Can Body Contouring Aid in Weight Maintenance?March 12, 2018
For many people, body contouring surgery is the ultimate reward after a long weight loss journey. Looking good is a big incentive, but the benefits may be more than cosmetic.
As a physician who specializes in body contouring in Los Angeles, I have treated hundreds of these patients throughout the years, even working with cast members from "The Biggest Loser" and "Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition." Playing an active role in these transformations has shown me how body contouring can have far-reaching effects, beyond simply improving the appearance of the body.
In this article, I want to share what I’ve learned throughout my career treating weight loss surgery patients. This population has consistently inspired me to go above and beyond, and few elements of my career are more rewarding than helping someone achieve the body they’ve worked for.
Concepts Related to Body Contouring After Bariatric Surgery
It's important to understand a few basic concepts related to body contouring after bariatric surgery. After any significant weight loss, especially one that occurs quickly (as it typically does after bariatric surgery), the body is often left with excess skin that sags and hangs, often concealing the new, leaner body beneath. Although reduced skin elasticity causes this effect to be more common in older patients, younger patients also experience redundant skin that doesn’t shrink to the body’s new contours.
Although the internet is full of quick fixes for loose or sagging skin, the truth is that no product, treatment, or device can get rid of this frustrating symptom. Save your money and your sanity by researching a good plastic surgeon instead. Only surgical excision—in the form of an abdominoplasty, arm lift, thigh lift, tummy tuck, or another type of body contouring procedure—can create the tight, lasting results patients want.
While empty, hanging skin can be an aesthetic nuisance, it can also be a physical one. For example, excessive loose skin on the thighs can make mobility difficult and even uncomfortable. A hanging pannus (the technical term for the "apron" of residual fat and skin that occurs on the lower abdomen after massive weight loss) can lead to chafing and even chronic skin irritation. It’s not uncommon for weight loss surgery patients to have difficulty exercising and enjoying other physical activities because of the extra bulk they’re still carrying. For many people who were previously obese, the uncomfortable feelings of embarrassment and shame they thought they lost along with the weight can once again creep in, and they often cover up with baggy clothing, never fully enjoying their new bodies.
In my experience, body contouring surgery can help weight loss surgery patients maintain their weight in two distinct ways.
When it’s easier and more comfortable to participate in physical activities, you’re more likely to do so. Freed from the burden of heavy fat and hanging skin, body contouring patients feel better about hitting the gym, wearing a swimsuit at the pool, or simply going outside for a walk. Finding an exercise routine that you enjoy is key to maintaining your weight loss in the long term, so improving your comfort (both physical and emotional) is vital. I want my patients to understand that exercise doesn’t need to be a chore. Feeling confident to explore your options means you have a better chance of finding a routine you want to stick to.
The Investment Factor
Unfortunately, body contouring after weight loss surgery is not typically covered by insurance (however, as we discussed in a past article, it is occasionally considered a "reconstructive procedure"). Patients paying out of pocket for these large procedures typically view them as investments. Just as making improvements to your home builds equity and pays off later, body contouring after weight loss surgery can drastically enhance your life for decades. When you view your weight loss surgery and body contouring procedures as investments in your health and happiness, you’re more likely to stick to healthy eating and exercise habits in order to maximize your return. Thinking of the time and money you’ve spent to get where you are can further motivate you to adhere to your new lifestyle.
As a surgeon, I can say with conviction that everyone on your weight loss medical team—from the nurses and assistants that help with your initial visits to the surgeons who perform your procedures—wants you to succeed. It’s important to us that each patient enjoys the body that we worked together to help create, and we want you to feel supported even years down the line. My goal is not only to create an aesthetically pleasing outcome, but to help you live your very best life for as long as possible.
ABOUT THE AUTHORDavid Stoker, M.D., is a board-certified plastic surgeon at Stoker Plastic Surgery who specializes in procedures such as abdominoplasty in Greater Los Angeles. At his office in Marina del Rey, Dr. Stoker treats a diverse range of patients, including a sizeable population of post-weight loss surgery patients. He finds special satisfaction in helping these inspirational men and women bring out the potential in their bodies.
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