Avoiding Weight Gain After Liposuction
Liposuction is one of the most popular cosmetic surgery procedures in the United States, with nearly 394,000 procedures performed in 2013 alone. The process, which involves the insertion of a cannula (very thin, blunt-tipped tube) to suction away pockets of fat, is a proven and effective way to contour targeted areas of the body that are resistant to change through diet and exercise alone.
While liposuction produces permanent results and the fat cells removed do not return to the treated area, patients must implement a healthy diet and exercise plan if they want to maintain their new shape and avoid weight gain.
Considering the investment of time and money a person makes when electing to have liposuction, it is surprising that some do not follow the instructions of their surgeon, and do in fact gain weight after surgery.
According to Pittsburgh liposuction surgeon, Dominic Brandy, MD a small percentage of liposuction patients gain weight prior to their six-month post-operative visit. The reason being liposuction is not a weight loss solution; it is a body-contouring procedure. In order to maintain the results of liposuction surgery, a patient will need to achieve a caloric deficit equal to the volume of fat removed from the body.
In laymen’s terms, if five (5) pounds of fat are removed through liposuction surgery, the patient will need to either eat 50 calories less per day or increase activity to burn 50 calories more per day to maintain the post-liposuction weight.
Homeostasis and Weight Loss
The possibility of regaining the weight lost from liposuction surgery happens because the body knows those five pounds have been removed and the body wants to return to its normal weight. This is called homeostasis. Homeostasis is the desire to maintain a constant environment; this includes body temperature, fat storage and body weight, to name just a few. In regard to weight, the body achieves a homeostatic weight when a certain weight is maintained over an extended period of time.
Following liposuction surgery, the body wants to get back to its comfort zone or homeostatic weight and gently nudges you to eat a little more during each meal. The same process happens after you’ve lost a few pounds following an illness. Once you are feeling better, you quickly put that weight back on.
During the consultation process, Dr. Brandy educates his clients about liposuction and their expectations after surgery. He discusses the fact that liposuction is a contouring—not weight loss—procedure. He reminds patients that the newly defined body clients enjoy after liposuction will put on pounds as easily as it did before surgery; so the weight loss achieved will need to be maintained.
In short, liposuction does not provide a free pass to overeat or skip the gym. While short-term weight gain caused by swelling after surgery is temporary, a patient coming in for a six-month post-surgical checkup should not weigh more than they did before surgery.
Is it Possible to Regain Fat in the Areas Treated by Liposuction?
Some patients who are thrilled with their liposuction results forget that the universal laws of body weight still apply: take in more calories than you burn and you will put on weight. The difference for liposuction patients is that the pounds gained may show up in places other than the area that was contoured.
For example, a patient who had her waistline area contoured with liposuction may gain weight in her thighs, flanks or back – but only when calorie intake is greater than calorie burn. The existing fat cells in other areas of the body will simply get bigger by storing additional fat.
Why Do Some Patients Gain Weight After Liposuction?
There are a number of factors that can lead to weight gain after liposuction. Most commonly, patients simply become less vigilant about their diet once they see the results of surgery. Because what they once viewed as their “problem” area is now leaner and more defined, they lapse into unhealthy eating habits and at first may not even notice that the scale is inching upward.
The Importance of Exercise After Liposuction
Lastly, because liposuction addresses the underlying layer of fat and not skin or muscle tone, it is necessary to commit to regular physical activity to offset the natural weight gain, reduction in metabolism and muscle loss associated with the normal aging process.
In conclusion, while liposuction is highly effective in trimming stubborn pockets of fat, it does not magically prevent weight gain. If you want to enjoy your new shape for years to come, you will need to commit to a healthy diet and fitness regimen.