“I would get about a quarter of a gallon of fat out of you,” Dr. Aaron Rollins says to me while pinching my arm fat in his Beverly Hills office. The man in front of me — the answer to Hollywood's greatest body-image issues — looks like an extra-tall Ken Doll and says this with jaunty enthusiasm. He's the founder of Elite Body Sculpting, the provider of new-age liposuction for the stars, but he explains his job more simply: "I only do one thing. All I do is take people's fat, but I call it body sculpting.”
Most celebrities spend a good deal of time maintaining their bodies through rigorous workouts and diet plans, but Rollins says that stars often discover that they have to be in front of a camera at a moment's notice and often feel like they need something their trainer can’t give them. “People have to be naked, or in a swimsuit for a shoot, or get into a dress for Cannes, and they try on their dress with their stylist and their love handles are poking out," he says. "What’s really good for my business is Hervé Léger dresses, because they really leave nothing to the imagination."
Sitting in his office, trying to hide all signs of my own love handles (bandage dress not included), I ask him, "If I came to you right now and asked you to get me Oscar-ready, what would you do?"
“Do you really want to know the answer?" he replies.
I do. And I start by telling him that my arms are my problem area.
“My motto is ‘If I can pinch it, I can take it,’” he says, grabbing my bicep. “Oh, this is juicy. Pinch this. I could take this much and have you wearing a sleeveless dress by the Oscars.”
Together we pinch my arm fat. “Your arms are great for this,” he explains.
His tone is like a proud father right after he’s discovered his son has a natural ability to swing a baseball bat. He wants you to appreciate how cool this is. “Your arms are a home run. So is your chin, in my opinion,” he goes on, now pinching the fat that I never knew existed above my neck. I could feel my face burning. “It would take an hour.”
As I cover my arm fat back up, Dr. Rollins tells me the whole thing is really no big deal. “This technique and this technology is so minimally invasive that I can take [the patient’s] fat without hurting them, with minimal damage and almost no bruising at all," he says. "There’s no scalpel, it’s basically a pinprick, and I have patients that look good in 48 hours.”
And just like in high school, everybody’s doing it. With awards season in full swing, Dr. Rollins says he’s been working nights, treating patients who often arrive in a wheelchair with a sheet covering their head so they won't be recognized by paparazzi outside. “But for the red carpet, right now it’s basically a necessity, like tooth-whitening,” he adds, almost congratulating himself. In fact, he's the natural defender of couture-clad starlets who get ripped apart by critics all the time: “Like Joan Rivers — I’m her worst enemy, because what’s she going to talk about?” Models are into his procedures, too. "Knee lipo for the runway," he explains, a procedure that takes less than a week to heal and leaves a small, zit-size dot.
When a patient visits, the doctor cues the music (a little Katy Perry or Green Day, whatever’s on the patient’s iPod), before giving her a mask that provides happy gas, the level of which the patient controls herself, since she's awake throughout the whole experience. Then, using a BB-gun-like device, he shoots numbing pellets onto the skin that allow him to make a puncture hole. He then whips out what looks like a foot-long needle but is actually a flexible, hollow tube the width of a paper clip that has little holes that release numbing solution. He puts this stuff through the holes into the arm until the area is completely filled with liquid, almost twice as big in size — "like a Popeye arm."
Next, Rollins puts the laser inside these same holes and melts the fat. With the same movements and nonchalance of a chef basting a Thanksgiving turkey, I watched as he moved the laser back and forth in the arm, to the point where you can see the probe moving from the opposite side of the incision point. To remove the newly melted fat, he inserts something called an NIL, a machine with a two-millimeter-wide tube that moves 4,000 times a minute, "like an airbrush machine: Wherever I point it, the fat is gone.” You know how congealed bacon grease looks? That is exactly what the fat looks like when it is sucked out of your arms. The patient can then watch her own fat be vacuumed into a clear container beside her.
The entire procedure is nearly bloodless and requires no real bed rest. It's such a non-thing that people don't even have to tell anyone. Men, who make up 40 percent of his patients, especially don't want to reveal that they've had anything done, because they're embarrassed. The one part of recovery that is required is a post-lipo diet. First off, no sugar. Second: “Two words: eat half. Take your same plate you’re eating now and give half away or throw half away."
It all seems overwhelming at first. There are many days when my muffin top wins the battle over my favorite jeans, and blazers are basically my style trademark because I feel like I need to cover my arms. And this is all self-imposed insecurity — I don’t have Joan Rivers shouting to Kelly Osbourne that I look like sausage meat stuffed into a cheap J.Crew encasing, even if that’s how I feel. But the idea that this is easy, that for as low as $3,500 I could get an inch or two or five vacuumed off? It's an attractive proposal.
As I was leaving, Dr. Rollins assures me again that I would be a great candidate for Airbrush Laser Lipo Sculpture, "Your arms would take a half hour. I could make your arms like Angelina Jolie arms." Back at home, I considered this as I sat on the couch, arm fat still smarting, eating a block of cheese. Obviously, I'd want Jennifer Aniston arms instead.
Check back in to read more from our on-going Oscar prep series: skincare on Wednesday, hair and makeup on Thursday, and, of course, the Dress on Friday. Plus see Monday's post on getting an Oscar body with a celebrity diet and fitness routine.
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