BMI for Plastic Surgery: Do I Need to Lose Weight First?

A woman measures her waist while contemplating a tummy tuck.

Skin is skin, and fat is fat—but sometimes it can be hard to tell which is which and whether you weigh too much for plastic surgery. Loose skin can occasionally look like fat because it takes up more surface area than tight skin. However, don’t be fooled into thinking you need to lose more weight before committing to plastic surgery. Many patients come to our Denver area office thinking they’re a few pounds off, but they’re actually more than ready to complete their body transformation.

Losing Weight Before Plastic Surgery

Weight loss is not needed before tummy tuck or body lift surgeries if you are at a normal, healthy BMI (Body Mass Index). BMI calculates a person’s body fat based on height and weight. See your BMI in the chart below.

BMI chart

Stretched-out skin from weight gain creates skin redundancy or excess. Tummy tuck, body lift, breast lift, and inner thigh lift surgeries are procedures meant to manage skin laxity—not fat loss. Therefore, it is extremely important to be at a healthy BMI before having these procedures to avoid complications.

Anything that puts you in the “overweight” category puts you at a greater risk for complications with healing and anesthesia. If you fall into that category, we will discuss those potential risks during your consultation. It is our policy not to operate on persons with a BMI over 39.

What Causes Skin Laxity?

The degree to which our skin reacts to trauma is often genetic. However, dramatic changes like pregnancy and major weight loss often require procedures like a mommy makeover or body lift to correct. Losing 30 pounds or more can change your skin’s ability to retract, and skin quality is damaged after gaining and losing weight several times.

Loose Skin vs Fat: Before and After Pictures Tell the Story

In the image below, the patient had no change in weight after surgery, however, she appears to be much thinner. You can see her natural shape behind the loose skin. No amount of exercise will help tighten the skin on her abdomen. In fact, she probably feels frustrated after hard workouts as her muscles are hidden by the drape of skin covering them. This woman doesn’t need weight loss. She won’t benefit from liposuction—she has excess skin, not fat. She requires a tummy tuck to manage her loose skin.

Tummy tuck before and after

When Is the Right Time During Your Weight Loss Journey for Cosmetic Surgery?

Often, patients find us during their weight loss halfway mark. For instance, a patient may have lost 60 pounds and need to lose 60 more. She will have much better results and fewer complications if she is within 10 to 15 pounds of her weight loss goal, as more skin can be removed when it isn’t filled with excess fat.

Once you get to your healthy weight, you should be stable at that weight for about 6 months before surgery. We talk more about your surgical options after weight loss and surgical timing in our related blog post.

Drs. Wolfe, Vath, and Steinwald set reasonable expectations during the consultation process so that patients understand the best time to schedule their surgeries to obtain optimal results. The medical director of our surgical facility, anesthesiologist Dr. Hopkins, works hand-in-hand with our surgeons and nurses to make sure our patients’ health and safety are the top priorities within our clinic.

Benefits of Plastic Surgery After Weight Loss

It’s tough to work hard to lose weight but still have so much loose skin that you can’t see a dramatically trimmer body. Plastic surgery after weight loss changes all that. It reveals your new shape, allows you to move around more comfortably, and improves your self-confidence. Researchers have also found that body contouring procedures after bariatric surgery improve patients’ ability to maintain their weight loss.

Ready for the Next Step?

If you’re ready for a mommy makeover or other plastic surgery procedures, our Denver area doctors are here to help. Request a consultation online to learn more about your cosmetic surgery options.

3 Responses to BMI for Plastic Surgery: Do I Need to Lose Weight First?

  • Delores Hersman says:

    I’ve lost 50 lbs so far… my face always gets very thin.. I have a good bit more to lose.. it’s really embarrassing and floppy.. do I really have to lose all of my weight?

    • KBlatherwick says:

      Hi Delores. Congratulations on your weight loss so far. If you are planning on losing a significant amount of weight, it is advised that you do so before surgery. This way, you don’t run the risk of having to repeat the procedure should your skin get loose again.

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