People often refer to excess abdominal fat with cutesy nicknames, such as “muffin tops” and “love handles.” Few of us, though, find the unwanted bulges very amusing. Fortunately, we now have plenty of options to create slimmer abdominal contours, ranging from CoolSculpting® to a tummy tuck.
With so many surgical and nonsurgical options, however, it can be confusing to know which treatment is right for you. The choice depends on your physical condition, your goals, and your expectations for the results. Let’s take a closer look at these factors so you can choose the body contouring procedure that will give you the results you want.
Choosing a Contouring Procedure
If you’re considering abdominal contouring, asking yourself a few questions can help narrow your search for the appropriate option. These questions include:
1. Are you at or near your optimal weight?
Being at a stable, healthy weight is important when you’re trying to choose an abdominal contouring treatment. Significant weight fluctuations can undermine the results of certain procedures. If you’re within 10 pounds of your optimal weight, liposuction or a nonsurgical body contouring procedure produces excellent results. This treatment path reduces stubborn body fat for women and men who are in generally good physical condition.
2. What is your body mass index (BMI)?
People with a BMI of more than about 35 are usually not good candidates for most abdominal contouring procedures. If that’s true in your case, focus on making lifestyle changes such as altering your diet and incorporating exercise into your daily routine to reduce your BMI before scheduling a body contouring procedure. This number is more of a guideline than rule, however, so it’s best to consult with me before making a decision.
3. Is your skin or muscle sagging?
Women and men whose weight yo-yos up and down or who recently have lost significant weight often have excess sagging abdominal skin that poses a cosmetic concern. Additionally, pregnancy often separates the abdominal muscles and stretches the skin. Abdominoplasty, usually called a tummy tuck, addresses both excess skin and weakened abdominal muscles.
4. Would you like to see immediate results?
Surgical body contouring options such as liposuction produce results that you’ll notice within a week or so as the swelling goes down. A tummy tuck requires more downtime but also provides results soon after surgery. Nonsurgical contouring procedures, on the other hand, typically need multiple treatment sessions over a few months to get optimal results.
5. Do you have time for recovery?
Liposuction and tummy tuck surgery require patients to take time off from work and other activities so they can heal. You’ll also need some assistance during the recovery. Non-invasive body contouring treatments don’t involve incisions, injections, or anesthetics, so downtime is minimal or non-existent.
What Are Your Options?
After answering those questions, you can focus on the best available options that meet your needs.
1. Tummy Tuck (Surgical)
A tummy tuck achieves remarkable results. Most plastic surgeons include liposuction during a tummy tuck to ensure smooth, evenly contoured outcomes and a more complete result.
Abdominoplasty involves making a horizontal incision low on the abdomen and removing excess skin. An extended tummy tuck or a body lift is a technique often used for patients who have lost a significant amount of weight. Women who have had children often combine a tummy tuck with cosmetic breast surgery as part of a Mommy Makeover. The results of these procedures can be truly transformative.
2. Liposuction (Surgical)
The versatility of liposuction makes it extremely popular among both men and women. It’s ideal for patients whose skin retains most of its elasticity and who want to reduce stubborn pockets of abdominal fat. It’s important to understand that liposuction is not a weight loss procedure and that patients, as mentioned above, are at or near their ideal weight before undergoing surgery.
3. CoolSculpting (Nonsurgical & Non-invasive)
Many nonsurgical body contouring procedures have been introduced since CoolSculpting emerged more than 10 years ago, but CoolSculpting continues to set the standard in this area. The “fat-freezing” technology used by CoolSculpting destroys fat cells without damaging the skin or tissue surrounding the fat. That’s because fat cells begin dying at temperatures that don’t pose a risk to other cells.
A specially designed applicator cools the treatment area, and patients experience minimal discomfort. The body naturally absorbs and removes the dead cells through its lymphatic system. CoolSculpting, rather than technology involving heat or radio frequency, remains the gold standard for consistent non-invasive fat reduction results. You can see a few CoolSculpting before and after photos below and browse more results in our photo gallery.
4. ThermiTight (Nonsurgical)
This is an innovative, minimally invasive treatment that uses radiofrequency (RF) energy to both tighten loose abdominal skin and sometimes remove fat. During a ThermiTight procedure, the provider inserts a thin probe through a small needle puncture. The probe delivers thermal energy under the skin, destroying fat cells and stimulating the production of new collagen. This process leads to tighter skin. No stitches are needed.
Choosing a Body Contouring Expert
When I consult with patients interested in abdominal contouring, we discuss their specific concerns and cosmetic goals. I also perform a physical examination and, based on all of the information gathered, will recommend the procedure or combination of procedures that I believe best meets their needs. I feel the patient should have this discussion with myself because I utilize all the non-surgical and surgical options. With my surgical history of thousands of procedures, and greater than 25 years of experience, I feel I can best objectively help the patient decide what is best for them.