Liposuction is usually thought of as being a slimming procedure for people who struggle to maintain their physique via conventional means. In other words, it’s seen as a “quick fix” for people who want the perfect body, but who simply don’t have time to spend hours at the gym each week (a perfectly understandable situation in our fast-paced day and age). There is, however, a hidden side to liposuction that few people are aware of: Those who stand to benefit the most from this procedure are often individuals who already make diet and exercise a part of their life. Contrary to popular belief, many people cannot achieve various fitness goals (like “six pack” abs or thin thighs) without assistance from cosmetic medicine. If they truly want to look fit, they need to consider all their options.
The Myth of “One Size Fits All” Fitness Goals
We tend to think of certain features, like a very lean and hard stomach, as being markers that a person is physically fit. In reality, however, body composition varies widely from person to person. Some people naturally carry less fat on the abdomen, for instance, which makes it easy for them to sculpt visible abs through regular workouts. Other people, usually women, have a layer of subcutaneous fat that covers their abdominal muscles as long as they remain within a medically safe weight range. In other words, what’s healthy and obtainable for one individual can be impossible to achieve for another. And trying to achieve it via conventional means can become downright dangerous.
Take the case of personal trainer and blogger Noelle Tarr, for instance. When Noelle took up cheerleading in college, she became obsessed with getting the same perfect “six pack” she’d seen many of her cheerleader idols put on proud display. She assumed that only when she achieved cut, sculpted-looking abs would she be truly strong and fit; anything less meant she still had work to do. “When I went to college, I thought that the way I looked really mattered, and I really wanted to be perceived as strong and lean,” Noelle explained to SELF magazine. “I believed that in order to have respect and be worthy and valued, I needed to represent what I thought that was, which was being very thin and having a six-pack.”
Unbeknownst to Noelle, her body composition wouldn’t permit her to get the washboard abs of her dreams. Noelle exercised obsessively, fitting in two intense workout sessions each day, but her muscles refused to show through her genetic layer of subcutaneous fat. This drove Noelle to try extreme dieting in order to lower her body fat percentage and, she hoped, get rid of that fat once and for all. You can probably guess what happened next: Noelle’s body was eventually unable to cope with the stress of being put through so much activity while in a state of severe caloric deprivation. She got weak, tired, sick, and eventually sustained an injury to her hip that forced her to stop exercising altogether. Only then did she learn that for some people, achieving abs through exercise is not realistic. For them, the only way to achieve visible abs safely is to have unwanted fatty deposits removed by a trained, certified plastic surgeon.
Noelle’s situation is not uncommon. Many people have succumbed to the belief that you can “spot reduce” fat via exercise, but this idea is a myth. When the body burns fat, it frees compounds called triglycerides from cells all over the body, no matter which region of the body the individual in question is trying to target with exercise. These triglycerides are then broken down further, into glycerol and free fatty acids, which the bloodstream transports to the muscles. The muscles consume these compounds for energy. Interestingly, your fat cells don’t actually vanish during this process; they just shrink as they’re depleted of stored triglycerides and water. As such, the only way to truly remove fat is to have it taken out via liposuction. Otherwise, fat cells remain in place, ready to expand again the moment you gain back any weight. Moreover, your fat deposits will always be distributed in the same way unless you have them surgically altered. While they will uniformly get smaller in size if you lose weight, if your belly is proportionally large (as compared to your hips, thighs, arms, etc.) you will probably always have a little bit of a “pot belly,” even if you get down to your ideal weight. This predetermined distribution of fat is why we sometimes see people who are obviously quite thin, yet who have “love handles,” a double chin, thick thighs, or another similar feature that seems incongruous with their overall physique.
In addition to genetic factors, a number of other circumstances can conspire against a person’s fitness goals. Hormones and the aging process frequently lead to the accumulation of stubborn fat deposits, for both men and women. During pregnancy, women often develop additional stores of fat on their thighs, flanks, and lower stomach, for example. Because these stores of fat once served an important evolutionary purpose—they could provide fuel for the mother to continue breastfeeding even in times of extreme food shortage—they’re incredibly hard to get rid of. Likewise, as men and women get older, declining levels of sex hormones cause stored fat to become more centralized around the abdomen. At the same time, it gets hard to build (and keep) lean muscle mass, pushing the goal of visible muscle tone further out of reach.
How Having Liposuction Can Help You Achieve Your Fitness Goals
If you’re not familiar with how liposuction works, the principle behind it is simple: First, a plastic surgeon prepares a special liquefying solution in order to prime fat for removal. Today, this solution often contains a strong local anesthetic, meaning that patients no longer must go under general anesthetic to have this procedure. This greatly cuts down on risk and makes recovery easier. This solution is injected into the fat in targeted areas, then the liquefied fat is sucked out through a very thin tube called a cannula. That’s it—there are no large incisions made during the whole process and most patients don’t experience significant discomfort. Better still, liposuction can be used virtually anywhere on the body.
The most direct and obvious way in which liposuction can help you achieve your fitness goals is through the safe, efficient removal of fat described above. Once you have done the hard work of building muscle mass and lowering your BMI so that it’s within the healthy range, you can take an objective look at your body and decide which “problem areas” need surgical attention. If you have a layer of subcutaneous fat covering your abs, for instance, you can ask your surgeon to sculpt your stomach so that your muscles will be more visible.
Unlike over-exercising and extreme dieting, having liposuction probably won’t harm your health. Yes, complications can happen with any surgery, but most practitioners carefully screen their patients in order to make sure they’re suitable, healthy candidates before performing liposuction. They also work in hygienic medical facilities and prescribe a protective round of antibiotics to guard against infection. In fact, research conducted by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons showed that having liposuction may actually improve one’s health over the long term. Liposuction was found to lower blood levels of triglycerides and white blood cells. This is significant because having high blood levels of triglycerides even when at rest and having a high white blood cell count are both associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Furthermore, liposuction will not impair your immune system or put you at risk of injury, unlike extreme dieting. It also will not cause fatigue or depression.
Liposuction can convey emotional benefits that go a long way towards helping people achieve and maintain their fitness goals, too. If you have struggled to stay motivated to exercise, having liposuction may give you the incentive you need to stay on track. One of the most common reasons why people abandon their fitness routines (other than lack of time) is a lack of results. Let’s face it—when you work out for hours every week and never see the toned abs or sleek limbs you want, it’s hard to see the point in continuing.
When a person has liposuction, on the other hand, the above situation is turned on its head. After waiting one to three weeks for the swelling to subside, the patient is stunned to look in the mirror and see the body of his (or her) dreams. The patient receives such a confidence boost from finally seeing the results that he’s longed for that he immediately commits to maintaining them. After every arduous workout, he can look in the mirror once again and smile, knowing he’s achieving his goals.
Research shows that in general, human beings respond much better to reward-based motivation than consequence-based motivation. If they’re given a positive incentive, such as looking great, they feel inspired to work through even very challenging situations to meet their objectives. If, on the other hand, people feel frightened or shamed into engaging in a behavior (if they’re told that they must exercise or face health consequences, for example), their motivation tends to wane. Fear has a way of leading to pessimistic, defeatist thinking. This is why, no matter how often people are told they “should” keep fit, if they don’t have a positive, visible reward to enjoy, they don’t usually stick with their routine. It’s not laziness—our brains are hardwired to expect tangible rewards for our work.
Finally, liposuction can confer social advantages and offer people trying to stay fit more physical comfort. We all know how uncomfortable it can be to exercise if we’re dealing with fat bulges that jiggle when we move too quickly or chafe our skin. Worse still, we know how mortifying it can be to deal with knowing our fat is visible to others while we try to exercise in a public place. By removing the unsightly fat bulges that cause us to feel physically uncomfortable and self-conscious, liposuction can remove some of the most common barriers to staying active. Liposuction can ensure that you feel confident, empowered, and ready to take on the world every time you slip into revealing workout gear.
Though having liposuction is a big commitment, both personally and financially speaking, most patients feel that the rewards that stem from having this procedure are more than worth it. Getting rid of unwanted body fat can help you feel better and stay healthier over the long term. If you’re serious about getting in shape but facing genetic or hormonal obstacles, liposuction is well worth serious consideration.