Dramatic weight loss is no small achievement. Despite all the hard work, the truth is you may be left unhappy with how your body looks even when you are pleased with the number on the scale. After the pounds come off, extra skin often remains.
If this sounds familiar, the final step in your weight loss journey may be dealing with the extra skin. It’s an important step in revealing your post-weight loss self, and one that cannot be taken safely – or effectively – without the help of a skilled, board certified plastic surgeon.
“When patients come to me after losing a significant amount of weight, it’s very frustrating for them,” shares Reno-based board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Tiffany McCormack. “They’ve done all the work, they’ve shed all the pounds, they’ve maintained that weight loss over a period of time, but yet they have all this skin that’s going nowhere, no matter what they do. They still look in the mirror and don’t like what they see. That’s where I come in.”
Maintain A Stable Weight Before & After Body Contouring
Before undergoing body contouring procedures, Dr. McCormack stresses the importance of maintaining a stable weight for a period of six months to a year. Losing additional weight after body contouring would result in the same problem resurfacing: loose skin. Gaining weight would cause the skin to stretch, leading to stretch marks as the weight is gained and sagging if the weight is lost again down the road. Weight stability is the key to maximizing results with body contouring procedures.
Common Areas of Body Contouring after Weight Loss:
Prioritize Body Parts
“A lot of patients come to me and say, ‘I’d like to have all this done at once, because I don’t have a lot of downtime, and I just want to get it over with. I want to look great.’ Well that’s not always the safest thing to do,” explains Dr. McCormack. “We’ll often stage procedures and maybe do two or three different surgeries at one time.”
Each body contouring procedures takes a set amount of time in the operating room. To ensure the patient’s safety, Dr. McCormack likes to stay within a time parameter of under six hours for any given set of procedures. She also explains to her patients the importance of grouping procedures together in a manner that makes the most sense for them as they recover from surgery. “If you’ve had your arms and your legs operated on at the same time, imagine, what are you going to use to pull yourself up with? What are you going to use to walk around?”
Abdominal Body Contouring
Depending on how much excess skin you have, you may be a candidate for either an abdominoplasty or a lower body lift when addressing excess skin on the trunk. Abdominoplasty will remove excess skin from the front of the torso only. A lower body lift addresses excess skin all the way around the trunk.
Contouring the Chest
“The chest is different for men and for women,” explains McCormack. “Sometimes with men it’s just extra skin or extra fatty tissue in the chest area, sometimes it is rolls around the sides and the back.” When it comes to women, the contouring procedure options for the chest are a breast augmentation or a breast lift. Often it may end up being a combination of the two procedures, restoring youthful volume while also removing excess skin.
Arms & Thighs
An arm lift, also known as a brachioplasty, addresses skin that hangs loosely from the underside of the upper arm. An incision running from the elbow to the armpit is placed on the inside of the arm so that it cannot be seen when your arm is flat against your side.
Similarly, a thigh lift addresses saggy skin on the inner thighs. Both procedures are often combined with liposuction to provide a smooth contour. During recovery patients wear compression garments to minimize swelling.
Weight Loss and the Face
For some patients, the effect of weight loss on the face is their top priority. They feel as if they can hide the excess skin of their torso with clothing, while everyone sees their face. In those cases, Dr. McCormack will begin with a face or neck lift, saving the trunk for a later surgery.
Understand that the Trade-Off for Tight Skin is Scars
Anytime excess skin is surgically removed, a scar results. For patients who have undergone massive weight loss, it is not uncommon for the scar to run around the circumference of the body, along the length of the arms or down the length of the thighs.
“Sometimes, if we’re removing long areas or big areas of skin, it leaves a relatively long scar,” explains Dr. McCormack. “This is often a very worthy trade-off, especially for the patient, but I think it’s important that they know what to expect.”