(Photo: Getty Images)
Mariah Carey looked like a glowing holiday queen at this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The songstress, who performed at the annual event, wore a flowing red gown that showed off her always-fabulous curves — and what appears to be a noticeably slimmer figure.
While camera angles, body position, and simply catching a star on a bad day can all make it appear as if a celeb has gained or lost weight, Carey’s recent transformation seems legit, experts say. “From the photos and from everything I’ve been following, she definitely has lost a significant amount of weight,” says Stephen Davis, MD, board-certified plastic surgeon who practices at Davis Cosmetic Plastic Surgery in New Jersey.
So, how did she do it? An unnamed source told Radar that Carey lost the pounds, “The conventional way of course — dieting and CoolSculpting!“
CoolSculpting, a trademarked term for cryolipolysis (cold-assisted fat breakdown), is rising in popularity as a way to spot-reduce fat without surgery. The cosmetic procedure uses a special device to freeze a specific area of the body, killing the fat cells but leaving other tissue unharmed.
And here’s the crazy thing: “It actually works,” says weight-loss expert Charlie Seltzer, MD, an obesity specialist in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “However, you have so many extra latent fat cells that it will always come back unless you change your lifestyle,” Seltzer tells Yahoo Health.
Research confirms that the procedure delivers results. In one clinical trial, for example, people were shown unlabeled before-and-after photos of CoolSculpting patients. When researchers asked the participants to pick which was the “before” photo and which was the “after,” 85 percent chose correctly. A 2014 study in the journal Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology concluded that “cryolipolysis is considered to be both safe and effective.”
The FDA first approved the device used in the procedure in 2010. Recently, in September 2015, the FDA approved a miniature version of the CoolSculpting device for use on tiny trouble spots.
“It’s basically a big cup that pulls an area of fat inside the cup when you turn it on,” Davis tells Yahoo Health. “Once inside the cup, the area gets super-cold. For the first five minutes it feels like someone is pinching you, and then it just becomes numb. In about an hour, the fat cells that have been sucked in become like a frozen stick of butter.”
Why doesn’t the skin freeze and die, too? Fat deposits are vascularized differently from skin and other surrounding tissues, which protects the skin but not fat cells, Davis explains.
The treated fat cells are necrotized (that is, they die off), and the body eliminates the waste naturally over a period of weeks. Within two weeks, the area might not look as full as it used to, and within four weeks, it will be “markedly changed,” Davis says. The procedure costs about $700 per area.
Seltzer stresses that the procedure is only helpful if you’re already very lean and looking to target a specific area — and if you follow a healthy lifestyle to keep new fat deposits from forming. (Even though fat cells are removed, latent fat cells can still fill in the area if you gain body fat.)