Liposuction is one of the most popular cosmetic procedures performed today…
April 28, 2021
4 min read
…but there’s still a little confusion about what it does to your fat, and how that affects the rest of your body afterwards.
Let’s Talk About Fat
Fat is one of life’s necessary evils. We all have it, many of us hate it, but it actually does serve an important purpose in our lives. It helps to keep us warm, it cushions our internal organs, and it acts as an energy reserve.
You probably know a little bit about fat, such as it can be found all over your body under your skin, but here’s a few things you might not know yet.
New Fat Cells
You only form new fat cells twice in your life – in your infancy and right before puberty. As adults, we usually think of fat as a temperature regulator, but, for babies, it’s more of an energy source. Babies can’t regulate their body temperature like adults can, so they rely on blankets and warm clothes to keep from getting too cold and they use their fat for the energy it provides them while they’re doing all their growing and developing. And, when you’re entering puberty, your body is better suited to regulate your temperature, but it’s also about to go through a whole lot of growth and changes that requires tons of stored energy. After puberty, the number of fat cells you have doesn’t change. That’s the fat cells you will have for the rest of your life.
Fat Storage – Abdomen or Thighs?
You’ve probably noticed that people hold onto fat in different areas of their bodies. You might feel that you have a little more jiggle in your thighs and buttocks, where your friend might carry their fat in their belly. Where you store your fat is determined by the hormonal changes that happen during puberty, so typically women and men store fat in different places. Women tend to store more fat in their thighs and buttocks, whereas men store theirs in their abdomen. That’s why women are often more “pear-shaped” and men are more “apple-shaped.”
Here’s a fun little fact – in addition to the fat under your skin (called “subcutaneous fat”), you also have fat inside your abdominal cavity. This is called “intra-abdominal” fat, or “visceral” fat. This fat is what keeps your internal organs cushioned and safe as you move around in the world.
You know now that you don’t make new fat cells as an adult, so what happens when you gain weight? Your body just takes fat and stores it in your existing fat cells. In short, your existing fat cells get bigger and bigger, but you don’t make new ones. The only exception is if you gain a significant amount of weight, like around 10% or more of your current body weight. When you gain 10% or more of your current body weight, it can prompt your body to create more fat cells.
Some areas of your body, depending on your hormones, will have a higher concentration of fat cells. Typically, the more fat cells in an area, the faster that area will appear to “get fat” because the cells are already there ready to absorb and hold onto fat. That’s why women and men tend to gain weight in different places.
If gaining weight causes your fat cells to grow, what happens when you lose weight with diet and exercise? Just the opposite. When you’re active and healthy, your body will typically burn the fat you’ve got stored in your subcutaneous and visceral fat. The fat cells release what they’ve got inside them and shrink in size, but they’re not destroyed. Those cells are still there, ready to fill up again.
How is Liposuction Different?
Liposuction doesn’t cause your fat cells to shrink. It actually permanently destroys fat in targeted areas. It’s no substitute for a healthy diet and active lifestyle, and it’s not a weight-loss procedure, but if you’re struggling with stubborn fat that just won’t go away, liposuction might be exactly what you’re looking for.
Destroy Fat Permanently
Liposuction uses motion and suction to destroy your subcutaneous fat. Your plastic surgeon injects the target areas – for example, the abdomen, flanks, and thighs – with a special solution called “tumescent fluid”. This expands the area, giving your surgeon room to work, and it also protects your blood vessels from being damaged, which leads to less blood loss.
After that, your surgeon inserts metal tubes called “cannulas” under your skin. The cannulas have an opening near the tip of the tube, and that’s where the fat gets suctioned. Your surgeon will move the cannula back and forth through the fat in the target area, making little tunnels through the tissue. After the tunneling, the fat gets suctioned through the tip, and out of your body.
The tunneling and the suction destroy and remove the much of the fat in those target areas. Your surgeon will leave, and smooth out, a layer of fat under the skin to try to minimize any uneven or grooved contours.
So, unlike with diet and exercise, liposuction will permanently get rid of stubborn fat.
Gaining Weight After Lipo
Since liposuction destroys fat in targeted areas, how will gaining weight affect your results and your appearance? If you gain a few pounds, what will happen is that your body will store that extra fat in your existing fat cells. It was mentioned earlier that areas with more fat cells will store fat more easily than other areas. Since liposuction destroys fat cells, any areas that have been treated with liposuction will not readily hold onto more fat. Instead, the subcutaneous fat in other areas will start storing more fat, or your visceral fat will store more.
Some people might misunderstand this concept and assume that liposuction makes you fatter in different places. Liposuction permanently destroys fat cells and it doesn’t cause you to gain more fat.
It may surprise you that gaining a even a small amount of weight can ruin your results. It’s a good idea to “protect your investment” and either maintain or lose weight in order to get the most out of your liposuction surgery.
If you gain weight, your liposuctioned areas will definitely get fatter too. It’s just that the non-liposuctioned areas may get fatter faster. Unfortunately, getting liposuction is not a “free pass”. Instead, it’s a jump start to a new you, with better contours! Maintaining that shape will be up to you. You can do it!
First Step to a New Start
If you’ve been struggling with stubborn fat in certain areas, schedule an appointment for a consultation with your plastic surgeon. Liposuction will permanently destroy fat in problem areas and can be a useful addition to a healthy lifestyle.