I'm skeptical of any treatment that promises it will deliver results in minutes — despite knowing darn well that's exactly what a fraxel laser, Botox, or fillers can do for your face. So, when I heard about Strawberry Laser Liposuction, a non-invasive, painless, and speedy treatment that doctors claim can shrink fat cells in minutes (on your lunch break, no less) I rolled my eyes. Sure. I'll try it — for giggles.
Strawberry Laser Liposuction is low level laser technology created in England and introduced in Europe and the Middle East in 2007. The U.S. FDA cleared it in 2013 and it is now offered in select plastic surgeon's offices and medispas across the country. Here's how it works: a belt containing red lasers is tightened around your waist, thighs, or arms. The cool laser penetrates between 9 and 13 mm into the skin, which allows it to make contact with fat cells without disrupting your organs or harming the cells themselves. The fat cells are emptied, leaving free fatty acids to wander into the lymphatic system, where they will eventually be released through your urine — but only if you perform a minimum of 20 minutes of cardiovascular activity after the procedure.
I am not overweight. I work out regularly and eat well. But I also gave birth to two children within three years and, as lots of moms may understand, my waist measurement isn't the same adorable number it was when I was fitted for my bridal gown. As it turns out, I learned that Strawberry Laser Lipo is often used as a way of kickstarting a fitness regiment.
I met Carmen Fernandez at MedSpa44 in New York City and immediately felt at ease, thanks to her calming demeanor and extensive knowledge about the procedure. She explained what would happen over the source of the next half hour and, before I knew it, she was wrapping a measuring tape around four parts of my midsection: right below my bust, my waistline, directly below my waistline, and just above my hips. She showed me the massive black belt that she explained would be fastened around the upper part of my body for 10 minutes, and then moved down a notch to target the lower half of my midsection.
I lay down on the reclining chair — boots off, but all of my clothes still on, with my shirt tucked into my bra — and followed Fernandez's directions: bend your legs, lift up your body, relax, let me do the work. She fitted the belt around the upper part of my torso and it fit snug, but not tight. The row of red lasers, which touch your skin, were about as warm as a soothing bath. She placed two cluster probes on the lymph nodes located on either side of my pelvis, handed me a pair of protective glasses to wear (at the end of the day, no matter how safe the procedure, you're still in a room with lasers), stayed with me for a few minutes, and then left me alone for a few more. I felt completely relaxed. There was absolutely no pain and the laser remained warm, but not hot.
Ten minutes later, Fernandez moved the belt a few inches down toward my hips and we repeated the process. So little was actually happening to my body — as far as I could tell — that I lay there for 10 minutes considering ways I could write this article without completely trashing the procedure.
Next step: cardiovascular exercise. Unlike CoolSculpting, a non-invasive fat shrinking procedure that is permanent, Strawberry Laser Lipo requires you to pitch in and contribute to your own weight loss success. You must exercise within 12 hours after the procedure or you won't properly flush out the toxins and they will return to your fat cells — talk about a waste of money and time. Fernandez also handed me a "Strawberry" Food and Diet Advice guide that I was told I should follow in order to maintain the results of the procedure. Tips included: eat grilled fish or meat. Add plenty of veggies and fruits (but no bananas) to your diet. And avoid alcohol, cake, potato chips, take-away foods — all the usual culprits. So, basically, follow a sensible, healthy diet and cut out bad carbs.
In order to help me flush out the toxins right then and there, Fernandez led me to this crazy machine, which resembled one you'd see in any typical gym, have no clue how to use and circumvent it to use a treadmill or some similar more intuitive piece of equipment.
I stepped onto the platform of the cardio machine and Fernandez set it to run for 10 minutes. She instructed me to squat, pull two handles in various directions if I wished to work out my upper arms for a more effective cardio experience (but this is optional) and get ready to shake. She wasn't kidding. The second she pushed the start button, the platform below my feet began to violently quake in various directions and every part of me, including, I'm sure, my liver and kidneys, shook violently. It took a few minutes to get used to the machine and I waited until Fernandez was out of view to drop the arm handles and grab a magazine to read because I have the attention span of a goldfish.
You wouldn't think you'd feel your muscles burn just by standing stationary on a machine, but after eight or so minutes, my thighs, still in squatting position, felt that delicious pain. More importantly, I felt an urgent need to urinate — which is one of the key goals of using the machine.
When my time was up on the machine, I did my business and returned to the procedure room so Fernandez could take my final measurements. I lost half and inch from below my bust, my waistline, and right below my waist, and a whopping two inches from directly above my hip area — for a combined loss of 3.5 inches. "Get out of town!" I shouted to a smiling Fernandez, secretly thanking my lucky stars I wouldn't have to invoke my inner Cathy Horyn (in my dreams) on the procedure and such a lovely professional like Fernandez.
The results patients experience from Strawberry Laser Lipo differ according to how much weight they have to lose — and, as with most procedures, it isn't realistic to expect a miracle after just one session. Most patients are encouraged to purchase 8-10 sessions, which can be performed every other day and should be performed at least once a week. Each session costs $250 — to my knowledge, most insurance companies probably wouldn't pay for an elective procedure like this one, but obviously, check because wouldn't that be wonderful?
If my results are any indication, I can say with assurance that Strawberry Laser Lipo is a breakthrough weight loss treatment that works. But it's only worth the price if you are fully committed to sustaining a healthy diet and a regular exercise program. Then again, it may be just the push you need to make those life-altering changes.
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