I just had my lipo done today, so right now when I...
I'm a 30 year old male, who's very active. I love to run, work out, and I just finished a half-marathon last weekend. I'm also in the military and THAT is a very active experience. I also eat healthy. My wife brings home weird food like quinoa (which I'm pretty sure is not from earth, nor designed for human consumption), every thing we eat is low fat, low sugar, no junk food, healthy healthy healthy. But despite my healthy lifestyle, I have this bulge on my lower abdomen that just won't go away! Due to military weight regulations, and the archaic way they measure body fat, as well as my own personal health goals, I decided to pursue liposuction as a potential solution.
So now that I've decided to look at lipo, deciding what kind and where to go was the next decision. And it was WAAAAY harder than I thought! I assumed lipo was pretty straightforward; they cut a hole in you, stick a vacuum in there, and suck that stuff out. Obviously that's not the case haha. There's lasers and sound waves and power-assisted and water jet, there's dermatologists and plastic surgeons and just about every other kind of doctor or "doctor". One thing I've also learned, they all say the other "types" of doctors suck. So it's all very confusing, and even more so when you start looking at the "non-invasive" procedures.
So during this research I learned a few things. First, the type of medical degree a doctor has is not as important as the experience they have. I'd rather have a dermatologist with tons of experience than a newbie plastic surgeon. Second, the non-invasive procedures are crap. Can I say crap here? I'm saying it. They sound cheaper at first, and they are for one visit, but what they don't tell you is that it takes like 12 visits to get the results you want. Not so affordable now, and who has six weeks of their life open where they can take a few hours off of work twice a week to go do this? Plus there's no way control (or sculpt) how much fat is removed in every area, no way to ensure a smooth look. And the last nail in the coffin for that procedure is the results I've seen for these procedures are limited, at best. Better to get it all done at once. I've also learned shopping around is VERY important. The first place I went to wanted to charge around $7500 for lower/upper abdomen, and love handles. The second $4100. The third was $3500, but took off $1500 due to my military service. Obviously $2000 is a lot easier on the wallet than $7500. Keep in mind that you're going to have up to $1000 in other costs, such as garments, pain medications, and blood work. Lastly, I learned that regarding the types of lipo, I have no idea which kind is better. I feel like the experience of the doctor is probably way more important, though I have read a lot of articles suggesting there is more swelling/slower healing with the ultrasonic/sound wave/whatever ones.
After doing a LOT of research, doing different consultations, and a lot of reading and asking questions on RealSelf, I made my decision. I contacted Dr Greenberg in Palm Desert CA and scheduled a procedure. Dr Greenberg specializes in vein treatments, however he has one of those practices that does multiple cosmetic treatments. I was initially worried about going to someone who doesn't "only" do lipo, but everything in my research about him came up positive, and he has a lot of experience. Oh yeah, research your potential doctor. Google is your friend. Yelp is your friend. Don't just read the brochure and assume that because they are attractive and have a cool office that they are the best for you. Back to Dr. Greenberg. He's a shorter, older man with a witty personality and one of the most blunt and direct people I've ever met. Comes off as a no-bullshit straight shooter. That really appealed to me. If you're looking for someone with a pretty smile and lots of sweet talk, he might not be the guy for you. But if I'm spending this much money and altering my body, I want the straight talk, an honest broker. Dr. Greenberg uses PAL (Power Assisted Lipo) tumescent lipo, along with the laser that melts fat cells. From what I've researched, PAL may make your results a little bit better, but that's mainly due to the fact that it is less tiring on the doctor performing the procedure. It's basically like the difference between a toothbrush and one of those vibrating toothbrushes. But that's fine with me, I want my doctor to be as fresh as possible while he's carving me up like a turkey! The laser allegedly makes the healing process faster, as well as improves skin tightening. I won't get into the technical details, but after my research I wasn't really concerned with the benefits or lack thereof from laser lipo. Not really enough evidence out there to prove any one of the lipo types is far and away the best. Again, the experience of the doctor was more important to me.
About a week before the procedure, I had my last consult. They gave me a prescription for hydrocodone and an antibiotic, and gave me Bromelain/Quercetin, and Arnica Montana 30X (pill form). They also advised me to get Arnica lotion. I've taken all the pills, unfortunately due to the multiple surgeries I've had in my life for cleft lip and palate, I seem to be resistant to pain medications. Haven't used the lotion yet, so I can't report on whether or not it's worth it. I started taking most of these the day before the procedure (except pain meds).
This morning was the big day! I woke up, ate a normal breakfast, took a pain pill an hour before the procedure, and picked out some clothes that were loose, dark, and not important to me haha. Make sure you eat with the pain pills, or you may be feeling extra nauseous during the procedure. My wife drove me to Dr. Greenberg's office, and everything happened very quickly from there. They had me undress, put on some RIDICULOUS looking shorts, and took some not so flattering pictures of me. Then they took a marker out and started drawing around where they would be operating. I was very impressed because the whole time they were involving me in the decision process, making sure I had a say in what parts I wanted "trimmed". Afterwards they laid me down on one of those weird operating beds and hooked up a blood pressure cuff to automatically check my blood pressure every 15 minutes. Then I waited for Dr. Greenberg to come in and shoot me up with the tumescent solution!
Regarding the anesthetic part, I know there is a lot of controversy between local and general anesthesia. Local anesthesia means you are awake, and numb. General anesthesia means you are asleep. When anti-liposuction peeps talk about the death ratio and dangers of lipo, what they aren't telling you is that's pretty much ALL from general anesthesia. Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but no one has died from lipo under local anesthesia. What that tells me is it's not the lipo that is dangerous (unless you go to Tijuana), it's the general anesthesia. Apparently no matter what procedure you are getting, any time someone puts you to sleep there are major risks. Also, it's a lot easier to move around so the doctor can get the best angle if you are awake. And that's what's important; getting the best results. You paid a lot of money for this, so suck it up and do it right!
I didn't realize it was such a multi step procedure. First he injected me with some numbing shots all around my stomach. Then due to my apparent resistance to anesthesia, he did some more lol. Keep this in mind if you are someone who has had a lot of surgeries in your life. This is the point where you want to be telling your doctor if you feel anything, NOT when he has a Dyson in your tummy. After that he started injecting me with the tumescent solution. I think overall he used two of those bags, so that's what, 2.5 liters? He used a little more he said to make sure I was numb (again, due to my lovely natural resistance). Once that was finished he made some incisions to stick the cannula in. I had one in my belly button, one below the belly button, one in my upper abdomen, and two on each side. So I think 7 insertion sites overall. I've read that its better to have more insertion sites, because you can "sculpt" better that way, have more control over the process. Then he pulled out what looked like a cross between a space probe and a wand from Harry Potter, with a light at the end. The laser. He started moving it around in me, melting the fat cells. I could feel the pressure from him moving it around, but no pain. Very strange. No weird smells either; I kind of though it might smell like a BBQ party, so I guess he did a good job and didn't burn anything he wasn't supposed to. Finally it was time to take out the fat! He showed me the cannula, and turned it on to show how it worked. Basically it just vibrates. So he started moving it back and forth in me, sucking everything out. During this whole time we are talking, and he is answering any questions I have. I'm not feeling any pain, but the vibrations are not unlike the vibrating feeling I get when I get my hair cut and they use the electric razor. It's a very surreal feeling. As he gets close to my ribs, and my upper abdomen I'm a little more sensitive. He says this is normal. During this time his nurses are helping and guiding him, and moving my skin around to help get the best angles. He has me roll onto my sides a few different times and changes the angle of the bed so he can get the best possible angle. Again, this would be very difficult if I was asleep. There are a couple sore spots near my love handles where there wasn't as much numbing, but nothing I can't take and I don't really want to stop the procedure to do more numbing. Overall I would say the pain was never any worse than what it feels like when you get a tattoo.
Once he is done (around noon) he has me look over everything to make sure I'm happy with it. My stomach looks kind of bloated, but feels like a deflated balloon when I touch it. Also my stomach is totally numb, kind of like the feeling when you fall asleep on your arm. There's some bruising and blood and it's not a sexy look at all, but I can already tell that I'm missing stuff from my stomach. Hooray! They put some Neosporin (or whatever the hospital equivalent is) on, cover me in kotex pads, tape me up, and help me put on my compression garment. It zips up on the left side, and the shoulder straps velcro together. There's an awkward hole on the bottom, but useful for obvious reasons. BTW when you pick your garment, get one that's as easy as possible to take on and off. And get more than one. He tells me to wear it for minimum of two weeks, but I might wear it for another two weeks after that for limited periods of the day.
It's 7pm now, same day of operation. I've been taking the pain pill every 4-5 hours. They say the first two days are the worst with pain. I'm a little sore, the numbing solutions are starting to wear off. I've changed (with my wife's help) my pads twice now. He recommended I gently massage around the insertion sites, and try to kind of (gently) push the fluid out from the bottom incision site. That and the lowest sites on my love handles are what's draining the most. During this time I'm getting a little light-headed, so I have to sit down for a minute before continuing. Not sure what's up with that, any ideas? The draining is supposed to be the worst the first two days as well. I've taken a nap, ate some food, and watched an episode of Psych. Lazy day. It's Thursday now, and I'm not going to work until Tuesday. "Planning" on going to the movies on Sunday, we'll see how that goes. And I have a follow up appointment on Monday. They wanted a week after the procedure, but I couldn't fit that into my work schedule, so this was the best compromise.
During the next change I'll start using the Arnica cream, and tomorrow I'll start showering again. I'll probably post an update tomorrow (day 2), day 3, and then weekly for the first 4 weeks. Then we'll see. I'm going to Finland mid-July, so I'm hoping I'll be looking pretty good by then! Please let me know if you have any thoughts, questions, or advice. This is a huge decision I think for anyone to make, and I encourage anyone interested in this procedure to do as much research as possible. Dinner time!
I woke up this morning with a small amount of anxiety, wondering if I had leaked gross stuff all over the bed. I was happy to find all the sheets were dry! I got up, ate some breakfast, and took all the pills I'm supposed to take. Btw, the pain pills now are pretty much for show. I don't know if any of you have had the same experience, but it isn't doing anything for me. Luckily, I'm not in a lot of pain. Sure, it feels like a bookie worked over my abs with a baseball bat, but it's manageable. Certainly not enough to distract me from reading or playing call of duty.
I've started using the Arnica gel. Not sure how effective it's supposed to be, or how long it takes. I don't seem to have much bruising so far anyways. Well I already paid for this snake oil, I may as well keep using it.
Today has been a lazy day. Everything I've read says this is supposed to be the most painful day, but I'm not feeling that bad. I ate, watched Moby Dick 2010 (1.9 stars on Netflix, a very accurate score), played some video games and took a nap. No crazy drainage, and my incision sites seem to be closed up. There's kind of a hardness in my abdomen, but when I poke my skin it also still has kind of a deflated tire feeling to it. A little tender to the touch, but barely worth mentioning.
It's evening now, just ate dinner. At this point I have only changed my pads once, when I woke up. I'm going to take my first shower, change the pads, and put on a new "man-ballerina" suit. When I take off the pads I see that other than the bottom 2 in the middle, there's literally not more than a spot anywhere. Jump in the shower, it feels great! You might not realize it at first, but you smell bad. So after washing up and drying off, I take another look at the sites. Still no bleeding/draining, and I make the decision to put band aids on all but the belly button and site below it. This is making my "suit" waaaay more comfortable. My wife says she can see the difference in my body, though I can see where there is swelling already. It appears that my upper abdomen is looking good, with more swelling below. I see some results, noting drastic, but I understand this is a slow process. Hey at the end of the day, they sucked out fat cells that aren't coming back. That's got to count for something!
All in all I'm pretty pleased. Today has been so easy, with little pain. I'm taking the pain pills 3 times a day, and all the other medication as directed, and I really feel great. Going to try some wine with the wife tonight, and see how everything goes. Tomorrow I'm hoping maybe I can stop using pads for these last two sites, move around a bit more, and take care of chores. Sunday I'm planning on going to the movies and walking around town, looking forward to that! I should be posting another update tomorrow, and unless there is something to report, I'll update it again Thursday.
I woke up this morning feeling pretty good, and changed my band aides without incident. I had a LITTLE spotting on the lowest incision site, so I kept a pad on there. But when I go to bed tonight I will switch that last pad out with a band aide. I'm excited, by day 4 I won't be wearing any pads at all!
While checking everything out in the bathroom, I noticed there is still some numbness on the surface of my abs. However if I put any pressure on it I can definitely feel the soreness. Nothing crazy, to be honest I think I'd be fine taking Tylenol instead of Vicodin, and that's probably what I'll do tomorrow.
One thing that has kind of annoyed me is the compression garment. It works ok enough, but the Velcro on she shoulders is starting to get irritating. 2-4 weeks of this is going to rub me raw! Also im not sure how well its going to fit under my work clothes. Note to anyone considering lipo, make sure you really plan out your compression garment. You're going to be wearing it for a long time! I've done some research on this however and as it turns out, the compression garment isn't as vital as I thought. From the sites (including this) that I've looked at, and doctors comments I've determined that your results are determined in the operating room, not in your compression suit. Having a crease in your suit doesn't mean you'll have a permanent crease in your skin. Taking it off for periods of a time isn't going to hurt you. In fact, some doctors tell their patients not to wear one at all! It's main uses are to speed up the healing, increase comfort, and possibly reduce the risk of some weird blood/health issues that I don't fully understand. BUT it plays no role in "sculpting". So I think maybe a day or two here and there, I will wear a compression shirt at work rather than the man-ballerina suit. It seems spanx and compression shirts are fine if they feel comfortable. I think maybe because I didn't have a huge amount removed and I am young-ish (30), that I don't have as much loose skin and it's easier to be flexible with clothing. I think the rule here is to do what is comfortable for you.
Tomorrow is Sunday, and it's going to be a big day for me. My first day without pads, and my first day out of the house! As much as I've loved killing people in Call of Duty, it will be nice to go outside. I've been told that helps the healing as well. So we'll walk around town a bit, and maybe watch a movie. Monday is my first follow up appointment, and I'm excited to see what they have to say. And then back to work on Tuesday! I'll try to update every Friday until I get to week 4, then take it from there. Thank you all for all the positive comments, and for those of you considering lipo I hope your experience is as smooth as mine!
Week 1 update!
Day 4: Sunday I went out for the first time with my wife. We went into town, saw a movie, did some shopping, and walked around a bit. I felt a little uncomfortable sitting in the car, but fine otherwise. We had also started having "romantic time" more frequently, with no issues. I've noticed some light bruising around my belly button, but nothing crazy. I did not take any more pain pills, and have permanently removed the band-aides on a couple incision sites. Still putting Neosporin on them though. I've also noticed a little bit more loose skin around my lower abdomen.
Day 5: I had my follow up appointment today with Dr. Greenberg, and everything went well. They said I am progressing quickly, and reminded me to keep my suit on and massage out any "hard spots" I see. I don't have any bandages of any kind over my sites, so that's nice. I have started to notice a bit more swelling, especially around my lower abdomen/bellybutton.
Day 6: This was my first day back at work, and it was uncomfortable! A big part of it is my job I think. The uniforms we wear in the military are not so comfortable, and I've noticed some DEFINITE swelling around my midsection. The suit feels tighter, especially at the end of the day. I took a pain pill in the morning, just to be safe, but other than that I haven't been taking them.
Since then I have tried to do more research on the swelling. It seems that the peak of swelling is anywhere between 4 days-2 weeks after the procedure. As of today it "seems" like the swelling has gotten a little better, but it's hard to tell. I don't think I'll be able to wear my suit on Friday because of the military uniform we wear on Fridays (pretty tight/revealing), so I'm hoping the swelling is going down and not increasing! The straps are annoying as hell. I bought some moleskin today to put under the shoulder straps, and it is sooooo much more comfortable! The bruising has increased some as well, but so far it is the light, yellow kind, not crazy purple spots or anything. I'm not really in any pain, except when I laugh hard or bend over too much, I'm just uncomfortable haha. I've also noticed some "hardness" all around my lower abdomen, and some on/off stomach pains.
Dr. Greenberg said I can exercise whenever I feel like it, but I think I'm going to take it slow. At the week 3 mark I am going to start running, just a light 2 miles to start with. Next week I will start working out at the gym again. I've heard that the swelling can get worse after exercise, so I'm curious to see how that will go. We're going to Finland next month to see my wife's family, so I really need to stay in shape!
I can definitely tell when I stretch, that I am missing some fat. It keeps me optimistic, because with the swelling right now, I'd say I'm actually a little bigger than I was pre-op. I can see on my upper abs that I have lost some, however pretty much all around my lower abs there is too much swelling to see any results yet. I'm looking forward to seeing how this next week turns out, it sounds like the first week is the worst, and it just gets better and better from there! I'm looking forward to doing more ab workouts, and show off those muscles that have been hiding all this time!
I'm going to continue to keep track of my progress, and plan for an update around the 1-month mark. Like any surgery there is definitely a recovery period, but it still has been way easier than I thought it would be!
One month post-op
Week 2 mark-
During this last week I've noticed a lot of the "flabbiness" has gone away. Also the swelling has drastically reduced. I would say the swelling peaked around the 1-week mark and got better from there. While it's nice to have the loose skin tightening up, it's been replaced by a "hardness", which is not so fun. In general it is all over, focused mainly horizontally along my bellybutton, kind of like a wide, thick belt. I would say the hardness peaked at around the 11-day mark, during which I felt like I had a brick in my stomach. I've also noticed some light bruising around my bellybutton, and random sharp pains all over. I've started working out at the gym, but just light arm workouts, twice during the week. I'm continuing to take the Arnica pills, and using the Arnica gel as well. I've read that beyond controlling bruising, there's really no scientific data to back up any claims about reducing swelling or speeding up recovery with Arnica gel. However, it gives me an excuse to massage around my stomach, so I'm still using it about 3 times a day. Also I've taken motrin after my workouts to help reduce swelling. It's worse after exercise, and a long day at work!
So during this week I no longer wore my "suit" 24/7. Thank goodness! Anyone who says they enjoyed being in that thing is out of their mind lol. I wear it at work, and during my workouts. Once I am home, it's kind of off and on, depending on what I have going on. Romantic time is a lot easier without that thing haha. The suit does seem to be a little looser in the morning. Still having some random pains, and my skin feels like there is a light sunburn underneath. I'm still using the pills, but only using the gel about twice a day. I've worked out a little more this week, increasing the weight and repetitions. I've gone to the gym three times, did a light 20 min bike workout, and went on a slow (11 min pace) 2-mile run. I've noticed a little more muscle definition on my upper abs, but more so in the morning. Swelling is still worse after workouts and after work. I've noticed the hardness and uneven spots has started to go down some. As far as my "size", I'd say I'm now about at what I was before the op. I have a 4th of July camping trip coming up, and a trip to Finland the next week, so I hope everything gets a lot better over the next week!
It's getting to be crunch time with my trips coming up, so I'm pushing myself harder with my workouts. 3 gym days, 2 run days. I've also started doing some ab workouts (planks), but nothing too crazy. I've noticed no ill effects from my workouts (to include ab workouts), aside from the increase in swelling. Other than that and sore arms, I feel great! The swelling has gone down some, as well as the hardness. But they are both still there. It actually makes me happy in a way, because I know that I'm going to keep getting smaller! My wife says some clothes already look looser on me. I've stopped taking the pills, and I've stopped wearing that torture suit. I'm down to about once a day for the Arnica gel. I had kind of hoped that I would be "beach-ready" by this point, but I'm not quite there yet. I look normal in t-shirts, to include some of the more "form-fitting" ones, but topless I can still see some indentations and swelling. Close, but no cigar. I've noticed that everything is very tight around my stomach. It's hard to stretch, and laying flat on my back can be uncomfortable after I've been sitting for a while. I'm not sure what's up with that, any ideas? The sunburn feeling is still there, but it's nothing more than a minor distraction. Working out and running have been fine as well, though it's been tough to motivate myself since I've been so lazy the past few weeks lol!
So here I am, somewhere around the 1-month mark. Still have some swelling, still have some hardness, but not a lot. I'm not 100% happy with the procedure, but I'd say I'm about 85% happy. We'll see if that changes, there's still some waiting to do. I've gotten back completely into my workouts, to include multiple ab workouts, and runs. I've had no issues with either, and my wife has said she can see some definition from my muscles now that I've been doing more exercises. Turns out there were muscles hiding under that fat! FYI, for ab workouts planks are the best. Just saying. So no suit, no pills, no gel, just back to my normal life. The pains are gone, but the sunburn feeling is still there. In the morning I look great, in the evening I look good. I'm heading out to the mountains tomorrow for the 4th, and I'll be doing some swimming and running around topless. I don't think I'm going to be dropping any jaws just yet, but I won't look like a freak at least lol.
So I've learned a lot about fat and lipo during this whole process. One of the things I've learned about, is intra-abdominal/visceral fat. This is fat that wraps around your organs, and is behind your abs. Meaning lipo doesn't get it out. As it turns out, sleep deprivation and stress can cause an increase in visceral fat. Lucky me, being in the military means I get both! One of my concerns was getting rid of the "pot belly" that I seem to have when I relax my stomach. At this point I would say it's pretty clear that lipo did NOT have any effect on this. Sure, when I tighten my abs I notice a pretty big difference, but behind those muscles, I still have fat. Before you throw down all kinds of money on a procedure like this, do some research, talk to some doctors, and make sure that your issue is good old fashioned belly fat.I'm happy with losing the 2 or so pounds out of my stomach, but my fat loss journey is not complete. Only cure for visceral fat is exercise and diet. But I'm a little trimmer around the edges, and I'm not going to gain weight around there as much, so it's still a positive experience for me! Also I've been VERY motivated to do ab workouts, and start showing off those muscles. Anyone who tells you to wait months before doing an ab workout is high on LSD. I've noticed no problems, and I can see the results already!
I'll try to post pictures after I get back this weekend. I have a follow-up with Dr Greenberg at my 2-month mark, so I'll also try to remember to do one last update here then. In the meantime for anyone thinking about lipo, all I have to say is while there are some risks, it's been a great experience for me. The key though is research research research! Know everything about the different types of procedures, talk to multiple doctors, and don't let them fool you. They ARE in this to make money after all. But if you come in prepared and do your homework, you won't be disappointed. Happy 4th of July everyone!
Straight shooter, blunt, honest. He answered all of my questions and had no problem talking to me and making me feel better before and during the procedure. We had a nice talk about politics, the military, and Afghanistan while he was cutting me up. The only issue I've had, is that in all of my appointments, my interactions are about 90% with his nurses, and 10% with him. The procedure was fine, but I prefer a little more interaction with the guy who's going to stick a Dyson in my belly. He graduated from the University of Missouri of Medicine and was a Board Certified in Emergency Medicine; he practiced as an emergency physician for 18 years. His emergency medicine career culminated in his becoming The Director of Emergency Physician at Barnes-St. Peters Hospital for his final 8 years as an emergency physician. Not a "pure" liposuction guy, but I respect his background and experience, and so far am very pleased.