By Kristen Vinakmens
You’ve got your eye on a chic little bikini to wear on the beach this summer—but like many women, you’ve got a little extra padding in the stomach region. Blame it on Mom and Dad. “Women often genetically have a pot-belly in the lower abdomen,” says Dr. Robert Thompson, a Vancouver-based plastic surgeon. It’s also hard to maintain your midriff post-pregnancy. “After a baby, women may lose fat, but they can be left with lax skin, especially around the belly button,” says Dr. Lisa Kellett, a dermatologist at DLK on Avenue in Toronto. But there are solutions, including tried-and true tummy tuck and liposuction procedures, as well as less invasive treatments like Thermage and UltraShape. Here’s how to show off your flat abs—fast!
If you’ve had a baby or lost weight and have loose skin, you may be a candidate for a tummy tuck. Also known as abdominoplasty, the procedure is typically done under general anesthetic. The surgeon makes an incision at the bikini line to remove the extra fat and skin and tightens the muscles in the abdominal wall via sutures. Partial tummy tucks involve the removal of fat deposits below the navel; in a full tummy tuck procedure (which takes two to three hours) more incisions are required and your belly button is relocated because it needs to be separated from the underlying tissue. After the procedure, the doctor places one or two tiny, tube-like drains in the upper and lower abdomen to remove excess fluid; they’ll be removed after three to seven days. Healing takes up to one month, although you can resume light activity after two weeks. Costs range from $6,000 to $10,000, depending on the extent of fat removal and muscle tightening required. Expect permanent results, as long as you maintain a healthy body weight.
Smooth Move Got a potbelly or love handles that just aren’t responding to exercise? Liposuction may be the answer. Performed under local anesthetic, it involves the removal of fat via suction through tiny incisions. You’ll need an assessment by an accredited surgeon to determine if you’re a good candidate (most of your abdominal fat should be above the abdominal muscles). According to Thompson, if most of the fat is under the muscle, liposuction may not offer good results. “If someone is slightly overweight, sometimes they’re disappointed because only a portion [of the fat] is above the muscle,” he says. Healing time takes about two weeks and the cost can range from $3,000 to $6,000. Results are permanent if you maintain a normal weight.
If invasive surgery isn’t for you, consider body contouring, which dissolves fat and tightens the skin without injuring the skin or requiring any downtime. UltraShape uses focused ultrasound waves to liquefy fat, and is ideal for people who are fit but have stubborn areas that don’t respond to diet and exercise. Results are subtle. “It’s not for weight loss,” says Kellett. “When you look in the mirror you can’t see it, but your clothes [will] start to fit better.” Expect to lose up to one pant size. It usually takes three treatments to see results (which are permanent); each session costs about $600.
For some, fat isn’t the issue—it’s loose skin. If your belly shape hasn’t bounced back after baby, you might want to try Thermage, which stimulates collagen production via radiofrequency energy, resulting in tighter skin. Although you’ll be sedated during treatment and will need a ride home afterwards, there’s no downtime involved. You’ll see results after just one treatment. “Expect to be smaller in circumference and tighter overall,” says Kellett. The cost varies depending on the size of the treatment area, but is usually about $2,500 for one session. Results are permanent, although the treatment won’t prevent normal skin aging.