Michael Costello
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for VH1
January 27, 2017 07:27 AM

After undergoing a tummy tuck, designer-to-the-stars Michael Costello was left with pockets of fat in his midsection that he couldn’t get rid of with just diet and exercise.

“Sometimes in the process of losing weight, you still get stuck with stubborn belly fat that won’t go away,” the former Project Runway contestant, 34, tells PEOPLE. “I’ve tried everything.”

Costello considered liposuction, but didn’t want the long recovery time.

“I didn’t want to do anything that was really invasive, and I didn’t want to do something that was going to put me out and take me away from work,” says Costello, who instead opted to get AirSculpt, a lipo-laser procedure that uses air pressure to remove fat through a 2-mm hole. “When I saw that the procedure was not really invasive, and you can go back to work the next day, I thought that it would be good.”

Courtesy Elite Body Sculpture

Dr. Aaron Rollins, who performed the procedure on Costello, says tummy tucks can often leave patients with less-than-ideal results.

“A tummy tuck is removing skin — it doesn’t make someone skinny, it doesn’t sculpt them,” he tells PEOPLE. “In fact, it makes people look very boxy — I call it the SpongeBob SquarePants look. It almost takes their waist away.”

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Rollins removed fat from Costello’s upper and lower abdomen, as well as the sides of his midsection.

“We took out the fat that was leftover,” he explains. “His tummy didn’t match the rest of his body. He’s skinny, he lost a lot of weight, but he had resistant pockets of fat, so we took out the fat and shrunk the skin.”

Costello wanted to get the surgery in time to be slimmed down for New York Fashion Week, and only 10 days after the procedure, he is already seeing results.

“I’ve really seen a huge difference,” he says. “Today I’m wearing a size medium shirt and I’m so excited about it because I was wearing a size large shirt just 10 days ago. When the clothes are smaller and they fit, it just fuels you more. I’m happy about it.”

Costello — who says he has always struggled with body confidence — is finally able to take pride in his appearance.

“It really has made me feel so much better,” he says. “I would come to work in sweatpants and T-shirts and oversized sweaters because I wasn’t feeling right, and I now I’m wearing a fitted button down shirt. I want to look good in my clothes for myself, not for anybody else. It’s really all for me — and now I feel really good.”

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