Whenever I bite into my Monday morning doughnut, I suffer a brief moment of guilt over how unhealthy it is. Although that feeling is fairly quickly wiped away by the sugar high, it does emphasize the focus in society on body image and particularly on remaining trim (of course, there are a number of health benefits to not eating doughnuts all the time as well, but they don't prove my point as nicely). In any event, one flip through a magazine will show the focus on perfectly shaped flawless bodies.
As a result, cosmetic surgery is a thing, and there are a lot of options for body contouring in the medical device world, particularly for fat reduction. While most of these treatments are not a substitution for exercise and a healthy diet, they do nonetheless exist as a way to reduce unwanted fat.
I think it's safe to say that the most common fat reduction technique that comes to mind for anyone is liposuction. And that is the big one about 500,000 liposuction procedures were performed in the US in 2011. But liposuction in general is a pretty unpleasant process. It literally involves a surgeon vacuuming out the fat in question (did you know when fat is sucked out it's orange, Gross).
So I guess it's no surprise that when noninvasive fat reduction methods made an entrance, they were pounced on by both patients and physicians. In theory, noninvasive fat reduction destroys fat cells while protecting your skin and tissue from injury, resulting in no scarring. While only 27,000 procedures used this technology in 2011, this number is projected to reach over 155,000 by 2016, showing tremendous growth as more technology of this type enters the market. There is so much hype, in fact, that people are willing to use systems that haven't even been approved by the FDA. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery even acknowledges this off-label usage on its Web site.
A word of caution though: there are some serious doubts in the industry surrounding the efficacy of these devices. I'll leave you with this quote from a plastic surgeon interviewed by MRG discussing noninvasive fat reduction: [Patients] are willing to suspend their logic and intellect and believe that they are going to have these things done through some kind of laser...They are willing to believe anything and they are willing to pay in the hopes that it might work.