, friendly, and easy to speak with and quite knowledgeable about the procedure—since she had, in fact, had SculpSure treatments herself (I would live!).

I was walked through what to expect from the procedure and what I could expect in terms of results. I was told that SculpSure is cleared by the FDA as a non-invasive—this was key for me—method to reduce fat cells. This meant no needles, knives, or scalpels. And, without surgery, I was ready to sign on the dotted line. I was also assured that it was proven safe for all skin types, and that the procedure would not burn my skin despite the intense heat of the lasers. Bonus!

SculpSure is not meant to replace diet and exercise, so don’t think this is a quick fix. It’s also not meant to remove large amounts of fat for those that are severely overweight—it’s about sculpting your existing shape. It’s not an end-all solution, but rather a tool to target those trouble areas I talked about area earlier—specifically your love handles and abs.

I know you’re all thinking: “OK, bottom line, what’s this going to cost me?” So let’s get that over with right now. For optimal results, two sessions on each area (flanks and abs) are recommended. So, all in, you’re looking at a total cost of around $5,000-$6,000.

I opted for two back-to-back treatment sessions in one appointment. That meant 25 minutes for the flanks first, immediately followed by my abdomen on the same day for 25 minutes. That’s 50 minutes of burn…I mean sculpting, boys. Six to eight weeks later, the plan was I would come back in for another back-to-back session to complete the recommended two sessions per target area.

You can break the approximate cost down for each session to $350-$400 per applicator, and with four applicators used at one time, you’re looking at $1,400 - $1,600 per session, per area. Since I had back-to-back sessions, the total cost for one appointment (but two treatments) was about $3,000. Many providers will also offer payment plans if you’re concerned about cost.

As it turns out, I was an ideal candidate because I had “just enough fat” around my abdomen and flanks, but not so much that the machine’s technology couldn’t penetrate it—it being the FAT—to do its job. (I put “just enough fat” in quotes because that was the gracious and friendly way for Alex and the doc to call me chubby without having me melt into a puddle of embarrassing tears in front of them.)

Truth told, they were absolutely spot on, if not more generous, with designations about the state of my body. I’d regained 20 lbs. over the last four years, as it had snuck up on me about 4 or 5 pounds a year until—boom!—I was 20 lbs. heavier than I had been four years earlier when I was in pretty peak shape for a 40-year-old.

So how does it all work? Well, that’s where the marvels of modern laser sculpting come into play because, as I mentioned, there are no scalpels or stiches in sight. SculpSure uses a light-based energy laser with a 1060nm wavelength to remove stubborn fat.

This innovative laser energy targets the fat cells below the skin, allowing the body’s natural healing processes to expel the treated fat cells through, yup, urine and bowel movements. (Get over it, boys, it’s slightly gross to think about in all its science-y glory, but just think of it as Mother Nature…with an assist!)

The SculpSure machine has four applicators that can be placed anywhere on the abdomen or flanks at one time, making the procedure customizable for each patient depending upon your problem area(s). They’ve also tried treating other areas (on other patients) but the procedure has not yet been approved or proven to work in areas other than flanks and abdomen as of this article’s publication.

Dr. Quibell suggested I opt to treat my flanks first—with two applicators on each side simultaneously. After that 25-minute session, I would then have four applicators on my abdomen—hey, I’ll take a four-pack if I can’t have a six pack! It was suggested I start with my I-don’t-love-you handles to gauge my pain threshold. Yes, I did write “pain.” But, hold on. Don’t run away. Yet.

Well, the doc was right. This was a good idea. Your flanks are generally thicker in terms of what they can handle laser-energy-wise (at least mine were), so I could get an idea of how this SculpSure procedure would actually feel. It all starts with a cold sensation, and then you feel the applicators heat up to a tolerable level.

The laser contouring treatment delivers heat below the surface of the skin to destroy the fat cells, then reverts to a cooling technology to ensure your comfort. It’s a cycle of cool, heat, cool, heat…so you can get some relief from the laser because, yes, it can be intense at times.

The machine is set at an energy range and the technician or doctor will gauge your tolerance level. It can be raised or lowered based on your ability to not collapse in pain or scream out for Gaga, but Dr. Quibell and lovely Alex assured me that everything in that range will work equally well. (So, why you upping that energy laser on me, boo?!)

Next, my non-abs were up. My lower abdomen was more sensitive than my flanks, and the sensation was slightly more intense. But it was still tolerable. My technician, Alex, talked to me throughout each session pretending to be interested in whatever nonsensical story I was spewing, so the 25 minutes went by more quickly than it might otherwise. Tip: Do not look at a clock or have a timer nearby—it only prolongs the agony.

OK, agony might be too strong a word. But this procedure is not for wimps.

Since there’s no downtime, I was able to go to the gym immediately following the procedure, and I used that as the impetus to jumpstart my fitness regimen anew (*or so I thought at the time). The day after the procedure, there was some tenderness in both treated areas, but only if I touched these areas. So guess what? Don’t touch. Any redness had since subsided, and it just felt like I had a bruise (although there is no actual bruising). It’s not overwhelming by any means, but you know it’s there.

Second Treatment Session: Sept. 14, 2016
After my first session, my follow-up was scheduled for eight weeks later since the waiting period between sessions is generally 6-8 eight weeks, and optimal results from the first session should be seen after 12 weeks.

I’m no mathematician either, so let me break that down for you: Even though my second treatment was two months (or 8 weeks) after my first treatment, your best results do not typically show until after 12 weeks. That meant that I was scheduled for my second treatment before I might see optimal results. (Note: Some patients can see results in as soon as 3-4 weeks.)

I had purposely kept my weight relatively the same in the name of journalism (and food). I wanted to see what results I could attain without dieting or altering my gym schedule. My body weight varied only two or three pounds between these two sessions. I didn’t think much had visibly changed, but when you look at my pictures side by side you can see the difference… and these pictures are only eight weeks apart when optimal results are generally noticed after 12 weeks.

As my second session began, I smiled through my tears and clenched my teeth as poor Alex tried to distract me. But, I felt the burn. Yes, the burn. It was more intense than the first time—or at least it felt that way. I’m not sure if my body and brain forgot the first treatment, but I felt like the second treatment was a little more intense than the first treatment. The word psychosomatic came to mind. (Look it up, lazy gays! I can’t do everything!)

Like the first time, I was mildly sore to the touch for a few days after this second treatment. But I went to the gym and back to my daily routine without any downtime. When I return in December, the pictures will seal the deal for me on whether or not this no-pain-no-gain treatment was worth it

Final Consultation: January 23, 2017
Because of my work schedule and the holidays, my December appointment pushed into January. But, I didn’t meet a cookie or pie I didn’t want to marry in December, so putting my final appointment off until late January was just fine for me and my flanks.

At my final appointment, I had actually maintained the same weight as from the start of procedure—plus or minus a couple of pounds—despite the holidays and those damn cookies. I was within a few pounds of where I started but my body was noticeably shaped differently. Better. Yes, sculpted. Not Adonis-like, but definitely enough that the naked eye could see the difference. (I especially think the difference from the first photo before any treatments to the second picture--after one treatment--are the most dramatic.

Look at the pictures included here (no judging, queens!), and see for yourself. There’s no Photoshop or manipulating going on, but you can clearly see that the shape is more contoured, and the skin is clearly firmer.

As it turns out, this would not be my final consult. Dr. Quibell saw that one of my flanks was not as responsive to the treatments as the other flank, and I agreed as I could clearly see this in the before-and-after photos (you can, too. Look.). She generously offered me one more treatment for just this side—yes, four applicators on one flank! My Goddess Beyoncé, be with me! Pizza, it seems, loves my left love handle more than the right, and just won’t let go. Alex, thankfully, gave me ice packs to clench while she talked me through the four-applicator session.

I go back next month (April 25) to see the results of the last and hopefully final treatment. I do see results, but to my eye, it’s certainly subtle. A picture, as it’s said, is worth a thousand words. Just let it be known: The things I will not do for you people in the name of research and investigative journalism. (Oh, yeah… and I just might have abs in time for summer swimsuit season!)

Note: The pictures included with this article are not retouched in any way; they represent, from left to right, 1.) Pre-treatment 2.) After treatment #1 and 3.) After treatment #2.