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Dr John Di Saia, an orange county california plastic surgeon

Fat, Your Body and Lipo

"Exercise instead of Liposuction?"

Life is not always so simple without a little understanding. First of all, no one needs liposuction. Of course, some may like the results. This may be why you are here. :) It seems a brief discussion of the big picture and how this may relate to your appearance is in order.

Very Basic Fat Metabolism
Fat is more than just an ugly item without which you would be happier; it is the most efficient manner in which your body stores energy. It stores 9 kilocalories of energy per gram. It is also the padding used by your body to fill spaces such as that between your skin and underlying muscle and bone. So you can't remove all your fat and look or function normally.

The basic unit of fat is the fat cell. When we are young our bodies make more fat cells as we grow. After your late teens to early twenties, you stop making new fat cells. And they can become ever so more visible from this point onward for many without some effort. :)

"So how do I lose and gain weight then?"

Simple. You fill these cells with more or less fat.

Look at your fat cells as little gas tanks. They hold fat, a fuel used by your body. When you eat more than you use, the cells get filled to higher levels like little tanks.

"I want to lose weight"
Weight loss can involve the loss of fat, but the loss of fat is a long process. When weight is lost over a short period of time like when you starve yourself, this weight is not fat. It is most commonly water and glycogen, another energy storage material made by your liver. Glycogen is very quickly replaced; therefore weight quickly lost rarely stays off. The best way to lose weight (over the long term) is to exercise regularly and consistently reduce the amount of food you eat while maintaining a healthy diet.

"What about Liposuction? You remove fat cells right?"
Fat cells are removed during liposuction. This reduces but does not eliminate all the cells in the area treated. It seems to change the tendency to gain weight in the area treated. Remember, if cells are left in the area, then you can increase their "fat load" if you gain weight. You tend to more easily increase the amount of fat in the cells in other areas (as they have not been changed in quantity by surgery). The procedure rarely results in much weight loss by itself. It is more like sculpting. Some call it liposculpture.

Liposuction seems to be best at reducing the amount of fat cells in trouble areas - areas with which no matter how hard we exercise we don't seem to improve much. People who gain and lose large amounts of weight (15-30 lbs or more) on a regular basis are therefore not the best candidates for the procedure. Starving yourself to a low weight and then having liposuction doesn't produce the best results.

"I was just pregnant. Can liposuction help me?"
That depends. If your problem is fat and only fat, then liposuction might be a good choice. I would still advise that you wait a period of at least six months for the hormonal effects of the pregnancy to subside. This also gives you an opportunity to get a diet and exercise program in place. Remember, liposuction is not an alternative to exercise and a good diet. It can be an aid.

Now if you have skin (and perhaps muscle) that has been "stretched out" from pregnancy, I would also recommend giving it at least six months to settle. Often a little time will allow the skin to "bounce back" a little. If after this the skin is still pretty lose, then we start thinking about other procedures such as Tummy Tucks and Body Lifts to deal with the skin and muscle that may have been altered by the stress of the pregnant uterus.

"I am exercising and have a stable weight. There are just a few problem areas..."
Patients with this complaint are amongst the best candidates for liposuction - those looking to improve problem areas such as on the sides of the thighs or the tummy. They are working out so their overall weight is in a pretty stable range - plus or minus a few pounds. They aren't looking to lose weight but rather improve the appearance of a few areas. These people can very likely be helped with liposuction.  


© John Di Saia, MD... an Orange County California Plastic Surgeon       

Serving Southern California since 1997 * (949) 369-5932


Please note that this resource is offered freely to individuals considering liposuction. No rights are granted and it is not to be reprinted or copied without the author's prior written consent. Understand that some of the information presented may be a matter of professional opinion. Although efforts have been made to assure accuracy, no guarantees are expressed or implied.