Feeling 0.2 pounds too heavy? Time for micro-lipo
As a conveniently-timed illustration, here's an article from the New York Times about increasingly specific plastic surgery. Where desperate and unhappy people once resorted to liposuction for their spare tires and badonkadonks, now they're going for their bra fat or their overly fleshy knees:
Last year, Americans had about 455,000 liposuction operations, making fat removal the most popular cosmetic surgery procedure, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. But in the last two to three years, liposuction, once used predominantly to reduce the flabby abdomens, hips and thighs of average Americans, has become a tool to enhance the near-perfect body parts of the already fit.There's an example of the feared and hideous "bra fat" (the term seems to be applied to flesh near both the armpit and the back strap) at the top of this post. I got that image from a site that was advertising, instead of highly specific liposuction, a procedure called mesotherapy, in which chemicals are injected under the surface of the skin. I'm not sure about the risks of this procedure, since many of its practitioners are outside the US and thus outside the jurisdiction of the FDA. Complications from lipo include infection, necrosis, and embolism, and smaller and trickier procedures carry more risk: "Ankles have superficial nerves and arteries that can be damaged, [Dr. Fodor] said. Fat on the back or kneecap is very fibrous and can be difficult to remove evenly. And kneecaps have sac-like cavities that can be easily traumatized." But come on... you might have a knee pooch!
For this designer-body approach, an increasing number of doctors are using a technique known variously as precision, selective or micro liposuction. The goal is to remove an ounce or three of fat from ankles, knees, chins, necks, backs and upper arms, according to some prominent plastic surgeons and dermatologists.
Even more upsetting, some of the "fat deposits" that these women are spending thousands of dollars to remove seem to be the result of ill-fitting clothes. The woman in the lede, for instance:
"I had a little roll of fat hanging over the back of my jeans, like a spare bicycle tire in the back," said Dana Conte, a bartender in Manhattan. It was so obvious that her mother constantly came up behind her and pulled her shirt down over it, Ms. Conte said. "When your mother is doing that, it means there's a problem."Yes, when your mother pulls your shirt down to cover your back bump, it means there's a problem: your shirt is too short and your jeans are too tight. And that so-called "bra fat" is the result of wearing a bra with a too-small band size. Cost of a new bra, a complimentary bra fitting, and a new pair of jeans? Oh, probably $150 tops, if your jeans are not redonkulous. Not spending $10,000 on risky cosmetic procedures? Priceless.
Last August, she had liposuction on her lower back around her waistline, and in January, she had liposuction again, this time on her mid- and upper-back to eliminate "bra fat," bulges that can occur when "your bra pushes lumps of fat down your back and up over the bra fastening and to the sides right near your arms," Ms. Conte said.
The total fee for both procedures, $10,000, was well worth it, she said.
What I found particularly interesting was that one of the women in the article requested a procedure to remove fat from her mons pubis. She claimed that "a little bit of fat stuck out over her bikini." In this case the doctor refused to do the surgery, but it brings up an interesting question: where do you draw the line between culturally unacceptable fat deposits and parts of your body? The mons pubis is a body part, not a body flaw -- it's intended to provide cushioning during sex. It's as though someone went to the doctor and said "I have these fleshy excrescences hanging off the bottoms of my ears -- can you lipo them out?" Cosmetic surgery is usually considered to be up to the individual, but doctors can't legally remove healthy body parts. When we become so image-obsessed that we start removing functional fat, have we crossed that line?
My overall point is this: when you think about obesity, don't just think about the headless bodies that lumber through news reports. If you want a picture of weight in America, imagine a skinny woman staring at her kneecap chub forever.