Living Healthy After Plastic Surgery

By Elana Pruitt © 2005-2009 Editor


As millions of American men and women increasingly choose plastic surgery to alter their image, many are still learning how to care for their new look. Cosmetic or health-related, surgery may vow permanent transformation, while non-surgical methods may offer long-lasting results. Therefore, the most successful approach to maintaining your new look is to uphold your health – nutrition plans, regular exercise, and skincare management all contribute to a well-balanced, healthy lifestyle.

Philip Goglia, a renowned author, nutritional consultant and fitness trainer in Los Angeles, explains that women who are recovering from breast augmentation commonly gain weight, because they are rather sedentary for about six weeks. While these women tend to release their emotional energy through comforting food, their eating habits may change.

“They didn’t adjust their diet, and in the shift of moments – it’s easy to reach out to food. In turn, you start gaining weight,” he says.

Once the healing period is over and it is safe to jump back into spandex and lace up those running shoes, post-operative patients should know the importance of not only incorporating exercise back in their life, but the benefits of adopting healthy eating habits. Goglia explains how the relationship between both can affect an individual’s personality, whether that person has undergone plastic surgery or not.

“Food regulates behavior – it’s mythical,” he says. “Low energy can create bad behavior, so establishing good food patterns can help to elevate energy.”

Goglia has designed nutrition programs for celebrities like Owen Wilson, Gillian Anderson, and Laura Dern, as well as for thousands of people who strive to “nuke the yo-yo diet nightmare” for good. As super-trendy diets seem to sprout everyday, Goglia says that there should be “no guesswork” involved with selecting the right one. In 2004, Goglia co-founded the SmartJourney weight loss system, which he says can offer post-operative patients a food program based solely on their body type.

“It is important to manage patterns based on their own chemistry, because their body was altered by the elimination of body fat,” he says, specifically addressing the procedure of liposuction. Admitting that he is aware of many people who depend on cosmetic surgery as “the answer to their weight problems,” Goglia says a food program is crucial for a patient who has had liposuction, or else he or she will gain weight in the wrong places; areas that were not a surgical focus. To help prevent this type of setback and reduce fat content, Goglia says patients should regularly include three nutritional aspects to their intake: fat, protein, and carbohydrates – which he naturally calls “lipo-nutrition.”

For those who seek weight loss to rid minimal, cellulite-infested areas, others long for a healthier life through gastric bypass surgery.

Madelyn Fernstrom, Ph.D., the founder and director of the Weight Management Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, explains how this procedure presents challenges for many people.

“In our programs, and in any comprehensive program, patients spend at least six months adjusting to the new lifestyle by recognizing hunger and fullness, learning about the new dietary requirements of protein, fluids, and vitamin and mineral supplementation, and perhaps most importantly, the stress of permanent food restriction,” Dr. Fernstrom says. “They learn strategies for substituting eating to relieve stress – a lifestyle continuum.”

A recognized expert in the field of appetite and weight control, Dr. Fernstrom admits that unless patients who have survived weight reduction eliminate high calories from their diet, he or she may gain weight back, potentially calling for a “revision” procedure. Yet, she says based on a number of factors, a second procedure has a lower likelihood of succeeding.

"Every patient is different for what he or she needs"

“Moderation is key,” Dr. Fernstrom tips, regarding how to maintain a healthy lifestyle after weight loss surgery. “It is a ‘do-over’ for those who have tried and failed with lifestyle alone. It does not come automatically with the operation. Keeping up with regular physical activity, like walking a minimum of 30 minutes a day for five days a week, is key to long-term maximal loss and maintenance.”

Facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon D. David Saadat, M.D. recognizes that with a healthy diet and fitness-oriented lifestyle, skincare management should also be of major concern.

“Every patient is different for what he or she needs,” says the director of the Aesthetic Surgical Institute in Beverly Hills, California; the same location where television shows “Extreme Makeover” and “Dr. 90210” are regularly taped. “But for protection of the skin, you want to stay out of the sun and use good sun block. Vitamin C and E can add protection.”

His patients who require aggressive treatments, like skin-nourishing injections with MesoGlow or non-laser Fotofacial™ Treatments to help rid redness and improve texture, are encouraged to follow an individualized skincare regimen to help retain those results. For everyone, Dr. Saadat recommends using a cleanser, toner, moisturizer, and sun block on their face to maintain healthy, glowing skin.

Debra Myers, a cosmetologist and esthetician, suggests taking skincare matters into your own hands when reading labels on over-the-counter products.

“Consumers should understand that not all ingredients are created equal,” Myers says, having created her own natural skincare lines after being diagnosed with eczema, an inflammatory skin condition. “It is important to take the time to educate yourself on a couple ingredients to avoid becoming overwhelmed with long ingredient lists.”

Myers says that a person should know that “ingredients are listed by the amount they are weighted in the formula – water is often listed as the first ingredient in most products because there is more water than any other ingredient in the formula.” She suggests people look for natural ingredients like 100 percent essential oils, mild cleansing ingredients like sugar or corn-based cleansers, and vegetable and plant ingredients like Sweet Almond, Jojoba, and Aloe. Myers cautions against waxes, drying agents, and harsh chemicals.

“I recommend bringing a product you have already purchased to a facility, and have a professional explain the ingredients,” says Lorrie Neal, R.N., clinical director of Regalo Laser Skin Care in Indianapolis, Indiana. “Educate yourself on how to take care of your body.”

Neal also suggests that when you visit a skin care professional, he or she can also help you select skin care products within your budget. As for finding an alternative to natural sun exposure, she insists: “Stay out of the tanning bed! With so many types of self-tanners available now, there is no need to continue doing that. At 40 years old, you don’t want to look like a piece of leather!”

As you enjoy your new look and learn to care for your body, “following the doctor’s orders” never sounded – or helped you look – so good.