Florence Mussat, M.D.
680 N Lake Shore Dr. #1030 Chicago, IL 60611 (312) 751-9000


Liposuction: Does The Fat Come Back? If So, Where?

Healthy habits, like eating a nutritious diet and exercising regularly, are integral to living a long life—but they don’t always result in uniform weight loss. That’s why over 200,000 Americans turn to liposuction each year: Liposuction can effectively “spot reduce” the deposits of stubborn fat that sometimes cling to otherwise slim, fit individuals.

Though liposuction is safe and effective for the vast majority of patients, those interested in having fat surgically removed often worry that their unwanted pounds will inevitably return. This expectation is usually based on years of “yo yo” dieting; many of us are used to the fat we lose coming back after a diet ends. Fortunately, liposuction works very differently than traditional weight loss. In many cases, it actually can produce permanent results. Here’s how it works:

Liposuction Vs. Conventional Weight Loss

How many fat cells we have and how they’re distributed is determined largely by our genetics. People have different body types owing to heritable patterns of fat storage: Some people are “apple shaped,” for example, carrying most of their body fat on their stomachs and chests. Others are naturally slender or tend to store fat evenly across their limbs and torso.

When we lose weight through diet or exercise, these patterns of fat storage—and our fat cells—don’t actually go away. Instead, our fat cells just shrink in size; the slimming we observe during weight loss occurs because fat cells take up less space as they lose volume. Alas, as soon as we start consuming more calories than we’re burning, our fat cells quickly expand again. This causes us to regain weight in all of the same problem areas, time and time again.

Even people who successfully stay slim often retain small but distracting fat deposits in areas where fat cells are particularly dense. A pear-shaped woman, for example, might feel like her thighs too thick for her otherwise lean frame—no matter how much she works out. An apple-shaped woman, on the other hand, may notice persistent lower belly fat, arm fat, or rolls around her bra line. These issues persist unless the individual in question achieves a very low body fat percentage, which is neither realistic nor healthy for the average person.

Liposuction, by contrast, does not shrink fat cells. During liposuction, a very thin tube (called a cannula) is inserted directly into adipose tissue. Localized fat deposits are irrigated with a special solution, then a significant number of fat cells are gently sucked out. This reduces the actual density of fatty tissue in targeted areas, not just the volume of individual fat cells.

Fat cells that are removed or destroyed rarely ever grow back on their own. Areas that are treated with liposuction therefore remain proportionally slimmer than they used to be, even if the patient gains weight after surgery. An apple-shaped woman who used liposuction to sculpt a more distinct waistline will notice more weight gain on her thighs, buttocks, and chest than her stomach, for example.

Sometimes, gaining a very large amount of weight (over 30 pounds) can cause the body to create new fat cells. This isn’t a common occurrence, but it is a possibility. You should therefore try to keep your weight relatively stable if you’ve had this procedure, just in case.

Dr. Florence Mussat offers both liposuction and medically supervised weight loss, so if you’re worried about gaining weight after surgery, she can help you stay on track. To learn more about the liposuction procedure, recovery, and long-term maintenance, contact her Chicago plastic surgery practice to arrange a consultation.