Does non-surgical waist reduction really work, or is it all hype? Shelly Horton decided to investigate.

Image: Supplied.

Thanks to several surgical procedures and the removal of my gallbladder, there are about 18 scars on my stomach. It looks like I survived an epic knife fight.

I’ve lost a stack of weight over the past two years, and I’m trying to stay on track with my diet and workouts but it’s hard. So, three months out from my wedding, imagine my delight when I was asked to be part of a trial for Vanquish — a non-invasive procedure to reduce belly fat and waist circumference.

“The Vanquish device eliminates fat without even touching your body!” the sales info screamed. Amen! I thought. Sign me up!

So… what is Vanquish?

Vanquish is a “non-invasive, non-contact selective radio-frequency (RF) technology system” that’s designed for “cosmetic circumferential reduction and body contouring.” In simpler terms, the treatment heats up a patient’s fat tissue layer using RF energy, while the surrounding tissues remain unaffected. This process results in the natural death of fat cells.

Vanquish is pain-free although a heat sensation is usually experienced, and its side effects, including mild redness, warmth and tissue tenderness, are minimal. Research suggests results are achieved by having a course of four 30-minute Vanquish treatments, spaced one week apart, and the results are supposedly visible six weeks after the first treatment.

The treatment usually costs $3000, but it was free for those who took part in the trial. As you can imagine, I could not have been happier.

Here’s Shelly having the Vanquish treatment. (Image: Supplied.)

The trial

The trial, a partnership between Park Clinic Plastic Surgery and MetaMorphosis, began with a DEXA scan to analyse factors like body fat percentage, bone density and muscle mass. A second scan would then take place a month after the final Vanquish treatment. Dr Alex Phoon, the plastic surgeon conducting the trial, was dubious about the effectiveness of Vanquish but figured the scans would provide a scientific verdict.


I had my first scan, and it was confronting to realise just how much of my body is comprised of fat. No, I won't tell you the number, but let’s just say I was hoping this machine would reduce it a tad.

Then, it was time for my first Vanquish treatment. I laid on a table as the machine was switched on — there’s quite a bit of adjusting to get it right. It’s supposed to generate a warm but not uncomfortable feeling, and if patients experience a hot spot of focused heat they're advised to let the surgeon know.

Holy crap — almost instantly, I got a hot spot. It felt weird, like a laser pointer burning into my side. That sensation went away quickly when the head of the machine was moved away from my skin. They said it's a heat sensation much like 'sunbaking', but I would say it’s more like resting your belly over a campfire. (Post continues after gallery.)


I underwent three 15-minute sessions. By the final one I was sweaty, clammy, and my stomach felt like it was burning — but I may be a tad masochistic in that I wanted it as hot as possible so I’d get the best results.

Afterwards my stomach was a bit red and very hot to touch — I rushed back to work and got everyone to feel my belly just for the novelty of how hot it was. I went to the gym after work and it hurt to bend over and pick up weights; it felt like my sides had done 4000 sit-ups.

Later that night, a strange lump the size of an egg developed on my left side. A quick visit to Dr Google suggested it was likely caused by fat necrosis, which is where a fat cell dies. I was secretly pleased because to me, it meant it might actually be working. (What does that say about me...?)

The lump was the size of an egg under my skin. Please ignore my scars and the marks from my gym pants. (Image: Supplied.)

Despite my reservations about the lump, and because I'm a sucker for punishment, I finished the course of four treatments. By the end, I didn’t feel any different. My clothes didn’t feel looser. As for the lump, it went away after a couple of weeks.

A second DEXA scan one month after the final procedure revealed my results: nothing.

I didn’t lose a single centimetre; not even a half a percentage of body fat. There was zero slimming around my waist. After all that hoping and wishing and putting up with a lump. It was an important lesson for me: without surgery I can’t spot reduce.

I’m off to the gym.

Have you ever tried a procedure like this? How did it go?