UPDATE: There is a more recent Coolsculpting podcast episode where I talk about the incident & reflect.
Coolsculpting: a fat-freezing procedure. A non-surgical fat-reduction treatment that uses controlled cooling to eliminate fat. After freezing, the fat cells are ‘dead’ and can no longer live in your body. Your body gets rid of the fat ‘naturally’ over a period of months.
Since I started blogging almost 8 years ago, I’ve always shared my flaws and failures along with the good stuff, so maybe once in a while I could help someone going through something similar. I never wanted to be that perfect Internet person who posts perfect quotes and takes amazing selfies but in real life, was a mess. I wanted to stay real.
Today is no exception and I’m absolutely terrified to share this.
I wasn’t always the confident girl who exists today, at least not when it came to my body. When I was a teenager, I embarked on the quest to be skinny. To me, the perfect body meant hunger. It meant restrictions. It meant fleeting periods of time I was unable to enjoy before I blinked and was “chubby” again. And then, after a bit of wallowing, I’d get right back to chasing skinny.
Self-hate runs deep
Before 15, I was vaguely aware of my body and weight. It didn’t matter much to me, but shortly after my 15th birthday, my life was disrupted and I was sent away to a very strict boarding school. I was depressed and only had meals to look forward to, so I gained a lot of weight really fast. After a few months I was told that I was a “food addict” and that I should try the popular meal plan that the majority of campus was on. So on and off for four years I weighed/measured my food, didn’t eat sugar/flour or was otherwise considered to be in a “negative space.”
Convinced I was fat—or had the strong capability to be fat, I went down the yoyo fad dieting path. I was willing to try just about anything. In my early 20s I drank shakes, ate Lean Cuisines, and popped pills. I worked all the time, was very active, but only consumed 800-1200 calories a day. When I was depressed, I had trouble eating and can recall a time period where I would only eat about a handful of Peanut M&Ms daily and chug diet soda. I was convinced this was when I looked my best. When I hit 30, I did the HCG diet, ate 500 calories a day and dropped 17 pounds in a month.
I was obsessed with my weight. I was obsessed with my size. I hated myself for never being able to hit and keep the perfect numbers I had in my mind. When I was finally the size I wanted to be I was terrified of losing it. Even when I somewhat liked what I saw in the mirror, I picked myself apart. I kept telling myself that if I got to a certain weight or looked a certain way, then I would be happy.
How I ruined my body with Coolsculpting
2 years ago, I finally decided to give fitness a chance and joined a CrossFit gym. I wasn’t totally sold on it, after all nothing else I tried had ever lasted, so why would this? I felt like I needed to give myself an edge, a sort of head start. I decided on Coolsculpting. I heard they’d made attachments for the inner and outer thighs, and I wanted to find out more. To me, this was the perfect solution because I’ve always hated my legs. I told myself that since I was lifting weights, it would just enhance the work I was already doing.
A local medspa was hosting an event where they were giving 20% off the Coolsculpting procedure, if you attended and booked that same day. Sold. After the presentation they called me into a room for my consultation, where she looked and grabbed at the spots on my body where I was hoping to have the Coolsculpting done. She told me that I was an excellent candidate and since I was already in pretty good shape, this would only enhance what I had going on.
I thought that was it. That I could go home and think about it before I made the decision, but instead I was ushered into the owner’s office where she immediately started asking questions so she could run my credit for financing. It was all happening so quickly. I tried to backpedal a bit but she assured me I was getting a good deal and it was so worth it. As she ran my credit, I started to feel sick. I wanted to jump up and tell her to forget it but it was like I was glued to the chair. I didn’t use my voice.
My desperation for perfection and my self-hatred was greater than the voice telling me I should stop.
I left with a sort of buyer’s remorse but I convinced myself that it would be okay, that I was basically getting a new body and I should just be happy about it.
I wish I could go back in time and delete that email telling me about the new Coolsculpting attachments.
I wish I had been mentally stronger.
I wish I had been lifting weights long enough to see what it would do for my body.
I wish I had known better.
And maybe somewhere I did.
After a few months, the frozen fat was released from my body, and rather than having smooth, perfect thighs, the attachments had left indents—paddle shaped indents, like a sideways oval, on my outer thighs and squiggle like indents on my inner thighs. I was horrified. I was told that it was incredibly rare and happens to 1 in 200 patients. I was told that I was ‘lucky’ my spots are concave rather than convex, (which has occurred in some cases). I was told it “worked too well” and that “it isn’t that bad, you can hardly tell!”
I could tell. I could absolutely tell. It’s not like I ordered a pizza and got the wrong toppings. This is my body we were talking about and they were trying to play it off like it wasn’t ruined.
While we discussed my options to fix it, I stared at the ‘before’ picture of my thighs. They were beautiful. There had been nothing wrong with them, and I felt appalled that my former self thought they needed Coolsculpting. They told me they could ‘try’ to fix it with more coolscupting but there was no guarantee.
I walked away numb with the realization that I did this to myself.
The turning point
Today I love my body. It’s strong, it’s fit, I’ve grown muscles, and I’ve reached the point of leanness where you can hardly see the indents. Oddly enough, my legs are now my favorite body part. I’ve learned to find balance with food by counting macros. I’m so proud of how far I’ve come both mentally and physically. Lifting weights and living a truly healthy lifestyle has saved me from the self-hatred I endured for 15 years.
As happy as I am, I still see it every time I look in the mirror. I see it every time I look at a photo or video of myself. Those indents, those massive imperfections, are a constant reminder of that self-hate I used to harbor. Of that girl who would have done anything to be skinny. Of the obsession with being perfect.
I never wanted liposuction, the whole point of Coolsculpting is to avoid major surgery, but found myself getting a consultation to see if fixing it were possible. I no longer want to love my body in spite of it. I want the indents, the reminders of my self-loathing, gone. I ruined my body with Coolsculpting, but I don’t have to live with it. Tomorrow, I will have surgery to reduce my breast size (they have been too big, for too long) and while I’m under, my surgeon is going to smooth out my inner and outer thighs with liposuction.
A cautionary tale
For two years, I have only told a small handful of people, mainly because I was ashamed. I knew I would someday write about it when I felt brave enough. I’m in a completely different place now, and I am 100% confident in my decision to move forward.
The real reason why you are reading my words right now is because if there is a girl out there, who hates her body as much as I did, I want her to read this. I want her to know that she’s not alone, and I want to beg her not to ruin her beautiful body. I want her to know that fitness and eating right is the answer, the real and true answer, the answer that will last a lifetime– and that if she can get started and just hold on, and be patient, then she will see it. I want her to know that she can reach out and I will be here for her.
Fitness has given me the kind of confidence and self-love I never knew existed. It’s no longer something I do, but a part of who I am. It has opened entrepreneurial doors and given me a sort of family of people who get it. It has given my husband and I even more common ground. I’m not alone in my self-hate anymore. I’m free.
Image credit: Shutterstock
Also published on Medium.