‘It is like having a magic wand’
Helena Frith Powell has spent decades trying to eradicate stubborn stomach fat and tries the new Tripolar machine as it is able to ‘sculpt’ any tummy. The fat-busting treatment costs £300 a session but for Helena it is worth it…
My stomach has never been flat. Not even as a child. Although I was thin, I always had a bit of a ‘brioche’, as my exotic European aunt so charmingly called it. It would stick out, rather incongruously, from my otherwise skinny frame.
‘It’s puppy fat,’ my mother tried to tell me. But when I hit 25 it was still there. Okay, so I’ve never looked exactly fat, but there was a definite protrusion and I absolutely hated it. Friends of mine had washboard stomachs; why didn’t I?
I tried everything from detox diets to sit-ups to fasting. In my 20s, I tried an insane regime where I wouldn’t have breakfast in an effort to keep my stomach flat for the rest of the day.
A friend had told me that our stomachs are the size of a small bowl, and to put any more in them than that makes them bigger. So I tried to eat like a bird, practically starving myself in the process. But the ‘brioche’ was still there, like the last survivor on a battlefield, round as ever.
Of course, having three children didn’t help matters, but being pregnant was a relief because I was able to walk around without holding my stomach in.
I have also tried cosmetic procedures. While researching a book about anti-ageing, a plastic surgeon in New York offered me smartlipo, which is basically liposuction for beginners.
It works more or less the same way as lipo but is less invasive, and you’re awake throughout so you can see your fat being extracted. It’s a very satisfying feeling seeing the yellow liquid fill up a glass jar.
The aftermath was less satisfying, though. I spent ten days strapped up in what seemed like a humongous plaster and the first 24 hours in considerable pain. The results (once the bruising had gone down) were good, but they didn’t last longer than a few months.
I also tried fat freezing — another uncomfortable treatment whereby the skin around the area of fat you want to remove is sucked up into a hoover-like contraption and frozen. The idea being that freezing the fat cells kills them for ever.
As I lay there with my pot belly being pummelled inside the contraption hovering above me, I did wonder if my obsession with my stomach had finally gone too far. But I wanted it gone. Yet invariably, after a few months, I found the fat creeping back on.
I have tried exercise, too. I went through a phase of aiming to do 200 sit-ups every other day. There was a slight difference, but not enough. I hired a personal trainer, who was great, and the rest of me is in good shape, but the pot belly remained.
‘I fell in love with this machine the first time I used it on my legs — and was astounded by the results,’ she says.
At the time, Louisa, who trained as a psychologist but has been in the beauty industry for 15 years based at the London Centre for Aesthetic Surgery (LCAS) in Harley Street, was in Los Angeles looking at the latest technology.
‘They’re way ahead of us,’ she explains, as she settles me down on the bed for my first treatment. ‘I was looking for the latest non-invasive equivalent of liposuction and found it on Rodeo Drive.
‘I bought it on the spot and had it shipped back.’
The Tripolar machine uses heat and muscle contraction to ensure maximum fat removal, along with lymphatic drainage and skin tightening, on both the dermal and subcutaneous layers of the skin. It has three stages: First, it releases fat using radio-frequency, which heats the fat cells and liquidises them (the body then secretes the liquid through the lymphatic drainage system).
Two, it rejuvenates and tightens the skin using heat, which causes the collagen fibres to contract and increases new collagen production.
Three, it makes the body think it’s having a workout through Dynamic Muscle Activation (DMA). This is done with pulsations that stimulate the muscle layer, causing muscles to contract. It feels a little like having an elastic band flicked on your stomach.
Louisa is one of only a handful of practitioners in the UK to own the Tripolar machine. ‘In LA, it’s the number one non-invasive choice for surgeons who otherwise have to rely on the knife,’ she says. Her colleagues, twin plastic surgeons Maurizio and Roberto Veil, agree. ‘This is a fabulous addition to our repertoire,’ says Dr Roberto. ‘We’ve seen astonishing results.’
What makes it unique is its ability to sculpt your stomach.
‘I hate the fact when you go to the gym they tell you you can’t decide which bits of fat to shift,’ says Louisa. ‘Some people hold a lot of fat on their backs. Or their knees. These are areas that are often impossible to target through exercise.’
Louisa examines my stomach and we discuss what final shape we are after. We decide on not too much definition — I’m not a body builder — but some shape either side, and flattening it in the middle.
Louisa estimates it will take eight sessions of between 30 minutes and an hour each to achieve the result we want. We measure my waist: it’s 32.5 inches.
Louisa rubs glycerin gel all over the area, which not only protects skin from the heat but helps the radio frequency waves to penetrate, and then gets to work.
The machine itself consists of a large plastic head with some metal udder-like spokes on it, attached to the base, which is its powerhouse. Louisa moves the head up and down and around my stomach.
She is sculpting as she goes, by using selective and focused heating on particular areas. She’s a bit like an artist, but instead of a paintbrush she has the fat-melting machine, which she manoeuvres around my stomach, creating the shape that I want. ‘I love the fact that it multi-tasks,’ says Louisa. ‘It is toning, slimming and tightening all at the same time.’ She believes the results are just as good as having liposuction — ‘but without the expense, the downtime and the invasive procedure.’
I can confirm there is no downtime. After a 50-minute treatment, my stomach is slightly red, but it calms down within an hour or so. In fact, the whole procedure is pretty painless. Immediately after the first treatment I can see an improvement — my stomach already looks slightly flatter — but it’s after the third and fourth treatments that I really start to see the effects of Louisa’s sculpting.
There is a slight V line, like a bikini model might have, going down my stomach.
I ask Louisa about any possible side-effects. ‘It’s 100 per cent safe,’ she says. ‘It has white paper approval, which means there are no side-effects and nothing can possibly go wrong.’
The white paper carries approval from the U.S. government health authority and means that the treatment has undergone some rigorous safety tests.
After my sixth session, my husband tells me that my stomach is ‘as flat as he’s ever seen it’.
I tell Louisa, who is thrilled.
‘My grandmother always used to say, “When you look good, you feel good, darling” — and, having studied psychology, I agree with her.
‘My mission is to make people look good, so they feel better — whether this is by reversing the signs of ageing or fat melting or whatever it takes.’
What she particularly likes about this machine is the immediate results. ‘It really is a bit like having a magic wand,’ she says.
After four weeks and eight sessions, I am very happy. My waist measures 29.5 inches — a loss of 3in — and my most hated feature is a thing of the past. For the first time in years, I am going to wear a bikini this summer.
And I’m determined to follow Louisa’s advice on how to maintain my new look — avoid salt (it causes water retention around your stomach) and cut back on alcohol and carbs.
I ask her if the effects last for ever. ‘Yes, as long as you don’t go putting on inordinate amounts of weight,’ she says. ‘And if you could come back for a couple of treatments a year to maintain it, that would be ideal.’
If it keeps my stomach flat, I’ll be there.
For a free consultation, contact Louisa Gill at medilift.org, 07447 400 400 or 020 7636 4272 email@example.com. Tripolar costs £300 per session. Helena Frith Powell is the author of Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles, published by Gibson Square, £12.99.
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Helena Frith Powell was born in Sweden to a Swedish mother and Italian father, but grew up mainly in England. She is the author of eleven books, translated into several languages including Chinese and Russian. She wrote the French Mistress column The Sunday Times about life in France for several years. She is a regular contributor to the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, The Times, Daily Telegraph, Tatler Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar.
Helena has been the editor of four magazines, including M Magazine, a supplement for the Abu Dhabi-based National Newspaper and FIVE, a high-end fashion glossy, also published in Abu Dhabi. Helena was also editor-in-chief of 360 Life, a quarterly glossy magazine published with the Sports 360 Newspaper in Dubai, part of the Chalhoub Group.
Helena contributes regularly to UK-based newspapers and magazines and holds a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Cambridge. She is working on a thriller set in Sweden as well as a novel about the relationship between Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield called Sense of an Echo.
In 2022 her short story The Japanese Gardener came second in the Fish Publishing Short Story Prize. One of her stories was also shortlisted for the Bridport Short Story Prize. When she’s not writing, she works as a headhunter for the media and entertainment industry for the Sucherman Group.
Helena, who was educated at Durham University, lives in the Languedoc region of France with her husband Rupert and their three children.
More France Please, we’re British; Gibson Square 2004
Two Lipsticks and a Lover 2005; Gibson Square (hardback)
All You Need to be Impossibly French; (US version of above) Penguin 2006
Two Lipsticks and a Lover; Arrow Books (paperback) 2007
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (hardback) 2006
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (paperback) 2007
So Chic! (French version of Two Lipsticks) Leduc Editions 2008 (also translated into Chinese, Russian and Thai)
More, More France; Gibson Square 2009
To Hell in High Heels; Arrow Books 2009 (also translated into Polish)
The Viva Mayr Diet; Harper Collins 2009
Love in a Warm Climate; Gibson Square 2011
The Ex-Factor; Gibson Square 2013
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles; Gibson Square 2016
The Arnolfini Marriage; Amazon Kindle December 2016
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles (paperback); Gibson Square spring 2018
The Longest Night; Gibson Square spring 2019