From the Doctor’s Desk
Tennis Anyone? Cosmetic Surgery Can Put You Back in the Game! By Rodale Custom Content & Marketing
Katie Sullivan can’t remember a time when she didn’t play tennis. “It was always a huge part of my life,” she says. She began competing at the age of ten, and attended college on a tennis scholarship. Even after graduation, she coached kids in tennis while working on her master’s degree.
But somewhere along the way, she hit a bump in the road, and the slender, six-foot-tall athlete began packing on some pounds. The combination of family problems and pregnancy triggered a cycle of compulsive overeating, and before she knew it, she was too big to hit the courts. “I didn’t play tennis for five years,” Katie recalls, “and I really missed it.
In 2006, she’d had enough: Katie underwent LapBand surgery and lost about 60 pounds. She looked and felt better, but with the extra skin around her stomach, plus her heavy breasts, playing tennis was still a challenge. So she had a tummy tuck in 2008 and a breast reduction two years later. “Without a doubt, those surgeries enabled me to play again,” says Katie, a 42-year-old mom of two. “I wasn’t carrying around all that extra baggage, so I could get back into the game again.”
If you’ve lost a lot of weight following lapband surgery, you may be considering cosmetic surgery, too. Here are some common questions—and expert answers—to help you decide.
- After weight loss, what happens to my excess skin? Does it magically disappear?
No, says Boston cosmetic surgeon Dr. Christopher Davidson, M.D. “Think of your skin as a rubber band,” he suggests. “You may have gained and lost weight many times throughout their lives. If you stretch a rubber band a lot, at some point, the elasticity is gone and it won’t recoil anymore.” Many patients have unattractive pockets of skin that can chafe and even become infected.
- Will exercise tone up my skin and make the excess go away?
Unfortunately not. It’ll tone up your muscles and make you stronger, but do nothing to fix sagging skin. Only cosmetic surgery will help.
- How do I decide if cosmetic surgery is for me?
First, insists Dr. Davidson, have realistic expectations: Cosmetic surgery won’t make you look like Angelina Jolie, but it will make you look and feel better. “If you’ve lost at least 75 pounds,” he says, “you may be a candidate for cosmetic surgery. And the healthier you are, the better the outcome is likely to be.”
- When can I schedule my cosmetic surgery?
You should wait a year to 18 months following LapBand surgery, and your weight should be stable—no excessive gains or losses—for about four months.
- How difficult is it?
“Don’t take this lightly,” advises Dr. Davidson. “All the usual surgical risks apply—from bleeding, to infection, to problems with wound healing. Those things are rare, but you should know about them going in.” Recovery time depends on the procedure, varying from one to three weeks.
- Will my insurance pay for it?
That depends. If it’s medically necessary—say you have infected sores, or excess skin makes it difficult to walk—many insurance companies will pick up the tab. Speak with your insurance rep and your surgeon’s office.
- How do I find a good surgeon?
Go to cosmeticsurgery.org to find a surgeon in your area, and ask your doctor and support group for recommendations. “But don’t forget, insists Dr. Davidson, “to ask questions. How long has the surgeon been working with weight-loss patients? The number of surgeries performed is really important.”