When scientists at Harvard observed that some kids got dimples in their cheeks after eating popsicles, they realized that the popsicles were freezing and eliminating small pockets of fat cells. That led to the realization that fat cells can be frozen and destroyed without damaging the surrounding skin and tissue, which in turn led to cryolipolysis, the science behind Coolsculpting.

When losing weight isn’t enough, body sculpting might be an option.

That’s the premise behind Coolsculpting, an innovative way to reduce fat without invasive treatments or surgery that has recently come to Scott County.

Think liposuction without the knives, and you have Coolsculpting. The company behind the technique, Allergan, says it’s the world’s No. 1 non-invasive fat-reduction procedure.

For Dr.’s Weight Loss, it was the logical next step towards helping patients achieve the body they want.

Gina Phillips, who owns the weight loss clinic with her husband, Oneida financial advisor Steve Phillips, and brother-in-law Dr. Gary Phillips, makes clear what Coolsculpting isn’t: it’s not for weight loss. But if you have areas of your body you aren’t happy with, Coolsculpting might be for you.

Kathi Hall, a retired nurse recruited by Phillips to be a Coolsculpting technician, said the procedure can help patients achieve the look they want when weight loss simply won’t.

“No matter how much exercise you do, no matter how much you diet, you still have fat that won’t go away,” Hall said.

That’s where Coolsculpting comes in. Through a process known as cryolipolysis and patented by Massachusetts General Hospital, Coolsculpting reshapes the human body by literally freezing fat to death.

Using temperatures as cold as -11 degrees, Coolsculpting targets fat cells in various parts of the body — from the stomach to the neck to the upper arms to the buttocks and elsewhere — and freezes it, causing the subcutaneous fat cells to slowly die over a period of several months.

And, so far, patients in the Oneida area who have decided to give Coolsculpting a try have liked the results.

“When we first opened, we were at the top of our region for practices with one machine,” Phillips said. “It was very well received.” 

How It Works

The first step to Coolsculpting is a consultation. Patients who want to achieve a different look — maybe even drop a pant size or two — can contact Hall at 423-215-5386. She’ll sit down with them to go over their options and determine what they hope to achieve. From there, the treatments can begin.

“The goal of most people who come in is they want their clothes to fit better,” Hall said. “It’s not that they think they’re going to have a 17-year-old body again. They just want to look and feel better.” 

And, contrary to stereotypes, the procedure isn’t just for women. Hall said she’s treated men as well as women.

Tucked away in one of the rooms in the Ameriprise office building in Oneida, the Coolsculpting setup doesn’t feel like the emotionless and often intimidating procedural rooms found at most doctors’ offices. But, then, the procedure isn’t much like a procedure you’d undergo at a medical clinic.

“We have people come in and read, work on their computer, just pass the time,” Phillips said.

That is perhaps the most “painful” part of the procedure: the wait. A treatment can take as long as 75 minutes to complete. But once it’s finished, “You can go right back to work,” Phillips said. “There’s no downtime at all.” 

So what happens inside the Coolsculpting room? Using a variety of applicators that are fitted for various parts of the body, Coolsculpting works by literally sucking areas of bulging fat into the applicator, almost instantly freezing the tissue and causing it to go numb. In addition to being non-invasive, it’s also non-painful, with gel pads used to prevent frostbite to the skin. 

In the process, the fat cells are permanently killed. And over a period of weeks and months, the body will slowly excrete those dead cells, as the body naturally does. No apparent damage is done to the outside skin, and after about three or four months, the difference is apparent, with as much as 25 percent fat reduction in targeted areas.

“It sculpts the body, basically,” Hall said. “It cuts off those sides and gets you back to a normal shape.” 

Because the procedure is non-invasive, the fat cells are killed, not removed. That’s what separates it from cosmetic procedures like liposuction. The results, therefore, aren’t instantaneous, as they would be with liposuction. But the wait is worth it, with complications much more limited and rare than with invasive procedures. And, for those who wonder, Coolsculpting is FDA-approved.

A Natural Next Step

For Dr.’s Weight Loss, Coolsculpting was a natural way to offer patients something new. Phillips said she has known since the weight loss clinic opened 11 years ago that she wanted to evolve into something like Coolsculpting, but she wasn’t comfortable with any of the procedures she researched — until Coolsculpting came along.

“We have always wanted to add an element that was something beyond what we had been doing for so many years,” she said. “You just want to be able to offer something to your patients.”

Dr.’s Weight Loss opened in Oneida in 2007, and later expanded to include a second clinic in Jamestown. Gary and Steve Phillips are twin brothers and had long wanted a business venture together. After one of Dr. Phillips’ physician friends opened a successful weight loss clinic elsewhere, Oneida seemed like a natural fit for such a clinic.

It was a business venture that proved successful for the Phillips. Open two days each week, Dr.’s Weight Loss draws clients from a large geographic area that extends well beyond Scott County and Fentress County. Operating under strict guidelines — patients have to be above a certain body mass index to qualify, have to show that they’re losing weight, and have to have their blood pressure closely monitored — Dr.’s Weight Loss first consults with people who need and want to lose weight, then prescribes and dispenses weight loss medication to help patients achieve their weight loss goals.

That medication, Gina Phillips said, is not magic.

“It helps you curb your appetite and give you more energy, but you have to watch what you eat, drink more water, get more exercise, things like that, if you want to lose weight,” she said. “The patient has to put the effort into it, but we’ve had patients who’ve lost over 100 pounds.” 

Coolsculpting is what can happen next, when patients have lost weight but have stubborn pouches of fat that just won’t go away.

“We looked at a lot of different machines, and Coolsculpting was the first one we felt comfortable about,” Phillips said. “It gets the highest ratings of customer satisfaction.” 

The treatments aren’t cheap, costing several thousands of dollars, but the fat loss is permanent. And Coolsculpting offers interest-free financing to help make it more affordable.

“It’s a serious decision, but it’s an investment in yourself,” Phillips said. 

And it all starts with a free consultation, so patients can determine in advance what it will cost them to achieve their goals and whether they can afford it.

“It’s nice to have another service that we can offer,” Phillips said. “Not everyone who comes into the weight loss clinic can afford this. And not everybody is interested in it. But it’s there for those who want it.”

This story is the July 2018 installment of Business Spotlight, presented by the Scott County Chamber of Commerce on the third week of each month as part of the Independent Herald's Back Page Features series. A print version of this story can be found on Page B8 of the July 19, 2018 edition of the Independent Herald.