THOUSANDS of Americans are freezing their fat off this Christmas, rather than burning it off at the gym.
They are signing up for a plastic surgery treatment that uses extreme cold to blast away love handles and spare tyres.
The procedure, which can be done during a lunch hour, is proving particularly popular with men who do not want surgery or liposuction.
Those seeking a pre-emptive strike against the festive bulge are hooked up to a machine that uses vacuum pressure and deep cooling to target fat.
It freezes unwanted fat cells in the waist, hips, thighs, buttocks, abdomen, arms and back.
Patients can read a book or watch a film while having the CoolSculpting treatment.
It is used for small areas of fat that refuse to budge with exercise, and is done without anaesthetic or medication.
At Marina Plastic Surgery, which has so far done 4000 procedures in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, Dr Grant Stevens, a plastic surgeon, says: ''I had my love handles done myself. The fat dies, the skin tightens, it's incredibly easy and it only takes about an hour. The beauty is, it's permanent … the fat that we freeze doesn't come back.''
He said there had been a rush for the procedure by men, who were attracted to its non-invasive nature when compared with liposuction. There are no incisions, scars or suction hoses.
Only 13 per cent of his usual clientele are men, but for fat freezing it rises to 45 per cent.
''The men have their love handles treated,'' he says. ''The other place is the tummy, and they also have their man boobs done. Women go for love handles, muffin tops, the thighs and arms.
''Patients like it because there is no discomfort during the procedure and it only takes one hour to lose one inch.''
The temperature of the machines is kept secret, but the idea of using extreme cold to damage fat cells first surfaced in the 1970s, when it was discovered that some children who ate ice lollies developed cheek dimples.
Dr Mathew Avram, of the Massachusetts General Hospital, who helped to create the technique, said it targeted and cooled fat cells to temperatures that ''trigger their natural death''.
Doctors have warned that the system, which was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2010, is not a weight-loss treatment.
Not all experiences have been positive. A Colorado woman who had fat around her navel frozen wrote on the internet: ''The swelling was terrible. I looked pregnant. I went from a 32 inch measurement in the morning to 36 inches that night. It was gross.''