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Does Freezing Your Fat Really Do Anything?

We give “Cryoslimming” a shot so you don’t have to.

Illustration by Pablo Lobato
Illustration: Pablo Lobato

I am a woman who has had babies, which means I am a woman whose belly is … not flat. Some of that might have to do with pizza, but I like to blame the children. Before kids, my stomach was not, as they say, a “problem area.” Ever since, it doesn’t matter how much I work out — and I work out pretty regularly — my tummy just has a little extra.

So when Alexis, the manager at Chicago CryoSpa, tells me that one 28-minute Cryoslimming treatment will remove up to two inches of fat around my midsection, I know I should be skeptical, but mostly I’m excited.

Chicago CryoSpa opened in 2013 and was the first place in Illinois to offer cryotherapy, which basically entails standing in a frigid chamber to reduce inflammation and stimulate fat loss. In May, the studio got the city’s first Cryoskin 2.0 machine, which is supposed to actively destroy fat cells through thermal shock.

I don’t know what any of this means when I pull up my shirt so Alexis can work some magic. I seem to have abandoned all journalistic sense of information gathering in favor of a slimmer midsection — get thinner now, ask questions later. (I’m not proud of this.)

Once I’m lying on my back in the small but spa-like service room, some sort of gelled-up wand moving across my stomach like a prenatal ultrasound, Alexis tells me she’s going to apply heat to my abdomen and follow that with 24 minutes of 17-degree cold. That will freeze the liquid in my fat cells so that it expands and breaks the walls, killing the cells.

Alexis is quite clear that Cryoslimming isn’t intended for someone who needs to lose a significant amount of weight. “It’s meant for someone to go from good to great,” she says. “Someone who is already fit and just has those stubborn couple of pounds that they can’t lose.”

The treatment doesn’t hurt — it’s similar to when you leave an ice pack on too long. Before we started, Alexis measured my stomach, and when she measures it again, she tells me I’ve lost an inch. It’s a miracle! And I could still lose more, she says, because for the next two weeks I’ll be passing fat cells through my lymphatic system.

“Passing them? Like in my pee?” I ask.

“Like digesting them.”

When we’re done, I don’t feel or look skinnier, but I choose to believe Alexis’s measurements. Why stop eating pizza when I can just get my fat frozen off every two weeks?

Well, to start, each treatment is $350 (or $1,500 for five), and most people need three to five to see a difference. And, of course, the fat returns, Alexis adds, “if you do things to bring the fat cells back.” By “things,” she means pizza.

When I leave, my very pale stomach is bright red. A week later, the skin on the left side still feels a little numb, the way your mouth does a couple of hours after getting Novocain. No one notices the inch that has disappeared, I don’t weigh any less, and my clothes fit the same.

I’m dying to go back.

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