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What a Tummy Tuck Can and Can’t Do

Tummy Tuck Patient

The formal term for plastic surgery of the abdomen is abdominoplasty — with a mouthful of syllables like that, it’s easy to see why people have nicknamed the procedure a “tummy tuck.” However, this popularized term can also be somewhat misleading, as it generalizes who the surgery is for and downplays its real purpose. A tummy tuck is not for everyone who is self-conscious about their abdomen — not only is it best-suited for a particular set of concerns, but it is a full surgery that comes with certain risks and recovery time that not everyone is ready to accept. If you’ve been wondering whether a tummy tuck can help you meet your aesthetic goals, it’s time to learn more about what a tummy tuck can and can’t do for you.

A Tummy Tuck Can Remove Extra Skin and Fat

Life events like pregnancy or drastic weight changes can cause the skin of the abdomen to stretch and become distended. In cases of moderate weight or size fluctuations, the skin is typically very elastic and can expand and shrink over the body’s internal tissues. But when the skin is stretched beyond a point where it can contract again, it might remain loose or hang down at the lower abdomen, commonly called a skin “apron.” A tummy tuck can surgically remove the extra skin, allowing your abdomen to appear seamless without folds of skin getting in the way.

The abdomen is also a very common problem area for stubborn body fat, particularly the kind that clings after pregnancy or weight loss. Stubborn fat might refuse to respond to diet or exercise, leaving behind an abdomen with bumps or bulges. This unwanted fat, especially when combined with extra skin, can mean that even someone who is otherwise in good physical shape might be unable to achieve a fit, toned stomach. During a tummy tuck, your surgeon can access and eliminate fat along with extra skin. The overall result is a smooth, even stomach, so you can finally take your last fitness steps toward a flat belly and sculpted abs. 

A Tummy Tuck Can’t Help You Lose Weight or Gain Muscle 

Although a tummy tuck can give you a smooth surface to start with, it won’t be able to highlight your abdominal muscles or give you an entirely new body. The surgery only focuses on the front of the abdomen, so extra fat on the flanks, thighs or buttocks won’t be addressed unless you combine the procedure with liposuction in these areas. Even then, a tummy tuck should not be thought of as a weight loss treatment. If your unhappiness with the appearance of your abdomen stems from body fat as a result of overweight or obesity, you should focus on getting as close to your goal weight as possible through diet and exercise before seeking a surgery like an abdominoplasty.

Plastic surgeons typically recommend using diet and exercise first for a few reasons. For one, being in good health will ensure that your surgery and recovery go smoothly. Additionally, if you have a tummy tuck before your body shape is close to your ideal, you might be putting your long-term results at risk. But the most simple reason is that a tummy tuck is not designed to help clients lose weight. It can sculpt the body you already have, but it cannot safely combat large areas of body fat or address body concerns not related to the abdomen. 

A Tummy Tuck Can Improve Your Body and Your Confidence 

If you’re interested in a tummy tuck because you are unhappy with your weight or your body, the good news is that many clients find this surgery is a strong motivator to eat well and exercise. For those who are in the middle of their weight loss journey, you can set your abdominoplasty as your goal, continuing to work toward reaching your ideal weight while knowing a sculpting surgery lies ahead. If you have already lost weight but have found that your fitness efforts are frustrated by stubborn fat or excess skin, a tummy tuck can be just what you need to energize your workouts and feel like you’ll be able to see results once again.

Not only does a tummy tuck give you a “clean slate” to work with, but after a tummy tuck, you’ll be able to achieve a flat, toned stomach even if you haven’t been successful in the past. Many tummy tuck clients don’t realize that their abdominal muscles have actually become stretched similarly to their skin. If this happens, it can be impossible to strengthen and shape the abs because they have been disconnected or moved out of their natural position. During your abdominoplasty, your surgeon can stitch them back into place, allowing you to work your muscles in ways that you couldn’t before.

Some patients find it impossible to achieve a flat tummy after pregnancy even when they are at their ideal body weight. This can be due to what is called “rectus diastasis” where the fascia (or fabric) between the muscles is so stretched out that the muscles reach their fully contracted state before the abdomen is flattened. Tightening this loose “fabric” between the rectus muscles is called “fascial plication” and this is an integral part of most abdominoplasties.

A Tummy Tuck Can’t Prevent You From Gaining Weight

It’s important to remember that your body sculpting journey doesn’t end with your surgery. A tummy tuck is like a reset button that allows you to start over with your abdomen and your body — while it gives you a fresh start, it can’t prevent your skin and muscles from stretching again in the future. This is another reason that surgeons recommend reaching your goal weight before choosing surgery — you are more likely to be able to maintain your results if you have already worked toward a healthier lifestyle. It is also why many providers recommend that women are finished having children before undergoing an abdominoplasty.

That being said, the effects of abdominoplasty are permanent in that the removed fat and skin will not “grow back” as long as you maintain your weight. With the boost in motivation that the surgery provides, the vast majority of patients find that eating well and exercising come easily after a tummy tuck. Many plastic surgeons are also happy to recommend nutritionists or fitness coaches in their area to help you stay on track after surgery. If you are worried about keeping up with a healthy lifestyle post-op, you should talk to your surgeon about this during your consultation to find out what resources they can suggest.

If you are interested in a tummy tuck in Banff, Alberta, schedule your consultation with Dr. Elizabeth Hall-Findlay at Banff Plastic Surgery. Our friendly and experienced team can help you understand the tummy tuck surgery and process — we’ll make sure it’s the right procedure for you and that you’ll love your results. Contact us today at 403-762-2055 to get started.