You can get liposuction, but then you will still have to lose weight

The easy way out is not necessarily the best way to follow

Photo by Houcine Ncib on Unsplash

A lot of people think that they can lose belly fat by working out specific groups of muscles in their abdomen during crunches. They also think that they can slim their arms down doing push-ups. But is there any evidence to support this widespread idea of targeted fat loss?

When I was 37, I spent 2 years in the USA, and the family I stayed with for the first month was generally obese. The mother was trying to lose weight, but she ate little salad and had rarely considered vegetables to be served in the meals we shared. They didn’t know how to prepare even basic things (they threw away most of the lettuce thinking you only eat the very base of it, for example).

Nevertheless, the mother was pretty sure that the way to burn her belly fat was to wrap her tummy with layers of those transparent plastic rolls, and to walk down her treadmill for half an hour per day twice or 3 times a week, so that she would “sweat the weight off”. I tried to tell her that sweating isn’t the same as losing fat, and that “water weight loss” is totally different from “real weight loss” even if dehydration could be seen as weight loss, but I didn’t have the balls to do so. Even if I was not OK with the idea of methods to help losing fat at certain body areas before others, at least she was working out and I was not that confident if she would have listened to me anyway.

But the question still holds. Which is better for burning belly fat? Focused solutions like liposuction, or general ones like diet and exercise? Even workouts can be targeted to a specific body area with the aim of reducing its fat content.

In order to understand the big picture, you have to realize that your body makes two types of fat, the subcutaneous type; that one that is under your skin, and the visceral type; the type that envelopes internal organs and lines cavities within your abdomen.

You also have to know that your body makes a fixed number of fat cells throughout your whole life. It is the size, not the number of these fat cells, that builds up or slims down if you eat more or less than what you need to maintain your daily bodily functions.

It then comes natural to presume that if you remove your fat cells either to lose weight or for aesthetic reasons, those removed fat cells won’t grow back. They will not be renewed by your body. Instead, and especially for people who still follow their liberal food-craving life style after getting their fat cells removed, that excessive intake of calories will be translated into fat building up inside other fat cells in other body areas. The science behind that phenomenon is not fully clear, but researchers have previously reported that when the amount of fat in fat cells goes down, the body reacts to promote a return of fat levels to the original untampered with level.

But if we are really serious about losing weight, there is a great difference between how we do it (through surgery), and how the body helps us do it (through exercise)!

The way I explain it to people is by letting them imagine a bucket and a pool of water. If you burn calories by doing exercise or eating less to burn fat, then it will be like scooping water out of the pool with the bucket. Even if you scoop from one side of the pool, you will always remove water evenly across the pool. The bottom line is, by working out or eating less, you will lose weight, but at least for the recent future, you won’t be able to spot the areas with reduced body fat.

On the contrary, forcing the body to lose fat from one place may be visually satisfying on the short-term, but on the long run, things may not continue to be that exhilarating.

Luckily, I have the science to prove that!

Researchers from the University of Colorado ran a prospective randomized-controlled trial in 2012 to prove that the amount of body fat after liposuction would not only come back, but would also be redistributed to different body areas. Not only did they succeed in proving it, but also they were able to show that, between 6 weeks and 1 year after the operation, fat slowly reaccumulated both under the skin as well as around the organs. Still, one year after liposuction, fat tended to reaccumulate in the belly area, no matter if it was suctioned on not.

I guess the reason to learn from all of this is that sometimes the easy way out is not the perfect thing to do, especially if your health is on the line. I look back to all of this and think about how I am going to deal with my weight problem, currently weighing over 120 kgs, and already had a heart attack back in 2018 with supposedly no harm done to my heart muscle so far. After that incident, I followed a strict diet program where I lost about 20 kilograms of my weight in 6 months. But as time goes by, and as I normally struggle in the world, like I always did, I begin to be less cautious about my weight and more liberal with what I eat.

I guess that the best answer lies in doing exercise and making it a daily routine for the rest of your life. Be aware that your body will be alert to changes in the content of fat within your cells and will force you to regain what have been lost either by increasing your appetite, increasing your food intake or increasing your insulin sensitivity to enforce more flux of sugar into cells and make more fat. So, consistency is key of you intend to lose your belly fat.

Stay consistent! Stay safe!

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