Been Told to Lose Weight Before Having Cosmetic Surgery? Here’s why you don’t always need to—and how cosmetic surgery can help you in your weight loss journey.
Many surgeons counsel patients that they must be “at a stable weight” or “must lose weight” before they can enjoy the benefits of cosmetic medicine. This can be troubling news for people who are larger-bodied or those who have reached a weight loss plateau.
Triple board certified cosmetic surgeon Dr. Alex Sobel disagrees with these outdated ideas and doesn’t feel that weight loss should be a prerequisite to cosmetic surgery. Rather, he believes cosmetic surgery can be an invaluable tool in helping you get where you want to be—and new evidence is reinforcing the idea that cosmetic medicine can be beneficial at various stages in a weight loss journey.
Because BMI is so often talked about as one marker of readiness for cosmetic surgery, we’ll first look at this measurement and why it isn’t as helpful as some would believe.
What is BMI and how does it relate to cosmetic surgery?
Body mass index (or BMI) is an estimate of the percentage of fat in the human body. Seems straightforward, right? Not exactly. Let’s first look at the BMI formula. BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in pounds by your height in inches squared, and then multiplying that number by 703.
Here’s an example:
Weight = 150 lbs, Height = 5’5″ (65″)
Calculation: [150 ÷ (65)2] x 703 = 24.96
As the denominator is height in inches squared versus the numerator is weight in pounds, we can see that small changes in height make an exponential difference in BMI, but the same doesn’t hold true with changes in weight.
Why is BMI not an accurate indicator of overall health?
Why is BMI, a measurement of weight to height ratio, a flawed indicator of health? Because it doesn’t factor in age, sex, ethnicity, and muscle mass as it relates to body fat. Let’s explore further.
From its inception, the BMI index was based solely on data from one group: the height and weight of white European men. In other words, the BMI index wasn’t designed with a diversity of body types and genders in mind—and any measurement based on a single-gender and ethnic group is problematic at best.
BMI doesn’t take body composition (fat versus muscle) into account. Someone with a lot of muscle mass, and almost no fat (a very fit athlete, for instance), has a relatively high weight, compared to her height. This means athletes with an incredibly low percentage of body fat are considered obese on the BMI chart.
BMI is not a true indicator of physiological health. For instance, falling into the obesity range (of 30 or higher) on the BMI chart doesn’t necessarily mean you have dangerously high cholesterol, blood pressure, or blood sugar levels. In other words, a person’s weight (and their BMI score) doesn’t correlate directly with their health status.
BMI can even distort a physician’s viewpoint and sometimes blind them to a patient’s actual medical conditions, particularly when it comes to women and people of non-European descent. A Harvard Medical School article entitled, “How Useful is the Body Mass Index (BMI)?” agrees that health professionals may put too much emphasis on patients’ BMI. “It’s important to recognize that BMI itself is not measuring… the presence (or absence) of disease. It is simply a measure of your size. Plenty of people have a high or low BMI and are healthy and, conversely, plenty of folks with a normal BMI are unhealthy.”
Will plastic surgery change my BMI?
Body mass index (BMI) is tough to change with plastic surgery. Even though plastic and cosmetic surgery can boost efforts to achieve and maintain weight loss, plastic surgery is not analogous with weight loss surgery.
We see this proven out with liposuction procedures. Even though liposuction can remove substantial amounts of fat, resulting in profound changes to a patient’s shape, it often doesn’t notably shift the patient’s BMI. This is because fat is much less dense than other body tissue; it doesn’t weigh very much compared to the space that it occupies.
Rather than worrying about if cosmetic surgery can change your BMI, we recommend instead considering if cosmetic medicine can benefit you in your weight loss process.
Cosmetic surgery has an integral role in supporting health
If we can’t change BMI much with plastic surgery and BMI is not a great indicator of health for a diversity of patients, what is cosmetic surgery’s role in supporting health?
Cosmetic surgery can support patient health in three important ways:
- It can inspire and jumpstart patients on a journey towards greater fitness.
- It can enhance and maintain the changes brought about by weight loss.
- It can increase self-confidence, which has many benefits for overall well-being.
So, although cosmetic surgery alone will not accomplish weight loss, it most certainly helps patients psychologically and physically along the way.
How cosmetic surgery can jumpstart your weight loss
Successful surgery can allow you to feel better about yourself before committing to changing your health and lifestyle—to feel more at ease embarking on your journey. For instance, we can surgically remove fat from specific areas so you can exercise more comfortably, or if you have larger breasts, we can perform breast reduction, enabling you to exercise without discomfort and pain.
How cosmetic surgery can help you maintain your weight loss
Significant weight changes result in excess, loose skin, which can be discouraging and feel like the opposite of a reward after so much diligence with diet and exercise. Deciding on cosmetic reconstruction after weight loss can help you renew your love for your body and maintain your new weight. Surgical body lifting procedures like tummy tucks, arm lifts, and thigh lifts work well to address these issues.
Cosmetic procedures to help you on your journey
Liposuction. Weight loss does not happen in all areas of the body at the same pace, and there will always be areas that are diet and exercise resistant. We can address these permanently with liposuction. The procedure can also be used to surgically remove fat that is physically interfering with your exercise routine.
Breast reshaping. After significant weight loss, breasts can look deflated and sag because they’ve lost volume. Cosmetic surgery can remedy these issues through various techniques: breast lift, fat transfer or breast implants, or some combination of the three. Breast reduction may also be the right solution to match breast size to a more athletic figure.
Abdominoplasty. A tummy tuck procedure can not only restore contour to your midsection, it can provide a psychological boost. Some patients decide to have the procedure to spur them on towards their health and exercise goals, while others elect to have a tummy tuck to remove excess skin following weight loss. Either way, research has found that a tummy tuck not only assists patients along the path to their diet and exercise goals; it also helps with weight loss stabilization.
Male breast reduction. Gynecomastia treatment is a straightforward procedure for reshaping a man’s chest and providing a firmer, more masculine appearance that can boost confidence as well as remove excess skin. For patients who are mostly concerned with excess fat on the chest, liposuction alone can often achieve the desired result.
Fat transfer. After significant weight loss, certain parts of the body lose volume, particularly the buttocks. We can remedy that with a fat transfer procedure, using liposuction to take excess fat from the belly, thighs, or hips, and transferring it to the buttocks. (If the loss of volume is significant in comparison with available fat, implants are also an option.) Fat injections are not just for body contouring—they can also be used to effectively restore facial fat loss.
Arm lift. Arm lift surgery is a good choice for removing excess skin post-weight loss or for patients who aren’t happy with the way their upper arms look and feel due to aging.
Non-surgical enhancements. Losing a lot of weight changes the face and neck’s appearance and can make you look older than your years. Patients can restore youthful volume use one of the many dermal fillers such as Juvéderm and Juvéderm Voluma. Non-surgical treatments such as Thermage and Botox® also work well to tighten and smooth skin and remove wrinkles. In some cases, mid-face or lower facelifts are also great solutions.
Looking for cosmetic surgery in the Seattle area?
At Anderson Sobel Cosmetic in Bellevue, WA, we don’t feel that weight loss is a prerequisite to cosmetic surgery. Our philosophy is to make procedures safe, reliable and available to patients at whatever life stage they feel they would benefit from them the most.
We pride ourselves on making every patient feel supported in making the decisions that are best for their body and their health. Come in and talk to us about your goals, and we’ll help you find the best approach for you. Call us at 425-453-9060 or contact us online to request your one-on-one virtual consultation. We look forward to meeting you!