Most people are led to believe that the key to achieving the “perfect” body is a combination of diet and exercise. And though these steps do help, they’re seldom enough to sculpt a flawless physique all on their own. That’s why a number of different body contouring procedures (both surgical and nonsurgical) have been developed in order to address common aesthetic issues. These procedures are designed to be used on patients who are already at a healthy weight (unlike bariatric surgery, which is intended for use on obese patients in order to facilitate weight loss). They can correct problems like excess fat that does not respond to diet and exercise, and loose skin (which can make a person look “flabby” even if he or she isn’t overweight).

Why Do Slim People Sometimes Need Body Contouring?

A number of different factors can cause someone to opt for body contouring:

Genetics

As unfair as it is, some people are simply genetically predisposed towards developing stubborn fat deposits. People whose ancestors lived at very high latitudes, for example, are often predisposed towards accumulating additional fat (especially around the midsection) because fat helps the body retain heat.

Hormones

As any woman knows, hormones can wreak havoc on the body—especially pregnancy hormones. During pregnancy, the body develops additional fat-stores on the lower stomach, flanks, and thighs. These fat-stores used to be necessary; breastfeeding requires a great deal of energy, so in times when food was scarce, having additional fat deposits gave women “reserves” to draw on. This bodily change helped to protect women and their babies from starvation. Today, when food is abundant in most areas of the world, these extra fat deposits don’t serve any real purpose. Instead, they linger, remaining stubbornly in place, even when a woman has lost her “baby weight.”

Hormonal changes later in life can cause unfavorable changes in body composition, too. When women go through menopause, they experience a sudden drop in their levels of estrogen. The drop usually results in their bodies starting to store more fat around the midsection, rather than distributing it evenly over the hips, thighs, and buttocks. Men often fare little better in middle age. As their levels of testosterone decrease, they also typically develop a protruding belly.

Age-related skin laxity and fat redistribution

As people get older, the amount of muscle mass they carry decreases. Their metabolism also slows down, making them more prone to storing fat. Fat also tends to redistribute itself as we age–mostly around the abdomen.

This means that older people who otherwise look very slim may develop small “pot bellies” that simply won’t budge no matter how much they exercise.

At the same time, decreasing collagen levels cause the skin to become thinner and weaker. This allows gravity to take a more dramatic toll on skin condition; the weight of subcutaneous fat causes the skin to stretch and become loose. This leads to the appearance of flabby-looking skin folds that make a person seem heavier than he or she actually is.

Our Top 3 Body Contouring Procedures

It’s important to understand that fat cannot be “spot reduced” via exercise alone. When we burn calories, fat cells all over the body shrink evenly, not in a localized manner. That is to say, doing 300 crunches per day will not magically banish your belly, though it will help you burn a few extra calories. The only truly effective way to spot reduce fat is to have one of the procedures outlined below.

  1. Liposuction

Liposuction is one of the most popular body contouring procedures in the world for a good reason: When it comes to fat removal, liposuction provides a number of unique benefits. First and foremost, liposuction is incredibly effective. It’s the only procedure that’s capable of removing fat virtually overnight—and once the fat has been removed, it’s gone forever. Most nonsurgical procedures, on the other hand, manifest results gradually (over a period of one to three months).

Liposuction is also extremely versatile. Because it is performed using an extremely thin surgical instrument called a cannula, there is virtually nowhere on the body that’s not treatable using this procedure. Patients have even gotten liposuction on their hands, feet, wrists, and ankles. Nonsurgical fat removal procedures, by contrast, usually rely on the use of an applicator device. While these devices can be applied to most areas of the body, they can’t be applied in as many areas as liposuction.

People rarely feel substantial pain after liposuction. In fact, many patients report that liposuction feels much more tolerable than they thought it would be.

Here at the Plastic Surgery Center of Nashville, we offer both fluid injection liposuction and ultrasound assisted liposuction. During fluid injection liposuction, a fluid that consists of saline, local anesthetic, and epinephrine (a compound that constricts blood vessels) is injected into subcutaneous fatty deposits. This fluid numbs pain and reduces bleeding while also liquefying the fat so it can be removed easily. The fat is then literally “sucked out” through a thin cannula. Ultrasound-assisted liposuction, on the other hand, uses ultrasound energy to liquefy fat deposits. This method is better for those patients who have dense, fibrous fat.

  1. CoolSculpting

For those who cannot have surgery (or who don’t wish to have surgery), we also offer a nonsurgical fat removal procedure called CoolSculpting. During CoolSculpting, we cool the fat deposits (with a special applicator device protects the surrounding tissues) to permanently destroy the fat cells. CoolSculpting has been approved by the FDA for use on multiple areas of the body (such as the abdomen, hips, thighs, flanks, arms, and back) and it involves no incisions and no downtime. Patients who have CoolSculpting can return to work (and their other normal activities) immediately. Over a period of two to three months, their bodies will gradually and painlessly flush out the fat cells that were destroyed during their CoolSculpting session.

To speed up your CoolSculpting treatment plan, we also offer “DualSculpting.” DualSculpting refers to the practice of using two different CoolSculpting machines at the same time to treat two different sides of the body at the same time.

  1. Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty)

Sometimes, as discussed above, excess fat is only part of the problem. Some patients also struggle with areas of loose skin, either as a result of pregnancy, significant weight loss, or aging. For these patients, we recommend a more intensive body contouring operation called tummy surgery, or abdominoplasty.

During a tummy tuck, a long incision is made along the patient’s bikini line and around her belly button. The surgeon then accesses the muscle tissue beneath the skin and repairs any damage that has been done to it in the past. Pregnancy and obesity put a lot of stress on these muscles and can cause them to stretch. Once they stretch, no amount of exercise can repair them, because the lateral halves of the abdominal muscles can no longer effectively work in unison. The loose muscles must, therefore, be repaired with sutures. Sometimes liposuction is also used during this procedure in order to remove unwanted fat from the abdomen. Finally, when both of these steps have been completed, the surgeon will pull the skin of the abdomen so that it rests smoothly over the muscles. Excess skin is then removed (note that any stretch marks the patient has will also be smoothed out during this process) and the patient’s incisions are closed.

As you can probably guess after reading the above paragraph, tummy tuck surgery is highly invasive. While it’s not considered risky, it does require a lengthy healing period. If you elect to have this procedure, you can expect to spend at least two to three weeks of downtime. You also will not be able to lift more than 25 pounds for a month (or longer) after having this surgery. You should, therefore, take the time to develop a post-surgical healing plan that includes booking time off work, arranging for help around the house, and making any other prudent adjustments to your lifestyle.

As a final note, if you’re dealing with loose skin as a result of dramatic weight loss (rather than pregnancy or normal aging), you’ll be interested to know that we also provide a specialized package of body contouring procedures for patients who have undergone bariatric surgery. In addition to tummy tuck surgery, this package includes a number of other body sculpting procedures that are designed to remove loose skin from other areas of the body.

Regardless of why you’re seeking body contouring, the results will be well worth the investment you make. Body contouring can give you the confidence you need to live life on your terms, without compromising on what you want to wear or which activities you want to engage in. Having the body you’ve always dreamed of is not only fulfilling, but it’s also freeing.

Don’t trust your transformation to anything less than a skilled, compassionate surgeon. At the Plastic Surgery Center of Nashville, you’ll be able to work with a renowned plastic surgeon that understands the female perspective. To learn all about what procedures may work for you, contact our Nashville office now, for a consultation.