December 1, 2023

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Best tools and treatments to sculpt your stomach

Faced with a choice between doing thousands of sit-ups and undergoing a low-intensity, non-invasive procedure that lasts less than half an hour, most of us would take the easy route to a flatter, fitter stomach.

But can we believe the hype when it comes to procedures that promise to melt fat and build muscle without effort? Certainly, the appetite among consumers is strong: according to are recent survey by the Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Society, “99 per cent of women and 96 per cent of men are interested in clinically proven fat-reduction and muscle-toning treatments”.

As appealing as such procedures are, certain caveats apply. There is still no regulatory law around hi-tech machinery reaching consumers in the UK, so it pays to do your research. Also, not all options are suit- able for everyone, which means at best you could waste your money; at worst damage skin and tissue.

To help you navigate a complex – and still relatively immature – market, Bazaar has tried and tested the latest innovations to treat the stomach area, as well as some holistic therapies for the machine-averse. From tightening skin to rebuilding muscle after pregnancy, these are the best treatments to give you confidence in your core.

Dermaluxflex MD

Best for: Skin regeneration and scarring

What to expect: The only at-home light-therapy treatment to rival a professional in-clinic version, this flexible canopy can be positioned over the area of your body that needs treatment, emitting high-power LED wavelengths. I used it on my three-year-old caesarean scar, which was red, pronounced and slightly sensitive to the touch and, given my Asian skin, has taken a long time to heal. I was advised to use the deeper red frequency, which accelerates skin renewal, in combination with the near-infrared setting (which reduces inflammation and irritation), for four to five 30-minute sessions a week.

Verdict: A three-month course is recommended; however, over a period of two weeks, the vivid red around the scar had calmed down to a slightly darker colour, while the scar itself felt flusher against the skin and looked less visible. – Helena Lee

£1,895 for a one-off purchase,

Emsculpt Neo

Best for: Building visible muscle tone

What to expect: The EmSculpt Neo, whose fans range from elite athletes to models and celebrities, uses a combination of two technologies – synchronised radiofrequency and high-intensity focused electromagnetism – to target fat reduction and muscle growth simultaneously. Strapped in place on your abdomen, the machine sends pulses that cause your muscles to tense rapidly – apparently giving the equivalent of 20,000 sit-ups a session. The experience is more strange than painful: you can see your stomach muscles lifting and dropping, while a knocking sensation periodically disperses any build-up of lactic acid. After each 30-minute session at Dr Medispa, my stomach felt hot and sweaty to the touch, but my muscles didn’t ache perceptibly. For best results, four treatments are recommended over a four-week period, and the full effect can be seen after three months. Average visible results are said to be an increase of 25 per cent in muscle mass, and
a reduction of 30 per cent of fat in the treated area. This treatment is not recommended for people with metal implants or serious illness, nor for pregnant women.

Verdict: I saw a subtle but definite improvement in muscle tone and a decrease in stomach fat as the treatments progressed, and these effects should increase over time. – Sophie Gilbert

Nationwide, from £3,000 for a course of four treatments,

Emerald Laser at Dr Medispa

Best for: Shaping the waistline

What to expect: Many brilliant aesthetic treatments are non-invasive (no knives, numbing cream or needles), but few get the job done with no pain whatsoever. What the Emerald Laser does require, however, is some effort from you. The low-level green light works by emulsifying fat within the cells and causing small breakages in the membrane, giving the body a chance to expel it through the lymph system. Following the treatment, which takes just 15 minutes for each area of the body, it is vital to drink lots of water and exercise moderately to banish the fat before it settles again. The team at Dr Medispa also recommend wearing a pair of their lymphatic-drainage trousers afterwards to accelerate the process. Some patients report a reduction of up to six inches in the waistline after a full course.

Verdict: Compared with other fat-freezing or melting techniques, the results are a lot faster (I tightened my belt by a notch after only three sessions), and the journey is considerably less painful, if you don’t mind putting in a bit of work yourself. – Jennifer George

£350 a session; course of 10 (£2,900) recommended,

Visceral Osteopathy

Best for: Bloating, gut and digestive issues

What to expect: Focusing on the viscera(the internal organs in the torso), an osteopath will use techniques such as soft-tissue massage and stretching to identify any areas that might be contributing to gut-and-stomach-related problems. Patients are likely to feel slight discomfort rather than pain, with most only needing a short course of treatments (though those with ongoing issues may find they require regular appointments).

Verdict: If, like me, you find your anxiety manifests in your stomach, visceral osteopathy can be a worthwhile endeavour. After the first session, I felt an immediate tension release and saw less bloating in the days following. Results vary based on individual cases, but taking a proactive approach to identifying the root causes of digestive dysfunction certainly feels more beneficial than simply masking the effects. – Hannah Thompson

From £60 a session,

Nuera Tight

Best for: Skin tightening

What to expect: Combining five different radio frequencies, this device can target fat with heat and reduce visible cellulite, but tightening the skin is perhaps its most ingenious function. This works by delivering regulated energy into the tissue to stimulate collagen, improve texture and strengthen the dermis. It is an excellent option if you have areas of slackness after losing weight or having a baby, and need help restoring your skin to its original state.

Verdict: As with all radio-frequency machines, the application of heat can sting sensitive areas, but the treatment is quick and there is no downtime. After a few sessions, a previously wobbly and pinchable surface looked stronger and smoother. – JG

£200 a treatment for the stomach area; three to five sessions recommended,

Gelida Waves

Best for: Post-partum waists

What to expect: This all-over body treatment is designed to tackle visceral fat and harnesses three technologies – organ electrostimulation, apoptosis (dissolving fat cells at low temperatures) and ultra-violet light – to boost the lymphatic system while reducing hunger. First, probes down the spine are used to diagnose specific issues; in my case, a tingling in my left shoulder pointed to a sluggish thyroid. This is followed by cryotherapy (subjecting the body to temperatures of minus 15 degrees Celsius) and ultra-violet light to permanently remove fat cells. The treatment felt tingly, not painful, and almost relaxing.

Verdict: I saw a definite smoothing effect in just two days, and a noticeable reduction in fat around the stomach after two sessions. My appetite also steered me towards healthier food and smaller portions. – Mary-Kate Trevarskis

£350 a session or £1,260 for four treatments,

Ada Ooi, Skin & Wellness Expert

Best for: Holistic therapy from the inside out

What to expect: Trained in aromatherapy, traditional Chinese medicine and massage, Ada Ooi aims to address both the symptoms and causes of a range of medical complaints. Each session begins with an examination of the tongue to help identify specific issues (in my case, too much sugar and not enough sleep), followed by a combination of cupping, steaming, acupuncture and massage, depending on the individual’s needs. Ooi also leaves each client with easy takeaways, including breathing exercises, mantras and dietary advice to keep up the good work.

Verdict: A year post-partum, I was reacquainted with stomach muscles I hadn’t seen in a long time, and gained a sharper jawline and cheekbones, thanks to incredibly soporific cupping and a lymph-draining massage to kickstart my digestion. – Katy Young

Prices from £500,

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