If liposuction was the final touch on your weight loss transformation, then congratulations! You probably feel amazing and are loving your results. And if you’re still looking forward to your consultation, then it can be an exciting time. But, even with the most rock-solid maintenance plan and dreams of your ideal body, it’s natural to worry about regaining the weight you worked hard to lose. Statistically, the vast majority of people who diet and lose weight eventually gain it back for different reasons. However, liposuction is a factor that’s not often considered by patients when it comes to weight loss recidivism, so it’s important to take the right steps and make sure you have the right knowledge about maintaining your new body.
At Reflections, our award-winning team of cosmetic physicians can produce excellent results with the latest liposuction techniques and technologies. Whether you’re considering liposuction or have completed your recovery (or anywhere in between), you can benefit from knowing what to expect from your body in the long term. Here’s what to know about liposuction, regaining fat, and how to make sure you get the result you want.
How fat actually works
Fat can have a lot of different definitions. It’s what we have in our bodies (although there are actually a few different types) and serves a few different important functions. It’s also a part of our diets, whether from animal sources or otherwise. When you eat too many calories, your body stores the extra ones as fat (or, energy for a later time). A common misconception, though, is that you gain more fat this way— as in, more fat cells. What really happens is that your existing fat cells are packed with more stuff at a cellular level, causing them to get bigger. Bigger cells eventually contribute to the appearance of flab and fat rolls on the body, or what we mean by fat when we talk about it in cosmetic circles. Liposuction, in turn, removes fatty tissue— and thus, fat cells. So, when the fat cells themselves are removed, it follows logically that they can’t swell with weight gain later on. This seems like a fool-proof plan, but before you schedule your surgery date, it’s important to know it may not be so simple.
What does science say?
The reason that many people are so interested in whether fat comes back after liposuction is that, if even a surgical procedure results in regaining fat similar to good old-fashioned dieting, it can greatly complicate the long-term outcome for losing weight in any manner. In one commonly-cited study from the University of Colorado School of Medicine in 2011, researchers found that removed fat tends to return within one year in both human and animal trials. More specifically, they found that fat is redistributed in areas like the upper abdomen, shoulders, and underarms1.
The tentative conclusion to this study is that the body and brain may have an underlying goal of maintaining a certain percentage of fat, even after weight loss. This is most likely because fat does serve some important purposes in the body and isn’t totally bad. Along with being a backup source of energy for your body, it also insulates your body’s warmth and acts as padding and protection for your vital organs. It can also play a role in helping proteins along, storing vitamins, and starting chemical functions for things like your metabolism, growth, immune system, and reproductive functions. This means that, unfortunately, keeping fat away after liposuction and weight loss may not be so cut and dry as we thought.
So, does the fat come back after liposuction?
It’s important to distinguish that the individual fat cells removed during liposuction will not come back. So, if you have liposuction on your stomach, the fat cells that were present can no longer swell with weight gain. This means, however, that you’ll likely see weight gain in other areas like the thighs and hips, but can maintain your results in your stomach (assuming you don’t experience too much weight gain). Again, liposuction does not prevent the body from gaining weight, nor should it be considered a weight loss surgery. For best results, it’s important to keep up your healthy lifestyle for the long term, just as you would without liposuction in the picture.
Maintaining your results
Even though liposuction is considered a minimally-invasive procedure, it can still require some downtime where you’ll see swelling. It’s important to judge your results once the swelling is fully subsided, which can take upwards of several months. During this time, though, you should gradually return to your healthy lifestyle with the guidance of your cosmetic physician. This can help you lock in your healthy habits for the long term.
Liposuction isn’t a one-time effort. Working hard to maintain your new body takes a combination of steps, so here’s just a few.
If you haven’t already had your procedure, then now is a good time to start establishing healthy habits so you can carry them into your post-procedure lifestyle. Although it’s commonly recommended that you be within ten pounds of your ideal weight before your procedure, that doesn’t mean you should drop your diet and exercise regimen once you get there! Eating healthy, watching your calories, and developing solid exercise plans are things that will only help you after your recovery.
Along with having great benefits for your skin and health, drinking lots of water can help you maintain your new shape. Especially as you shrug off fat, water retention can give the appearance of gaining weight even if you’re not. Combat bloating by staying hydrated and ensuring your body has the water it needs so your remaining fat cells don’t need to stubbornly hang on to fluids.
Build and tone muscle
Although for a lot of women it can seem counterintuitive, building and toning muscle can help you maintain your weight loss results. That’s because muscle takes more energy for your body to maintain, meaning your body can more easily burn up fat and excess energy for longer than just your exercise window— it can also give you a little more wiggle room when it comes to your daily calorie expenditure since your body needs more calories to maintain muscle. So, make sure to incorporate some weight training into your pre- and post-procedure regimen or consider treatments like Emsculpt for a boost.
Consider non-surgical options
Keep in mind that liposuction is not a weight loss surgery, so it’s still possible to gain weight after your procedure. If you do gain weight and find yourself struggling to get it back under control, non-surgical fat reduction options can help tackle the areas where you do gain weight. This can help jumpstart your weight loss and help you get back on track.
Schedule a Consultation
Liposuction is one of the best ways to put the finishing touches on your weight loss results and has a long history of success when it comes to removing stubborn fat and achieving the contours you’ve been working toward. However, it’s important to consider it as an investment— and the best investments are worth protecting!
At Reflections, our award-winning team of cosmetic physicians offers the latest liposuction technologies and can recommend the right procedure for you during a private consultation. To get started and learn more about how liposuction can help, we invite you to contact our Martinsville and Livingston offices by calling or filling out our online form.
- 1. Eckel, Robert H., and Teri L Hernandez. “Research: Post-Liposuction, Fat Remains Resilient.” Colorado University Connections, CU Anschutz Medical Campus, 18 May 2011, connections.cu.edu/stories/research-post-liposuction-fat-remains-resilient.
Dr. Renata Wix-Harris has extensive experience as a general surgeon and work in the plastic surgery department has helped to her to become an excellent laser liposuction surgeon. She is also skilled at laser and energy-based skin therapies, injectables, and non-invasive body contouring.