I’ve always had an issue with my stomach. Even at my thinnest in my 20s and “wedding weight” in my early 30s, I never (ever) felt confident baring my belly in a bikini. Fast forward to almost 20 years later at the age of 42, I do Pilates six days a week—and while I’m definitely in the best shape of my life, I still see room for abdominal improvement. When Emsculpt received FDA clearance last year I immediately became obsessed, and as it turns out I’m the ideal candidate.
The first treatment of its kind, Emsculpt uses HIFEM (high-intensity focused electromagnetic energy) to strengthen abdominal muscles (as well as the buttocks, upper arms, thighs and beyond) and visibly enhance muscle tone—along with a proven reduction in overlying fat. So, when I had a chance to try it at Body Squad (the first body-sculpting-only aesthetic center in Florida created by Dr. Janet Allenby of Allenby Dermatology in Delray Beach, Florida—with more locations to come), I was all over it.
Appointment number-one started with the requisite “before” photos wearing a paper bra and panties, which was definitely the most uncomfortable five minutes of my entire Emsculpt experience. (I’m so used to “sucking it in” that I don’t respond well when told to “relax” my abs—it’s not pretty.) I was also weighed, which is an important part of the “before”—and this is the driving force that will keep me dedicated to my current fitness and diet regimen so I can see the real results after 12 weeks. Yes, I have to wait three months to see the “final” results (although many patients see improvement in muscle tone within a month after completing four treatments.)
I then removed all of my jewelry (major props to Body Squad for providing a screwdriver for the Cartier Love bracelets that are de rigueur in Boca—see above), tucked my phone away and got comfy in a robe under a blanket before the Emsculpt device was strapped to my abdomen with a Velcro belt.
With HGTV to keep me occupied for the next 30 minutes, the treatment began. I found the sensation to be so peculiar that I couldn’t stop laughing for at least the first five minutes. My provider Nadja gradually increased the intensity as I got accustomed to the completely bizarre feeling—which I can liken to childbirth contractions without the actual pain, or the world’s strongest sit-up. The waves of energy—which promote such deep contractions that your legs involuntarily lift—are broken up by “tapping” phases to eliminate the build-up of lactic acid so you don’t feel any soreness after treatment. Considering 30 minutes of Emsculpt simulates the effects of 20,000 sit-ups, this is a good thing.
I got up to 85% during my first treatment, and although I was a little sweaty, I felt great when I was done and didn’t feel any side effects afterwards. Nadja told me I may feel a bit fatigued later in the day, but I’m always tired thanks to working full-time and managing a household with a 10-year-old son, and didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. The next day, I felt the slightest tinge of soreness going up the middle of my abs. This is likely because I experienced diastasis (a separation of my abdominal muscles) thanks to carrying an 8.5-pound baby more than a week beyond term. I took a Pilates class that was super-ab-heavy the next day, and I honestly felt stronger already. Two days later my abs definitely felt sore, but I’m pretty sure it was from my class the day before and not the treatment. When I inspected my abs in the mirror, was I imagining that my tummy looked more toned? (Maybe, maybe not.)
En route to my second Emsculpt session I was really wishing I was headed to a massage since I’m not a big fan of Mondays and I was exhausted after an all-weekend travel lacrosse tournament with my son. But, Nadja cranked up the intensity to 100% and the treatment went by so fast thanks to alternating between The View and several magazines within arm’s reach. I felt great afterwards and went on with my day after scheduling treatment number-three for a few days later after my son’s year-end class party. (“Sorry, honey… I have to leave to get my stomach done!”)
This time I was treated by Mandy, and when she asked how I was doing/feeling I said great, but I felt a little bloated because I thought I was getting my period. She told me that patients with less fat sometimes get a little swollen during the series of Emsculpt treatments and I was surprised to learn this. (I’ve never read this anywhere—and I’ve done my fair share of research.) She emphasized that I really need to give it 12 weeks to see the final results, and that three months after she completed her treatments, it was like she woke up one morning and was ripped. Music to my ears! I told her to crank it up to 100% and I watched Pickler & Ben, which was awesome because it was all animals doing tricks. It’s been more than a decade since I watched daytime TV, and this might have been the best 30 minutes of my week.
I squeezed in this Sunday treatment before meeting my husband and son for lunch on the beach (it was Memorial Day weekend after all), and everything went as I’ve come to expect. This was my first treatment with Briana, and when she asked how I was feeling I told her about my last conversation with Mandy, who said I might see bloating before I see toning. She confirmed this, added that that my next period might be a bit more intense. (Thanks for the heads up.) All went as expected, but the craziest part was making my 12-week post-treatment appointment for “after” photos and realizing that will be my son’s first week back at school after being away at camp for seven weeks. (Slight buzzkill, considering school hadn’t yet ended.) So basically, now I just have to wait—and I’m going to be extra diligent about sticking to my current fitness and diet routine so I can really see what Emsculpt accomplishes.
Yes, I understand that I need to wait three months to see the final Emsculpt results, but I already feel an increase in ab strength. Whether it’s lifting my upper body a little bit higher when doing “The Hundred” at Pilates or being able to lift and lower my legs with more control during the traditional ab series, I’ve definitely noticed improvement. Appearance-wise, I think I may see enhanced muscle definition—but at the very least I feel confident enough to pack a bikini for our family trip to the Bahamas next week—although I can’t guarantee I’ll wear it.
Stay tuned for my follow-up story (including before-and-afters!) in August!