Banishing the fat around my midriff has become something of a Sisyphean quest. Not only that, but the goalposts have gradually shifted to include back fat and muffin tops. Readers of my weekly column for Howtospendit.com might recall my visits to the “Cellulite Slayer”, or the time I was zipped into what can only be described as a human-sized condom to have my fat pummelled and suctioned, or when I stepped into a sub-zero nitrogen chamber, or, indeed, when I tried having my unwanted fat deposits injected with “miso” and was left with bumps in really odd places. And still those little fatty rolls never quite stay away as long as I’d like.
It took just one night, two friends lifting up their tops and three drinks to convince me that the next step was Vaser liposuction with Dr Mike Comins, a walk-in walk-out procedure at a clinic, rather than a hospital one. Four days later, I find myself striding the five minutes from my flat to his Hans Place surgery for a consultation.
Dr Comins fondles my lard. “You are the perfect candidate for Vaser lipo,” he says. “You aren’t overweight, you have a good body-to-fat ratio, you exercise weekly and have good muscle tone – so the issue is just these stubborn fat pockets.” He pulls at my chunky 2in roll of flab and explains why he advocates the treatment. “Vaser lipo uses ultrasound technology to break down fat before a suction treatment. The breakdown element is important because fat is not always the same density, and with traditional liposuction some stubborn pockets can be mistaken for swelling and remain. If the fat is broken down first, the suction process leaves less behind and the results are a smoother silhouette.” I’m convinced.
Dr Comins picks up a pen to mark my flesh. “What end result are you looking for?” he asks, and explains that he performs two types of treatment – high definition and mid definition – depending on how sculpted clients want to be. Men often like to accentuate the lines down to the groin – the inguinal ligaments. Women prefer to refine the shape of the buttocks, lower back, thighs, upper arms and abdomen.
He shows me some before and after pictures, which reveal many remarkable transformations from lumpy to lean. I’m seriously impressed, but as I’m not planning on posing for a swimwear shoot and simply want to stop having to squish in my roll of flab each time I do up my jeans, I opt for mid def: a flat tummy and back sculpting to restore my sexy little lower-back dimples.
My appointment is for a week later. “The procedure is roughly 90 minutes and you’ll have a local anaesthetic,” says Dr Comins, “which means you won’t be in pain.” If I like, I can also be sedated for the length of the procedure. In the meantime, he tells me to stop taking any painkillers that might cause bruising, prescribes ones that won’t, and advises me to start taking arnica as a precaution against any post-treatment bruising. I am excited and nervous in equal measure.
The day before the operation I buy my survival kit: prescription painkillers, two compression garments (super-unattractive stretchy control-pant-style outfits that go from my ribcage to my knees and that I must wear for 14 days post-treatment), silicone gel to diminish scarring, more arnica pills and cream, sterile dressings and a three-day supply of juices and soups from the Raw Fairies. Finally, I have my housekeeper make up my bed with a special waterproof sheet to protect against supposed “fat leakage”. I clear my diary – could I possibly pull this off without anyone knowing?
The day of the treatment, it’s nil by mouth for eight hours prior to surgery; as I am quite squeamish I have opted for IV sedation to relax me and avoid any discomfort whatsoever. I walk between Harrods and Harvey Nichols to the Knightsbridge surgery – the dresses in the windows are motivation to keep me on my mission.
At the clinic, I strip naked but for tiny paper pants; Dr Comins draws on me with a pen and then explains the procedure. He’ll first clean the areas with iodine and inject a small amount of local anaesthetic. After making a few small (3-4mm) incisions, more local anaesthetic will then be administered via a 1.5mm-diameter blunt tube (cannula) into the fatty areas. “You may feel some tugging and an occasional twinge, but you should be comfortable for the most part,” he assures me. Next up will be the Vaser ultrasound – a metal probe placed into the incisions that emits a high‑frequency sound to break down fat. The emulsified fatty debris will then be removed by inserting thin metal low-pressure suction tubes of different sizes. “I will also use the suction cannulas to sculpt the pinpointed areas,” he says, “to ensure the best possible aesthetic results.” Once finished, sterile strips or stitches will be applied to the tiny wounds, if required. Some incisions, however, will be left open to allow the local anaesthetic to drain. “This helps to reduce swelling and post-treatment bruising,” he explains.
Before the Vaser starts, I am hooked up to the IV and within a few minutes I start to feel really groggy. During the Vaser, I fall in and out of consciousness; I am vaguely aware of my body being moved about and of the gentle tugging sensations, but they aren’t painful. When I fully come to, my wounds are dressed with simple gauze and absorbent pads and I am squeezed into my compression garment by the nurse. Dr Comins shows me the whopping 1.8 litres of fat that have been extracted. I feel woozy but perfectly fine. An hour and a half after I arrived I’m walking home, looked after by my housekeeper.
The next day I wake up feeling sore and uncomfortable around my midriff and back. I have slept in my compression garment and, although I must continue to wear it during the day, I take it off to shower – baths are banned for the first week. Once it’s off, my housekeeper helps de-mummify me, peeling off layers of fat- and blood-drenched bandages. It looks gruesome. I’m anxious, but I squeal with delight as she reveals my absolutely flat-as-an-ironing-board stomach. Yet there’s also a lot of bruising and my lower back is swollen. There are also two tiny holes visible at the top of my bikini line and on my lower back.
I call Dr Comins’ assistant Gill, who tells me not to worry: “We will deal with the swelling in your thrice-weekly lymphatic drainage massages.” I book in for three weeks of sessions and when I turn up for my first one a few days later, I am treated to a light all‑over body massage that stimulates the lymph nodes to reduce water retention. For about an hour, the therapist gently strokes me using both her hands and a device that vibrates with mild electric currents. It’s soothing and seems to reduce my water retention a little.
I apply silicone gel twice a day to the wounds to reduce the scars.
The Bottom Line
Six weeks later, my stomach is still fabulously flat. I have drinks with How To Spend It editor Gillian de Bono and can’t resist dragging her to the washroom to show it off. She’s impressed, but wonders if the fat will return over time. She wants an update after 12 months. My back and sides, however, are still swollen, and while they are slowly getting better, the results are not as pronounced as on my midriff.
Three months later, the hours of lymphatic drainage have reduced the swelling. I look like a toned and sporty Elle Macpherson from the front and a curvy and sexy Dita Von Teese from the back, and the sculpting and back curvature are more pronounced. But will it last?
Eighteen months later, my fat roll still hasn’t returned. Even following a bit of weight gain, my curves have remained sculpted. But it really did take six months for the swelling to fully settle down – and the aftercare was vital. Committing to wearing the compression garments for 24 hours a day for 14 days (followed by sleeping in them for a further 30 nights – my choice), attending regular lymphatic drainage treatments, applying the silicone gel and keeping an eye on diet and exercise was essential for the long-term success of the treatment. For me, it wasn’t a substitute for a healthy diet and training regime, but it was key to refining my weight-loss efforts and targeting particularly stubborn areas of fat.
Spa Junkie, aka Inge Theron, is the founder of FaceGym. She pays for all her own travel, accommodation and therapies. Follow her on Instagram @spajunkiechronicles.