Perhaps you took the plunge and finally had those stubborn saddlebags or that flabby tummy treated with liposuction. But the procedure that suctions away fat cells from areas that refuse to reduce through diet and exercise is about more than cosmetic surgery. Oftentimes it provides the impetus for ‘a whole new you.’
“Many, many patients become highly motivated to lose weight after liposuction because they are so encouraged by their new figures,” says Dr. Judith Gurley. “Weight loss will often complement the work done with liposuction because the body as a whole is improved, and stubborn fat resistant to diet and exercise is gone. The key is to have a plastic surgeon critically look at the body as a whole so that they can sculpt in such a way that puts you in proportion. At that point, small weight losses or weight gains will continue to be in proportion.”
Gurley and her colleagues agree that liposuction is not a weight-loss procedure. Rather, it is a body contouring tool that works best for people who already have attained a healthy weight and fitness level. “Exercise compliments liposuction very well,” she says. “Weight should be controlled, and exercising should continue. Although weight gain should be avoided after liposuction for health reasons, most likely weight gain after liposuction will look better than it would have if liposuction had not been done. Again, all the more reason for the plastic surgeon to look at the body as a whole.”
Helping ensure patients’ success by educating them about healthy lifestyle choices that will support their efforts to look and feel better is part of the overall process, says Dr. Michele Koo, a plastic surgeon with Aesthetic Surgery Institute. She recommends that patients establish a regular exercise routine prior to liposuction and that they resume their regimen after the procedure.
“For those who are not very active, I advise a regular walking schedule,” Koo says. “The routine can be as simple as walking around the block three days a week or going to a local gym to walk for 15 minutes three days a week.” Koo also works with a registered dietitian who counsels patients on diet and portion control. Patients who need extra help with their meal plans can opt to have healthy meals prepared and delivered, taking the guesswork out of meal planning.
Post-procedure swelling can be a problem for a small number of patients, so reducing salt intake, drinking plenty of water and eating anti-inflammatory foods can be beneficial, notes Dr. Marissa Tenenbaum, a plastic surgeon with Washington University Physicians.
Tenenbaum also stresses the importance of seeking a board-certified plastic surgeon who has a lot of experience with liposuction because “there’s some degree of finesse involved” in producing the best results. And requesting before and after photos of the physician’s actual work is always a good idea.