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Is Body Contouring Right for You?

Diet and exercise may not always be enough to give you the body shape you want. If you’re looking to eliminate stubborn fat or erase the effects of aging or childbirth, body sculpting or contouring may be an option.

Body contouring refers to a range of procedures – both surgical and nonsurgical – that can refine your appearance by removing fat and tightening excess skin. They often focus on the arms, stomach and breasts. Among the best-known examples is the “mommy makeover,” which offers breast and abdominal refinement.

You might be considering body contouring to restore confidence following a major lifestyle change, such as pregnancy or extensive weight loss after bariatric surgery. It’s a big decision, and you’ll want to make sure you’re set up for success.

If you are thinking about a mommy makeover, it’s best to wait if you are planning to have another baby. For weight-loss patients, you should hold off until you have been at a stable weight for six months after bariatric surgery.

Another thing to consider: Body sculpting isn’t something that’s done to remove large amounts of weight. So your body mass index (BMI) should be in a reasonable range – less than 30 or, ideally, less than 27 – before any procedure.

Nonsurgical Body Contouring

Nonsurgical procedures may be the best option if you are looking for modest improvements. They can help with minor weight loss and tightening of loose skin. The procedures target smaller pockets of fat that haven’t responded to exercise. Among the advantages of this approach is that you don’t need anesthesia and there will be no scarring from incisions. The procedures are also done in stages, giving you gradual changes that make the treatment more discreet. There are very few side effects. Among the options:

  • Cryolipolysis destroys fat cells using extreme cold
  • Injection lipolysis attacks fat cells using an injection of deoxycholic acid
  • Laser lipolysis destroys fat cells using a laser
  • Radiofrequency lipolysis targets fat cells with ultrasound waves and heat

Surgical Body Contouring

If you want more dramatic results, particularly if you need substantial skin tightening, surgical contouring is a better option. There are no nonsurgical options that can address droopy or stretched skin. Your skin has some elasticity, but once it stretches beyond a certain point, it will not return to its old shape without surgery.

Surgical options typically have more noticeable results. Among the body areas that have the most to gain:

Breast lift: Also known as mastopexy, this procedure rejuvenates breasts that have become saggy or droopy. This could include removal of excess skin, tightening surrounding tissues, reduction, enlargement, changing the contour and reshaping the areolas. The procedure sometimes involves implants, though some women prefer to avoid them.

Tummy tuck: Also known as abdominoplasty, the procedure removes extra skin and fat from your midsection, while also tightening muscles. The goal is to flatten your abdomen. The procedure can take up to two and a half hours, depending on the amount of skin and fat that will be removed.

Butt lift: This procedure reshapes your buttocks, using incisions, skin removal and fat harvested (through liposuction) from other parts of your body.

Arm lift: The procedure, also known as brachioplasty, gets rid of excess skin and fat from inside your arm – down to your elbow. It will make your arm look smoother and more defined.

Thigh lift: Similar to brachioplasty, this procedure targets excess skin and fat deposits in your outer and inner thighs.

With any of these procedures – which use general anesthesia – you may be required to stay at least one night in the hospital. Most will involve temporary surgical drains to help your body get rid of excess fluids while you heal. You will also need to wear a compression garment for up to eight weeks during your recovery.

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