By Shannon Leeman
With a new year rolling in, many of us are resolving to lose weight. Of course, reducing calories and increasing activity as part of a healthy lifestyle is the best – and arguably, the only – way to drop some pounds permanently. But some of us find that no matter how hard we try, we have stubborn fat deposits that refuse to budge from areas like saddlebags, the backs of our arms, or on our bellies. Whilst many simply accept this and embrace it as part of their natural shape, others lose confidence and a sense of self esteem. So, are there any ways to permanently reduce fat?
Liposuction is sometimes used to treat certain conditions, including:
- Lymphedema – a chronic condition in which excess lymph fluid collects in tissues, causing swelling, commonly in the arms or legs. Liposuction is sometimes used to reduce this swelling, discomfort, and pain.
- Gynecomastia – sometimes fat accumulates under a man’s breasts.
- Lipodystrophy syndrome – when fat accumulates in one part of the body and is lost in another. Liposuction can improve the patient’s appearance by providing a more natural looking body fat distribution.
- Extreme weight loss – if a morbidly obese person has lost at least 40 percent of their BMI, excess skin and other abnormalities may need treatment.
- Lipomas – benign fatty tumors that appear on or under the skin.
In such cases, a bit of medical help may be sought to undertake specific spot reduction that diet and exercise simply can’t budge. But this isn’t a decision to be taken lightly: experts say that the best liposuction candidates are those who have good skin tone and elasticity, where the skin molds itself easily into new contours. People whose skin lacks elasticity may end up with loose-looking skin in areas where the procedure was done.
Patients also need to be in good health – if you have circulation (blood flow) problems, such as coronary artery disease, diabetes or a weakened immune systems, you shouldn’t consider any form of liposuction.
But this raises the question: what’s the safest and best way to reduce fat permanently?
Basically, there are three methods here: Kybella injections, cryolipo or traditional liposuction.
News on the Fat Front
Fat removal technology has advanced at cyber speed in the last few years. Every year the unsuspecting public is hit with a new slew of products and treatments that promise to rid of us our saddle-bags, bat wings, and belly bulges – so how do you discern fat fact from fat fiction?
With the flash of a needle or the swipe of a wand, you can rid yourself of a double chin or the fat that spills over your bra straps. In 2015 the FDA approved the use of Kybella injections for moderate to severe fat below the chin, also known as submental fat. Kybela is a dexycholic acid which the body produces to help it absorb fat. Doctors are now using this product on other areas of stubborn fat deposits but these are at present strictly off label uses (non FDA approved use).
So a little wink-wink, nudge-nudge to your doctor (you didn’t hear it here) could mean saying goodbye to bra fat or underarm bulges. You will experience a weird post injection swelling that could last as long as two weeks but this will fade, along with your fat. Results appear over several months so you need to be patient and compare your before and after images, as we all tend to forget where we started. Prices vary as to area and practitioner and you may need follow up treatments at additional cost.
Main Risks: not FDA approved for any part of the body except the chin; nerve injuries; facial muscle weakness
Old School Reduction: Liposuction
Traditional lipo is still the industry gold standard but as I tell all my clients, it’s not the product but the practitioner. Just because you have a scalpel doesn’t make you a sculptor. I take away all the product hype and hoopla and focus entirely on the doctor/nurse/therapist which is what my business is based on…matching the client to the surgeon. The first known fat removal procedure was performed by a French surgeon (no surprise there) in the 1920’s and later refined in 1974 to wide acclaim by an Italian gynecologist. Fast forward to the mid 1980’s and California dermatologist Dr Jeffrey Klein changed the face of fat removal by perfecting the now internationally practiced tumescent technique which he performed using a local anesthesia on the patient, and by using a small cannula.
The battle between dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons has raged for decades over who best to advice on practices with dermatologist gaining ground with ease of in-office procedures over expensive hospital settings although now almost all liposuction cases are walk in walk out day cases. (make sure your doctors operating room is accredited and fully inspected).
Thoughts on post lipo binding or girdling vary but most doctors recommend 4- 6 weeks of compression garments to help control swelling and helps skin with contraction. The compression garment is used to help control the swelling and minimize bruising. Not a red carpet look, and this kind of surgery is far from pain free, but grin and bear it for a smoother contour.
Main Risks: bruising, swelling, contour irregularities, infection, other risks that come from general anaesthetics if one is used, fluid accumulation
New kid on the block CoolSculpt ™ resulted from a researcher realizing the full power of harnessing the power of cold. Cryolipoysis literally freezes fat cell before freezing the skin above it. Involving a controlled operation of grabbing a hunk of fat into a suction device then lowering temperature to freezing, fat dissolves and is then naturally flushed out through the bodies’ lymphatic system. Often needing multiple treatment cycles, Coolscupt claims to result in an up to 20 % fat reduction and will be noticeable after around 3 weeks to 4 months’ post op. With such a low rate of fat reduction, Coolscupt at present is used on small reductions and expectations should be kept modest. This is not, at present, a viable alternative to traditional lipo -suction but rather can act as an adjunct. If you are unhappy or disappointed with the results, most practitioners will offer additional treatments or alternatives. Be sure to clarify options and costs before booking treatments.
Main Risks: redness, swelling, bruising
Experts say that the best liposuction candidates are those who have good skin tone and elasticity, where the skin molds itself into new contours. People whose skin lacks elasticity may end up with loose-looking skin in areas where the procedure was done.
You’ll also need to be in good health – people with circulation problems, such as those with coronary artery disease, or diabetes, as well as those with weakened immune systems should not undergo liposuction. Never undertake any kind of medical procedure without researching it first, and consulting with a reputable specialist.
All images: plasticsurgery.org