Not too long, those who were a little too tubby subjected themselves to steam baths and "exercise" machines that basically jiggled their fat around. As technology advanced, the weight-averse turned to a mystifying array of exercises, drugs, potions, liposuction and even surgery.
But the War Against Fat is entering a new phase with the introduction of two new high-tech techniques. One of them freezes fat cells, causing them to shrivel up and die, we're told, while the other basically blasts away fat with laser beams, radio waves and ultrasound.
Sounds like a late-night infomercial? Perhaps, but no less a skeptic than the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently approved devices using these techniques for "body contouring" purposes in doctors' offices. That doesn't mean they'll be coming to the neighborhood tanning salon next week, but no one's taking any bets.
Perhaps the device that's farthest along is manufactured by Zeltiq. It calls its technique "Cryolipolysis" and, yes, that's "cryo" as in freezing. To put it bluntly, Zeltiq claims to freeze out your fat cells over a period of a few months.
Currently FDA-approved only for skin cooling and anesthetic uses in the U.S., Zeltiq is already being used in Europe and Canada for fat reduction.
As Zeltiq explains its "coolsculpting" procedure, a dermatologist or plastic surgeon uses vacuum pressure to draw the offending tissue into a cup, where it is cooled down for ten minutes or so. A few days later, the cooled fat cells begin a process called "apoptosis" and begin to shrink, Zeltiq's adherents claim.
Although oversimplifying slightly, the procedure is said to be somewhat similar to the freezing nitrogen the dermatologist sprays on your face to remove sun-damaged tissues before they turn cancerous.
"The best candidate for Zeltiq is someone who is in relatively good shape, but has modest areas of fat bulges that theyd like removed. Its not an alternative to healthy diet or lifestyle," cautions Dr. Lori A. Brightman, a New York plastic surgeon writing on www.body-contouring.com.
"Coolsculpting is highly effective and is producing consistent results for local areas of fat like the love-handles or man-boobs, though larger areas of fat may require more invasive treatments," Brightman notes.
And then there's the Zerona, which blasts fat away instead of freezing it, using what's called "low-level laser technology" to emulsify fat tissue, in effect making it smaller.
Manufactured by Erchonia Corp., the Zerona is said to be "the first non-invasive aesthetic device to receive FDA market clearance in the U.S. for circumferential reduction of the waist, hips, and thighs."
The problem with fat cells, simply put, is that they tend to grow. They're capable of expanding to at least 64 times their originial size. That was good when we lived as nomads and couldn't count on getting three meals a day. But in a population that's basically overfed and underworked, it can cause problems, big problems.
The Zerona comes to the rescue by targeting fat cells and forcing them to collapse.
"Zerona is scientifically-proven to be both safe and effective, and this most recent FDA clearance simply validates the research supporting this application, says Charlie Shanks, vice president of Erchonia. Zeronas FDA clearance makes it even more unique in the marketplace and we are excited to continue the momentum with a new, integrated marketing campaign.
So are either of these rather intimidating-sounding procedures right for you? The only way to find out is to have a talk with your doctor who, if he or she approves, will help you find a specialist who'll freeze or blast your fat for you.
But before you do that, you might also want to find a Registered Dietitian (R.D.), preferably one with a Ph.D. Dietitians are that rarity -- someone who actually knows a lot about how the body processes food and who can work with you to tailor an individual dietary plan that might actually accomplish something. You can find an online directory of dietitians at eatright.org.
Not too long, those who were a little too tubby subjected themselves to steam baths and "exercise" machines that basically jiggled their fat around....