Whether you lost weight with the aid of bariatric surgery or through diet and exercise alone, you might find yourself wondering about surgical body contouring. One frustrating truth about losing a significant amount of weight is that you’re generally left with sagging skin that can be uncomfortable and make you feel self-conscious about your body, along with causing discomfort and hygiene issues.
You cannot diet or exercise away excess skin that remains after a weight loss.
If you think body contouring might be the next step in your journey, it’s time to schedule a plastic surgery consultation. However, before you can make informed decisions about plastic surgery post-weight loss, you need to know the right questions to ask your plastic surgeon while you’re there.
1. Which Procedures Do You Recommend for Me?
After examining you and discussing your concerns and goals, the right plastic surgeon should help you figure out which procedures are best suited for you. There are several common body contouring procedures that may be recommended after weight loss:
- Lower Body Lift: A lower body lift includes a tummy tuck and a circumferential buttock and thigh lift. It is designed to treat the excess skin left behind on your lower body after weight loss. If you are unhappy with sagging skin around your abdominal area, as well as your thighs, flanks and back, the lower body lift can address all of these areas during a single surgical session.
- Brachioplasty: Brachioplasty, also called an arm lift, is a fairly common body contouring procedure after weight loss, as it treats the sagging skin that can hang from your arms.
- Thigh Lift: Excess tissue on the inner thighs can make clothing uncomfortable and can even result in chafing and irritation. A thigh lift can be done as part of a lower body lift, or as a separate procedure. Designed to trim and tighten thighs, thigh lifts are sometimes combined with liposuction.
- Tummy Tuck: Stretched-out abdominal skin can make you look bigger than you are and cause discomfort. Loose skin can also inhibit you from wearing certain clothes or participating in activities you would otherwise enjoy. A tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty, eliminates this excess skin to reveal a sleeker silhouette. During a tummy tuck, your plastic surgeon can stitch together the separated abdominal muscles that can occur as a result of pregnancy or weight gain. Abdominoplasty often produces the best results when combined with liposuction.
Depending on your specific concerns, your plastic surgeon may suggest other procedures. For instance, many women experience sagging breasts after losing weight, which can be addressed with a breast lift. On the other hand, some people notice their face looks older after weight loss. If this is your experience, talk to your plastic surgeon about possible solutions.
2. Am I a Good Candidate for Body Contouring Surgery?
One major reason for consulting with a plastic surgeon in the first place is to determine whether you are a good candidate for the procedures you’re interested in. There are some general guidelines plastic surgeons consider when determining who is a good surgical candidate:
Your plastic surgeon will talk to you about the importance of maintaining a stable weight before having body contouring surgery.
- Good Health: To have plastic surgery, you must first be in good general health. If you have existing health issues, you may need to talk to your medical doctor to be cleared for surgery. It can be difficult for recent bariatric patients to fulfill all of their nutritional needs while adjusting to their new dietary restrictions. If you had weight loss surgery, seek guidance in creating a balanced meal plan.
- Steady Weight: You will need to reach a weight you’re confident maintaining before having body contouring procedures. If you gain or lose weight after having surgery, you risk compromising your final results.
- Seeking Surgery for the Right Reasons: If your primary goal for plastic surgery is to remove excess skin and fat from certain areas of your body after major weight loss, you’re probably a good candidate for surgical body contouring. Choosing to have plastic surgery is a big decision, and it’s one you should not take lightly. It’s never advisable to have plastic surgery to please someone else or out of a desire to completely change your appearance. It’s also important to hold improvement as your goal rather than perfection.
- Realistic Expectations: One of the criteria for surgical candidacy is having a reasonable idea of what can be achieved through plastic surgery. Talk openly with your plastic surgeon about what your biggest concerns are and what you hope your results to be like.
3. Are You Board Certified?
Insist on only working with a board-certified plastic surgeon who specializes in post-weight loss body contouring surgery. Board certification indicates that a plastic surgeon has extensive, specialized training, and that he or she adheres to stringent quality and safety standards. These plastic surgeons also follow a strict code of ethics and must continue their education in order to keep up with the latest developments in technology and technique.
4. Where Would My Surgery Be Done?
To become board-certified, a plastic surgeon must complete extensive training as well as pass comprehensive oral and written exams.
- They are accountable to the health department as well as the medical board.
- They must have protocols in place to handle emergency situations such as extreme weather and power outages.
- Only licensed anesthesiologists may administer anesthesia in an accredited facility.
- Patient care and treatment plans are reviewed often, with changes being implemented on a regular basis.
- You are assured the highest standard of care at every level, from equipment and medication to cleanliness and safety.
5. Do You Have a Lot of Experience with Body Contouring after Weight Loss?
When considering a plastic surgeon, the importance of experience cannot be overstated. Body contouring after weight loss must be customized, and often involves multiple procedures. Therefore, it requires a high degree of skill and experience. It’s perfectly fine (even encouraged!) to ask a plastic surgeon how long he or she has been working specifically with post-weight loss patients, and how often.
6. Can I See Before and After Pictures of Your Work?
Always ask a plastic surgeon if you can look at some pictures of post weight-loss body contouring they have done. Keep in mind, there are some specific qualities to look for when you view a before and after portfolio at your plastic surgery consultation:
- Lighting: Lighting plays a big role in how things appear in photos. Therefore, the lighting should be the same (or very similar) in each set of before and after shots. Pay attention to the type and angle of the lighting.
- Pose: The person in the pictures should be posed the same way in each shot. Body position can really affect the way a photo looks. In order to make an objective judgement about before and after photos, the subject must be posing the same way in both shots.
- Body Type: In order to get the best idea of what kind of results you can expect, you should look for people who have close to the same body type as you. Look for pictures of those who started out with issues similar to the ones you’d like to address, such as excess abdominal skin or fat pockets around the thighs.
- Procedures Done: Make sure you know exactly what a person had done when you’re looking at before and after pictures. This is an important way to help you form reasonable expectations and to help you decide which procedures might be right for you.
7. Will I Lose More Weight from Body Contouring Procedures?
While they will not cause you to lose weight, body contouring procedures after weight loss can help give you a more beautiful and sculpted silhouette.
Body contouring procedures are not intended to be weight loss procedures. However, people who have excess skin and fat removed tend to look slimmer as a result. Talk to your plastic surgeon about the changes in appearance you can expect from your chosen procedures. Remember that body contouring results are measured by how you look (and feel), not by numbers on a scale.
8. What Will Recovery Be Like?
Once you have figured out which body contouring procedures you’re most interested in having, talk to your plastic surgeon about what you can expect in terms of recovery. The number and type of procedures you have will obviously affect the amount of time it takes for you to recuperate. Talk about discomfort and how you can manage it. Find out if you’ll be sent home with surgical drains and, if so, how to care for them. Ask if you will need to wear compression garments and/or bandages.
9. How Should I Prepare for Body Contouring Surgery?
If you decide to have body contouring after weight loss, there are some things you’ll need to do in order to help your surgery and recovery go more smoothly. Depending on which procedures are recommended for you, you may have a specific checklist of things to do in preparation:
- Practice self-care. One of the most important things you can do to get ready for surgery (and recovery) is to eat a healthy diet, exercise and get plenty of sleep. Avoid stressful situations and spend time each day doing something that inspires or rejuvenates you.
- Stop smoking. If you’re a smoker, your plastic surgeon will require you to quit for at least 45 days before your procedures. This is because nicotine restricts blood flow, which creates additional risk factors during surgery. Smoking may also slow down your recovery process, amongst other issues.
- Create a recovery space. Since you’ll most likely need to rest and relax in the early stages of your recuperation, make sure you have a clean and comfortable place to do it. Prepare clean bedding and plenty of pillows. Keep your recovery space organized so you’ll have easy access to anything you need.
- Go shopping. Head to the stores and stock up on all the things you’ll need during the initial part of your recovery. This might include bandages or other medical supplies, prescription medications and healthy snacks you can eat while recuperating. Also, consider getting something to read or watch to pass the time while you rest.
- Clear your schedule. Your recovery timeline will vary depending on the procedures you have, so talk to your plastic surgeon about what to expect. You’ll most likely need to schedule some time off work and get someone to fill in for you if you have other obligations during your recovery.
- Get Help. During the first part of your recovery, you will need some help. This is especially true if you have children. Talk to family and friends ahead of time to arrange for some assistance as you recuperate.
Depending on the procedures you have, your recovery experience will vary.
10. When Will I See My Final Results?
Many people who have body contouring after weight loss are very curious about how quickly they will be able to view their ultimate results. The answer varies depending on which procedures are being done. It can take several weeks, and even months, for swelling to subside and final results to reveal themselves. Your plastic surgeon can give you a good idea of how long you’ll have to wait before seeing the full effects of your body contouring procedures.
11. How Long Will My Results Last?
Talk to your plastic surgeon about how long you can expect your results to last. Most plastic surgery procedures can last long-term if you put in the work to maintain them. For instance, liposuction can be a long-lasting solution to stubborn fat pockets. However, if you gain weight after having plastic surgery, your results can be compromised. If you want long-lasting results from any post-weight loss surgeries, you must be committed to taking good care of your body.
12. Will I Be Able to Get Pregnant after Body Contouring?
No plastic surgery procedure will prevent you from becoming pregnant or having children, but a future pregnancy can certainly affect the results of your surgery. If you plan to become pregnant in the future, be sure to tell your plastic surgeon. It might make sense to have some procedures now and hold off on having others until you are done expanding your family.
You should wait 6 months after childbirth to have body contouring surgery.
13. Are There Non-Surgical Options for Body Contouring after Weight Loss?
Another thing you can discuss with a plastic surgeon at your consultation is whether you might be a candidate for non-surgical contouring alternatives. One of the most popular such treatments is CoolSculpting®, which you may have heard people refer to as the procedure that “freezes the fat away” and that is essentially what it does. For some people, CoolSculpting® may be preferable to liposuction.
During your treatment, you simply relax while a CoolSculpting® Technician administers precisely controlled cold temperatures to particular areas of your body. This sends the fat cells into a process that culminates in their death. Once destroyed, these fat cells exit your body naturally and because your results from CoolSculpting® develop as fat cells continue to leave your body, it often takes 10 to 12 weeks for final results to appear.
CoolSculpting® is totally non-invasive and requires no downtime afterward.
14. Can Anything Be Done about Cellulite?
One common complaint among people of all sizes and body types is stubborn cellulite. Cellulite is the subject of many mistruths and myths. For instance, it’s commonly believed that fitness buffs can’t get cellulite or that it’s the result of too many toxins in the body. These things are simply untrue, as even people who are very health conscious can have cellulite.
Until recently, there really was not an effective means of eliminating cellulite. Creams and lotions do little to help, and many medical spa procedures resulted in little or no change in the appearance of cellulite. However, a new cellulite treatment has been developed that produces significant results by addressing the structural cause of cellulite.
Cellfina™ is a long-lasting and minimally invasive procedure that uses tiny needles to release the fibrous bands which create the bumpy look associated with cellulite. By releasing one cellulite dimple at a time, treatment with Cellfina™ can actually produce a noticeably smoother appearance. Cellfina™ can complement surgical body contouring after weight loss, giving you an even more beautiful and refined look.
15. Will I Be Able to Reach You Easily?
As you prepare for surgery, you will most likely think of questions you may have forgotten to ask at your consultation. It should be easy for you to get in touch with a plastic surgeon’s practice and speak to a knowledgeable staff member to answer your questions and address your concerns. After surgery, you should feel that you have an enthusiastic team supporting your recovery.
Will someone call and check up on you when you go home after surgery? What times can you contact the practice, and how quickly you can expect a return call if you leave a message? These are all great questions. Part of choosing the right plastic surgeon is selecting someone you feel comfortable with and who will continue to be there for you at each stage in your journey.