Look 10 Years Younger with a Tummy Tuck
In an era of thinness and firm stomachs equating to beauty, what is the biggest plague facing weight-loss success stories, aging women, and imperfect bodies everywhere?
After kicking pounds and pounds to the curb, you should be proud, dancing in your favorite bathing suit along a white sand beach like a carefree woman in a razor commercial. Your heart is ecstatic, your body is less at risk for disease, and the pounds are no longer weighing you down. But the weight-loss journey is far from over.
Even new mothers often find themselves at a loss when they have worked to lose the weight gained from pregnancy but can’t shake their skin stretched while they formed their little person. While you may have reinvented yourself with dieting, new healthy habits, or surgery to become this happier, healthier person, sometimes the past just hangs on with all its might. And by past, we mean skin.
Though usually, an untouched topic, excess skin after weight loss is surprisingly common, especially amongst those who lose large amounts of weight at a rapid rate. The dreaded, gravity-succumbing, sagging skin and flabby remnants of unhealthy days past have no preventative or cure, and even the thinnest, more athletic of us are at risk or sagging skin as we age.
It is true that weight loss and a healthy lifestyle comprised of smart eating habits and exercise is a lifelong journey, not a destination. But, wouldn’t it be nice if you could have that confidence and freedom to show off everything you have worked to achieve for so long? Why is it that that the more weight lost means more excess skin left?
Think of Rubber Bands
Skin is elastic, yes, but sometimes even elastic materials can be stretched beyond repair, become damaged and break, or just have difficulty snapping back into place when they have been stretched for so long. Your skin is a living, breathing organ made of different cells. The protein that makes up your inner layers of skin and these proteins lose their strength when stretched for a lengthy period of time.
Collagen and elastin are two major proteins that make up the middle layer of skin, or the dermis. Collagen’s duty is to make the skin firm and taut, which is why many women with aging skin look to collagen to give them that full, youthful look. Elastin’s mission is to provide elasticity. Elastin helps the skin flex and move and twist, and then snap back into place. When you gain weight in your stomach area, elastin and collagen work together to stretch and expand your skin so there is room for the new layer of fat.
All too often, weight gain and loss are not things that occur slowly over the course of a few months, like pregnancy. Pregnancy is a slow, gradual gain that takes place over nine months, allowing the proteins in the skin to gradually stretch and then slowly retract following the birth of a baby. A few years of carrying excess fat leads to damaged skin proteins that lose their elasticity and ability to retract back into their previous position. When the weight is just dropped, the skin usually does not have time to keep up, and loose skin stays around.
It’s the confidence-destroying chapter of what should be a happy story to many women. The fat is gone and a healthier you has emerged victorious, but many of us feel as if our bodies do not represent who we feel we have become following such a drastic lifestyle change, for the better. For many, plastic surgery is the way to help the exterior of your body match how you feel inside.
Plastic Surgery: It’s Not Just for Hollywood
The goal of cosmetic procedures is to better the quality of life for an individual by improving upon areas of the body that may not be as ideal as the individual prefers. Whether by aging, weight loss or gain, or simply genetic expression, humans as a whole tend to have areas of their own bodies they would like to change or improve upon. For those achieving major weight loss, often after years of being overweight, a tummy tuck can often be the final step to shed the look of a former unhealthy lifestyle.
Tummy tucks, or abdominoplasty, are the sixth most common plastic surgery procedures performed in the United States. A tuck is performed along the abdominal area where most individuals with successful weight-loss journeys struggle to regain elasticity in the skin and cannot have flat, firm, taut skin by diet or exercise, alone.
The Sag Can Happen to Anybody
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, truly anyone is at risk for loose skin in their abdomen area. In fact, it is quite a common place to have it. Gravity works against us here, and there are a number of factors that can cause people to suffer from unsightly skin tissue when there should otherwise be firm, tight skin.
Some factors that can prevent you from achieving a flat stomach, no matter how much you exercise, can include:
• aging skin
• previous surgeries
• sun exposure
Aging skin usually does not have the same amount of collagen or elastin that younger skin may have. Your genetic makeup also plays a role in the elasticity of your skin and the way your body carries and loses fat cells. And while most women will see their pregnancy bellies retract back to their pre-baby shape post-delivery, certain factors may leave you at risk for looser skin.
Though commonly overlooked, lifestyle factors like smoking habits and sun exposure can also make you more susceptible to looser or sagging skin in your abdomen area. Both cigarette smoking and effects from the sun’s harmful UV rays can damage the collagen in your skin and even inhibit the production of more, making your skin more likely to sag and decreasing its ability to flex and retract to its former position.
Are You a Candidate?
Like any plastic or cosmetic procedure, a tuck should be done for you and you, alone. If you are unhappy with the way your stomach looks due to excess skin and cannot lose it on your own, then a tuck may be right for you. It is important to not do it just to please someone else. After all, it’s your body and you are the one who is going to have to live with it.
It’s important to note that abdominoplasty is not a cure-all for every weight-loss success story. A tuck is not a substitute for weight-loss. Because each person is different, results will differ between individuals, so it’s vital that you understand what your body is capable of looking like. An abdominoplasty will not make you a top model or give you firm, outlined six-pack post-operation. So, realistic expectations are hugely important.
A tuck may be right for you if you are weighing a consistent weight, so no large fluctuations due to bingeing or other fads. Being healthy, physically, is also important because an abdominoplasty is still surgery and includes anesthesia and a recovery period. In addition, not smoking or being a smoker is key to being healthy enough to undergo the procedure safely.
What Happens During an Abdominoplasty Procedure?
A tuck is a fairly straightforward procedure. Upon preparation for the surgery, anesthesia is administered. Whether general anesthesia or intravenous sedation is utilized is a decision to be made by you and your surgeon.
Next, an incision is made between the navel and public area, where the underlying muscles are repaired, the skin is pulled down to be tight, and the excess skin is trimmed. The skin is then sutured together, and the belly button is pushed through a new opening to the exterior of the stomach and sutured in place.
Finally, the incisions are closed by either suturing, adhesives, tapes, clips, or however, is decided by your surgeon. Recovery begins now and care of the wound must be heeded to prevent complications.
Recovering from a Tuck
Your surgeon will provide you with a personalized plan to keep your new wound clean and safe. You will likely be wrapped in bandages and elastic or compression materials to keep swelling at bay. It’s vital that you follow your surgeon’s plan to take prescribed medications to prevent infections or manage pain, and care for the wound and any temporary drains that may be placed in the skin to relieve fluid or blood build-up.
Possible Complications of an Abdominoplasty
Like any procedure, a tuck comes with its own set of risks to weigh when deciding whether it is the right decision for you. A decision to have any plastic surgery should not be made on a whim, but rather carefully thought out and discussed with your surgeon prior to making a decision. While some possible complications are merely cosmetic issues that involve realistic expectations, some risks can be life-threatening.
Possible complications include, but are not limited to:
• bleeding around the wound
• infection and hematoma
• swelling and seroma
• skin loss
• discoloration of skin
• unexpected scarring
• fat necrosis
• asymmetry of the abdominal area
• chronic pain
• deep vein thrombosis
Alternatives, Like the Mini Tummy Tuck
Some patients may be candidates for a mini tuck rather than the full procedure. The mini tuck often consists of less surgery and involves removing excess skin and tightening underlying muscles, whereas a full tuck may involve removing skin in both the lower and middle regions of the abdomen, tightening muscles, and reattaching the remaining skin.
A full tuck is considered a lengthier surgery, often accompanied by other procedures like liposuction. While there is no hard and fast rule that differentiates the different procedures, a mini tummy tuck is usually a better option for those who only have the excess skin in the lower areas of their stomachs. Those who undergo mini tummy tucks usually have faster recovery periods, too.
So, Is a Tummy Tuck Right for You?
For those who are unhappy with the appearance of excess or sagging skin around their stomach, an abdominoplasty, whether mini or the full procedure is definitely worth researching. Like any cosmetic procedure, it is important that the decision is made by you, for you, not for the approval or benefit of others. A tummy tuck is not an easy procedure with quick recovery time and no risks. In fact, it is a process that requires patience and care when undergoing.
Many women who have undergone extreme or rapid weight loss, pregnancy, or as a result of aging, have excess abdomen skin can cause insecurity and negatively impact daily life. In our time of emerging self-love and body positivity, it is more important than ever to be comfortable in your own skin. When diet and exercise alone are not enough to help you achieve the body you have worked so hard for, a tuck could be the right next step.
A healthier, more confident you is just around the corner, with the Michael Horn Center for Cosmetic Surgery are here to assist you in having the body of your dreams. Don’t hesitate to make an appointment with Dr. Horn, a board-certified surgeon to discuss how an abdominoplasty can improve your look and confidence and overall quality of life.