Is a Tummy Tuck the only way? just want to flatten belly and lose the love handles

I'm 24 and I have two children boys 4 and 11months. I'm 5'71/2 and I think I'm about 140lbs. Before I had my first child I weighed 126 I don't exercise right now and I really want a tummy but can't afford it right now. My question is what is something that I can do to flatten my stomach? I love the rest of my body (except breast size) but I don't want to lose weight I just want to flatten my belly and lose the love handles. I hope someone can give me some advice. Thanks

Doctor Answers 20

A simple summary of surgery vs. excercise with regards to your tummy and torso region

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Dear Oklahoma City1532

Here is a simple summary of what can be accomplished with surgery vs diet / exercise with regards to your abdominal/torso region. The layers of the abdomen/torso are listed in order from external to internal:

Excess skin: This refers to skin that is stretched from weight gain or pregnancy, often with visible signs of damage (ie stretch marks). Surgery is the only way to remove excess skin. Diet/exercise has effects on fat and muscle, but has no direct effect on skin elasticity. Many of my patients have the assumption that doing lots of exercise will shrink excess skin; unfortunately this does not occur.

Fatty layer under the skin: This refers to the fat that you can 'pinch' that is located directly under the skin. This form of fat can be removed with surgery, OR  diet/exercise. With surgery, the areas can be directly targeted (through either liposuction or tummy tuck). With diet/exercise, you do not have control of what areas will shed fat; some areas of the body 'hang on' to fat more than others, and differences are largely specific to one's genetic make up.

Diastasis of rectus muscles: This refers to the 'six pack' muscles being separated due to the stretching of pregnancy. Lax muscles will give you a bulging tummy because the muscles are no longer anchored to each other, and you may look like you are still in early pregnancy.  Diet and exercise can help this up to a point. If you are able to feel a gap between the muscles along the center line when you do a sit up, it is unlikely that diet and exercise will give you a tight abdomen. The reason is that the tissue that was holding the muscles together is not muscle, and will not improve despite exercise.  Muscle plication during tummy tuck will correct this.

Internal fat: This refers to fat that sits within the abdominal cavity. behind the abdominal muscles. This fat is not accessible through surgery. Diet and exercise is the only way to get rid of it.  If you have a significant amount of internal fat, you will not be a good candidate for surgery.  If you have a tummy tuck and still have significant internal fat, your skin will be tight, but your tummy will still bulge (despite muscle plication). 

To answer your specific question, you might be able to flatten your tummy without surgery provided you do not have significant diastasis. If a thick fatty layer (either under the skin or within the abdominal cavity) is causing the fullness, diet/exercise will help, but you will lose body weight (even though you don't want to) as the fat comes off .  The same applies for the love handles. You didn't mention loose skin, so I will assume it to be normal. Good luck.

Best regards,

Lawrence Tong MD FACS FRCSC

Toronto Plastic Surgeon

Is Tummy Tuck the only way?

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If you are only 24 and you are considering having more children, I would wait on any tummy tuck procedure anyway.  With respect to your other options, I would start working out again to get your body toned as best as possible.  This will not help with any abdominal wall laxity that may have resulted from pregnancy, but it will likely improve the overall appearance and get you closer to your previous weight. 

Gary D. Breslow, MD, FACS
Paramus Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 44 reviews

Post Baby Reovery

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A healthy diet and exercise are always the key to success when trying to lose weight after children.  You are young and you probably still have a fairly good amount of elasticity in your skin.  If the skin is stretched though; for instance, a lot of stretch marks and saggy skin, a tummy tuck may be the best answer for you.  Maybe finding a plastic surgeon in your area and having a consultation would at least allow you to see what the possibilities are for you.  You may just be a candidate for liposuction.  This option will also allow you to have more children some day if you so desire.  Good Luck!

Miguel Delgado, MD
San Francisco Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 81 reviews

Exercise vs Surgery

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With proper athletic training, you will probably be able to make improvements in your overall body shape, including your tunny and love handles. If your skin in wrinkled or stretched out, a tummy tuck may be the only option to get that pre-pregnancy tummy back.

Lawrence Iteld, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 48 reviews

Is a tummy tuck the only way to get a flatter stomach?

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Whether any non-surgical efforts can make any improvement in your abdominal shape and love handles depends on how much loose skin you have. Pregnancies almost always causes an extra skin problem which can only be changed by some form of tummy tuck surgery. The real question is not whether a non-surgical approach will work but which more minimally invasive treatment will be effective. This could include Smartlipo alone or a mini-tummy tuck. 

I am not overweight, but I don't like my shape. How can I fix it?

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Areas of your body may be diet and exercise resistant.  Even personal trainers have been patients for liposuction and body contouring, because diet and exercise cannot change the shape of certain parts of your body that were genetically inherited from your parents.  Patients who are in their ideal weight range for their height who have a one or two areas that are diet and exercise resistant are excellent candidates for liposculpture.

Claudio DeLorenzi MD FRCS

Claudio DeLorenzi, MD
Toronto Plastic Surgeon

Tummy tuck after pregnancy often the best option

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A tummy tuck does 3 things that you can't accomplish with diet and exercise: First, it removes any localized fat in the abdominal area; you can't "spot reduce" with exercise. Second, if the muscles have been pushed apart from the pregnancy (what is called a diastasis), they cannot be pulled back into place with exercise. Third, if the skin is loose, particularly if you have stretch marks, it will usually not snap back. I would encourage you to get in good shape though so that you know that you have done what you can for yourself before deciding on the tummy tuck./

Richard Baxter, MD
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 59 reviews

Tummy flattening after kids

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Really, after 2 kids, the primary way to get a flat tummy is a tummy tuck.  Meantime, diet and exercise are the way to go and just save up for the TT.

Tummy Tuck is Best Way to Flatten Tummy

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Although a tummy tuck is certainly the gold standard for tummy flattening, some women can obtain a good result with exercise and liposuction for areas that don't respond if they are isolated.  It depends on the elasicity of your skin.  Some women have successful pregnancies with minimal weight gain and good skin elasticity.  Many of these women do not require tummy tucks to get back their flat abdomens.

John Whitt, MD (retired)
Louisville Plastic Surgeon

Tummy tuck?

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Without an exam it is hard to say what could benefit you. If you exercise and diet, you may get down to your desired weight.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.2 out of 5 stars 30 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.