Plastic surgery websites are full of disclaimers that liposuction is not a weight loss procedure. And they’re right. Liposuction isn’t going to automatically remove significant pounds from your body, and it won’t make you immune to weight gain from an unhealthy lifestyle. However, while liposuction isn’t a weight loss procedure, it is a procedure that can—and for my Hawaii liposuction patients often does—lead to future weight loss.
Let me explain why and how.
A few years ago, researchers suggested that one likely cause of obesity is an imbalance in the way the body processes fat, particularly in patients with a higher number of fat cells. Here’s how the theory goes: fat cells are programmed to take fat out of our bloodstream and store it away. The more fat cells you have, the more fat that’s being taken out of the blood and into storage. Even though you have more than enough fat stored away, your brain senses a low amount of fat in the bloodstream and (falsely) interprets this as “hey, we’re starving, we need to eat more!” As a result, you feel legitimately hungry and eat more, starting the whole cycle over again.
This theory, known as the “hungry fat cell theory,” upends the conventional wisdom that you are fat simply because you eat too many calories; rather, it posits that you are physiologically driven to eat more because you have more “hungry fat cells” telling your brain to eat! The problem is, losing weight through diet and exercise does not take away fat cells—it only shrinks them. Each of those cells is still telling your brain it needs more food, which is one reason why it’s so hard to keep weight off in the long run.
One solution to the hungry fat cell problem is to reduce the number of fat cells a patient has, thus reducing competition for fat storage and quieting the “eat more!” message to your brain. As we have established, weight loss cannot eliminate fat cells. However, liposuction can.
During liposuction, a plastic surgeon physically removes hundreds or even thousands of excess fat cells. This is how we take care of stubborn fat bulges and sculpt a better shape to your body. With the fat cells permanently gone (and far fewer fat cells clamoring for more fat), you will no longer put on weight as easily in the treated area, and your improved shape will last if you maintain a fairly stable weight.
Now that you know about the hungry fat cell theory, another potential benefit of liposuction is easy to see: you have fewer hungry fat cells pulling fat out of your bloodstream. In turn, your brain may receive fewer messages to eat when you don’t really need to eat. Losing weight through diet and exercise becomes that much easier.
When performed with expertise, liposuction can dramatically improve your shape. You’ll look and feel better in your clothes; this alone gives most patients a significant confidence boost at the gym and beach. With less fat obscuring your musculature, you may also see the results of your workouts more quickly. All of these positive changes tend to motivate patients to revamp their diet and exercise efforts, and many patients end up losing weight after liposuction. In other words, liposuction is the trigger they needed to jumpstart their weight loss efforts.
While the “ideal” liposuction candidate is someone at their ideal, healthy body weight who wants to reduce specific fat pockets, this does not necessarily exclude overweight patients from being good candidates. If you are in good overall health and you would like to improve your shape and proportions, chances are you can benefit from liposuction—you just might not be viewing liposuction as your final step in your journey to get the body you want vs. someone who is already at their desired weight.
That said, if you have any weight-related health conditions or are significantly overweight, you may not be a candidate for surgery until these issues are under control. This is for your safety. An experienced, board certified plastic surgeon can evaluate whether or not surgery is appropriate for you at this time and help you determine what steps to take to become a good liposuction candidate, if you are not there quite yet.
Whether or not you have weight loss goals, if liposuction is something you’re thinking about, it will help to talk to a qualified, board certified plastic surgeon about your goals. I encourage you to contact my office to set up a personal consultation. I have performed thousands of liposuction procedures, for patients of all shapes and sizes, and will be happy to help you understand your options. Mahalo.