The Supreme Slim Down

Thanks to new technology, Angelenos’ fear of liposuction is dwindling – as much as their waistlines and hips. Jordan Foley reports.

Liposuction is a frightening concept for most. That said, if you hate a part of your body that simply cannot be improved by a gym membership or personal trainer, the procedure – with all its horrific imagery – seems like the only option. Yes? No. Thighs, stomach, love handles… meet laser liposuction – the more exact and less invasive alternative to traditional liposuction. And according to those leading the charge, you can text while the doctor works. People have made phone calls. One used an iPad. That’s right, you’re awake. Clearly, this is not your mother’s liposuction.

By definition, laser liposuction means a laser is used to help melt fat, promote collagen production, and tighten the skin. At Elite Body Sculpture Centers, technicians use a unique form of a procedure they call the “Airsculpt Laser Liposculpture™,” which does not require a scalpel, needle, or stitches, and the patient remains awake – alert even.

I go to my consultation with a mixture of anxiety and excitement. But stepping into the Beverly Hills office of Elite Body Sculpture, I am made comfortable by the extremely welcoming staff. Nothing to see or be embarrassed about here. A nurse named Karen escorts me back to a room, where she asks me what parts of my body are my “trouble” areas. Without hesitation, I answer: “hips and stomach.” Soon after, Dr. Aaron Rollins enters the room, and I immediately notice how tall he is – professional basketball player tall – and handsome. Not the type of man for whom you want to put on a black paper bikini so he can see your fat. He examines my so-called “trouble” spots by pinching them to see if surgery will be viable. It’s very odd to have someone tell you your problem areas are, in fact, problematic, but that’s why I’m here. Karen and the doctor answer all of my questions, calmly and in detail – even the really silly ones spurred by an aggressive Internet search and urban legends. No, the fat is not going to return in the back of my neck. No, I won’t be incapacitated for months. No. No. No. He assures me the experience is like nothing more than an “intense spa treatment.” A crazy understatement? I’m tempted to believe him. He has, after all, already done two of these procedures today.

I decide to proceed. When you spend a lifetime hating a part of your body, the opportunity to change it  is all-consuming. I sign a form that says if I am unhappy with any part of my procedure, they will do a revision – without cost. That relieves some of my fears. So does the fact Dr. Rollins has done approximately 4,000 of these procedures and some other Elite Body Sculpture doctors around the country are brought here, to Beverly Hills, to be trained by him.

I return one week later and once again I’m escorted back to a room where the paper bra and panties are waiting for me. Karen takes photos that will serve as the “before” shots, an experience that is humbling. After my photo shoot, Dr. Rollins enters, wielding a black marker, which he uses to circle the fat he is planning to remove. It is not my finest moment, but I remind myself he does this all the time. Karen then hands me a pill (a sedative) and also administers a shot for pain.

In my consultation, they said the pill would make me feel like I’ve had a few glasses of wine, and they were right. By the time I walk into the adjoining operating room, I’m calm and quiet. The procedure begins with an air-pressure device called a jet injector, which is used to numb the skin, then a two-millimeter hole punch (which feels exactly like a rubber band being snapped against the skin) is used to make a small hole through which a numbing solution is infused (the most uncomfortable part, not painful exactly, but an odd sensation that makes you aware something is happening to your body).

After the numbing solution takes effect, a machine with a very skinny tube is inserted into the hole and is rapidly moved back and forth to remove the fat. A laser is then used for finishing touches and to tighten the skin. The bonus of being awake is that when I feel any discomfort, I tell the doctor, and he adds more numbing solution. There is casual banter between the doctor and his staff throughout the procedure. I am too tired to talk, so I close my eyes and think about how conscious I am and how bizarre it is. I am not in pain though, not even a little. They ask me if I want to see my fat. I turn to look at a bag filled with a yellow liquid. It is – not surprisingly – a little gross.

The entire event is over within a few hours, and afterward I am fitted into a compression garment in which pads are placed in case the holes “ooze” and then wrapped in a Velcro corset. The nurse leads me to a recovery room, where I am given Gatorade and some simple instructions: I have to wear the Spanx-like device for two weeks, but the corset only needs to be on for about 48 hours, which is how long I have to wait before showering. Soon after, I walk out with my sister, who has come to retrieve me. It seems a little strange that it is all this simple.

Dr. Rollins calls that evening to check on me, and I tell him I’m sore but mobile. It basically feels like I’ve had a really tough workout. My sister and I make plans to go shopping the next day, which we do, easily. I use the painkiller they prescribed for two days to help me sleep, but only because the corset is uncomfortable, not because I’m in pain. After that, it is all Advil and not even too much of that.

For the next several days, I am bruised and sore, but overall I’m shocked by how easy the entire experience was. The bruising and soreness fades over the coming weeks, and at the two-week mark – when I am able to take off the compression garment – I am very pleased with what I see, even though the full results won’t be visible for up to six months. My pants are looser, and I have a flat stomach and thinner hips – something I never had, even when I was young. I am back to normal activities within two weeks, including cardio workouts. It seems like it has been no time, except, of course, I look better, and because of that, I feel better, too.

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