Here it goes. The part of my story it seems like everyone (ok, maybe not everyone but quite a lot of you!) have been dying for me to blog about. My skin removal surgery. My tummy tuck. The best decision I made. ever. Whatever you would like to call it – it’s part of my journey and I’m so excited and slightly nervous to finally be sharing it with you all.
I have FAQs for anyone who wants to read a shortened version of this! Also before you continue reading, there are some graphic images of my scars so if you’re not into that then head to the FAQs!!
As most of you know, I lost the majority of my weight in a healthy, slower, manageable time frame (about 15 months). I dropped 86 pounds total and I felt great. But every time I would do a plank, a push-up, a crunch, and even when I ran, my extra skin would hang, no matter how tightly I flexed my core. It mentally bothered me so much. I had worked my butt off (quite, literally) and now I had this extra skin issue to figure out.
I always sort of knew this would be an issue for me. my very first trainer told me it would be. so I always kept having my extra skin removed in the back of mind as the ultimate reward for myself if I was actually able to be a badass and lose the weight and more importantly for me, as a former yo-yo dieter, if I was able to keep it off.
So there I was, 86 pounds down. I’d reached my goal weight at weight watchers. i had succeeded. now it was time to see if i could maintain. honestly maintenance is SO HARD. I put on about 10 pounds from my lowest weight before I had my surgery but I was still super happy, confident, and I figured that this was where my body wanted to be weight-wise.
I stayed at my new more comfortable weight for about six months and then, in the winter of 2012, my best friend and I booked a vacation to a 5-star resort in Mexico.
after booking that trip my mind went straight into “omg what if I could have this surgery before we go on vacation?!”, “How cool would that be?!” I opened google and googled my heart out. I googled top surgeons in my area, I you-tubed the procedures I thought I wanted to be done, and I read blogs, articles, and everything I possibly could about tummy tucks and skin removal.
Once I did quite a bit of research I narrowed it down to 3 surgeons in my area with high reviews and standing that seemed like the best fit for me. I booked consultations and started going to my appointments.
My very first consultation was with Doctor Barlow. as I drove to my appointment alone, I thought to myself “what if he tells me I’m still too fat? What if it’s not loose skin and he won’t do the surgery? Maybe I had made it all up in my head and I was imaging all this loose skin.” my mind was going in all sorts of directions. I was so nervous.
I got to the office, checked in, and waited. they called me back into a room and I sat down with a nurse who asked me why I had come and what exactly I wanted to discuss with the doctor. after talking a bit she gave me a robe and this horrible pair of underwear to put on so the doctor could examine me.
I quickly changed and tried to sit still while I waited but couldn’t because I was so nervous. while I waited I got up and undid my robe and looked at myself in the mirror. I mean really looked at my stomach and my extra skin, I started getting so red, like little splotches all over my neck and sweating like a crazy lady, I was terrified he was going to tell me something I didn’t want to hear.
Then the doctor came in and I was instantly relieved. I felt so calm. he had me sit and stand and while he examined my skin I told him my story of being overweight, yo-yo dieting growing up, and finally losing the weight for good with weight watchers and weight lifting. he stopped the exam to tell me how inspiring my story was and that based on his examination, it was all definitely extra skin. he then laid out a rough plan of what he would do if I choose him. Afterward, I asked him a ton of questions.
How many surgeries like this have you done? what happens if I want to get pregnant one day? what if, god forbid, I gain the weight back? how much is this going to cost? what is the recovery like? when can I work out again? how painful is this going to be, be honest?! he answered every question until I literally couldn’t think of anything else to ask.
After my meeting with the doctor, they brought me into a room to meet with a woman to discuss the price of the surgery. we discussed how much everything would cost (the doctors’ fees, the hospital fees, the post-op visits, etc.) and she showed me payment plans.
When I saw the numbers, initially I was surprised it didn’t cost more but at the same time. I thought, “wow this is a lot of money to spend on myself.” I left the office and called my mom to tell her everything. I was so excited. I was telling her how I would save up the money and that this was something I could definitely see happening in my future.
A few weeks following my first consultation appointment, I consulted with two other doctors. they both went pretty much the same way. met with a nurse first, then the doctor, who examined me and laid out his plan, and then met with the office manager to go over pricing and hospital information.
After having three separate consults, I took a few weeks to really consider my options. my mom told my grandmother one night over the phone that I was considering options for doctors and (as I mentioned before my grandmother always wanted me to lose weight) she was so happy for me that she mentioned to my mom that she would help to pay for the surgery.
Once I found this out, I felt so relieved and blessed, and I was so thankful. I now had the difficult decision of making a final decision on which doctor to go with. I ended up making another consultation appointment with Dr. Barlow and brought my mom at this time so she could meet him and ask any questions she had.
We went over the plan again and he re-examined me. we talked and my mom and I agreed he was the ONE! I just honestly felt so comfortable and had this feeling of trust with him.
After agreeing on the doctor, the next step was to figure out a time to do the surgery. Thankfully my job was very flexible so taking time off wasn’t an issue and my mom wasn’t working either so she could take care of me for the first week while I recovered. Of course, I wanted it done ASAP because I was so excited, but after further discussing our options we thought it was best to wait until January 2013 to have the surgery. the doctor said it was much more comfortable to recover in the winter because of the garments you are required to wear post-surgery.
When you book the surgery you put a down a 10% payment to hold the surgery date and have to pay off the rest at least a week before the surgery (at least as far as I can remember). I know most people want me to tell them exactly how much my surgery cost but I’m not going to do that. mostly because there are so many factors that go into pricing (location/hospital fees/doctor fees/specific surgery issues). I also had my surgery over two years ago. I will say though, that it is an investment, it’s a lot of money, but money, in my opinion, very well spent.
In the weeks leading up to the surgery I was mostly very excited and of course slightly nervous. My mom and I took a trip to see my grandmother a few weeks before my surgery. it was the first time I had seen my grandmother in person since losing weight. Unfortunately, at the time, her health was severely declining and so the trip was a bit painful and made me relive a lot of bad memories from my childhood. But, on one of the good days, we ate dinner together and she looked me in the eyes and told me she was proud of me and that she wanted me to have the money for my surgery. She also apologized for being so hard on me when I was younger. She, I think, blamed herself for me being overweight but, like I have said many times before, I assured her that it wasn’t anyone’s fault and that I was extremely grateful for her gift. Without her, it would have taken me much longer to save up the money for the surgery. But even if I had to pay for it myself, I would have still had the surgery. She just enabled me to be able to do it much sooner!
A few days before the surgery I met again with the doctor and we reviewed our final plan. I wanted my stomach to be very flat and wanted to include my “love handle” area in the removal as well. So he performed an extended tummy tuck. because I had never had children and had lost all my weight while working out, my core muscles did not need to be tightened or repaired. Thankfully that wasn’t part of my surgery. I have heard that it is the most painful part of the procedure because they essentially sew your core muscles back together.
I also STRESSED to him how important it was that the scar was minimal and low. he told me to bring a pair of underwear or a bikini bottom I liked wearing on the day of the surgery so we could make sure it was as low as possible.
On the morning of the surgery, I woke up super nervous. I was about to change my body in a huge way. I showered and washed my body with antibacterial soap and then dried and curled my hair (I know that seems ridiculous but I wanted to feel pretty going into surgery and you can’t wear any makeup!). I drove to my mom’s house and then headed for the surgery center.
Most plastic surgeons have a surgery center where they perform their surgeries near their offices or even on the same floor, like mine, but some use just regular hospitals. It was a huge benefit for me to have the surgery in a center because it’s very private and calming. It was just the doctor, two nurses, the anesthesiologist, and me. This is another factor to consider if you’re thinking of having this procedure done!
I walked in and was given a gown, socks, and a hair net to wear. When I went into the bathroom to change I sort of said goodbye to my stomach, took some selfies, and put on a brave face even though I was shaking.
Then the doctor started to mark me up. He basically just put lines around the area where the final scar would be and the skin that would be coming off. he then made sure I was happy with the final plan and then they walked me back to the operating room. From there it all happened very quickly, they hooked me up to the good drugs and the last thing I remembered was the doctor walking in the room, smiling and then I was out.
The surgery took a total of about six hours. I believe my mom hung out for a bit and then went back home and they called her to come back when I was out of surgery. It takes a while to sort of come out of all the drugs and wake back up and she was there when I opened my eyes. I apparently asked some silly questions but I don’t really remember much of anything until I got dressed. I wasn’t in any pain, I was just moving extremely slow.
The doctor then explained to me that he ended up doing a full mid-body tuck. Essentially when he started the surgery he didn’t think the scar would need to go fully around but, in order for me to get the results I wanted and for it to look the best it could, the scar needed to extend all the way around me. I was just happy that it was done and excited to see my stomach in a few days. I trusted him and knew he did what he needed to do to make me happy.
Before they wake you up they cover up all your scars with bandages and put you into a bodysuit, essentially a giant long Spanx garment. The final and most important part was the binder that was velcroed around my stomach. This piece was my feeling of safety. It helped me stand up a lot easier without it feeling painful. After all of that was on, I put on a bra and underwear (over top of the Spanx garment) and baggy clothes. Thank you juicy couture sweat suits – I lived in them for about two weeks.
I had two drains coming out of each side of me to help with the extra fluids and swelling post-surgery. I would say out of everything that these were the most bothersome. They were uncomfortable and I had to keep up with them (empty and measure the fluids) for at least a week post-op.
My mom drove us back to her house. I made it up the stairs to the room I would be staying in, took some more medicine and then slept most of the first two days. All the drugs and medicine they gave me really made me feel a bit zombie-like for about 3 days. after that, I started to back off the medicine and feel much more like myself.
I knew from previous surgeries that I tend to be extremely nauseous as soon as I wake up from surgery, so they gave me a patch that went behind my ear to wear post-surgery and up to three days. The only bad side effect was the fact that it makes you extremely thirsty, I drank so much water and therefore was making a ton of trips to the bathroom.
For three days I slept, ate lots of applesauce, took my medicine, drank so much water, and for exercise (because they want you to move around some each day) I would make about 15 trips a day/night to the bathroom! It was ridiculous. so by day three, I figured I was feeling much better and decided to take off the patch. I remember having a great morning, I felt alert, I had oatmeal and then my sister brought me Pinkberry and about an hour later, nausea came. I’ve heard other people have this issue when they go under. It doesn’t have anything to do with having my specific surgery but I wanted to share it with you all in case, it’s a normal side effect and honestly, it’s probably best for your body to reject whatever it doesn’t need (medicine-wise).
That same day I was allowed to take my first shower, which meant I finally got to see my doctor’s work and my new stomach. I was excited but also nervous. As I slowly took off all my garments it felt so strange because my entire stomach was so swollen and numb like I knew I could feel it but I couldn’t feel it at the same time. Strange feeling. When I first stood and looked at myself in the mirror, I almost cried. my mom and sisters all stood there and we just couldn’t believe it. the results even after three days were simply amazing.
The shower felt glorious and it wasn’t super painful to get back into the garments. the hard part was showering and finding a place to put the drains! It was challenging but my mom found a way to clip them to a towel that hung over the shower. I just had to move super slow and be aware of the drains at all times.
After the shower, I made my way down the stairs for the first time and hung out with the family. Each day I felt better and better. One week post-op I had my first checkup. Everything looked great and I had one drain removed and had to go back a few days later for the other one to come out. My poor sister was in the room with me when the first drain came out and it was one of the grossest things we both have witnessed. They basically cross the drains over to the other side of your body so it looks like a snake coming across your body under the skin and out of the hole on the opposite side! They don’t stitch up the hole that is left open for the drains. They just put a bandage around it and it closes naturally. Which I thought was pretty crazy.
Once my scars started healing, I was able to start using scar cream to help improve the look and feel of the scars over time. My doctor recommended biocorium, which is a silicone-based scar cream and it worked wonders. I would highly suggest it to anyone with big scars or post-surgery, but also take into consideration what your specific doctor recommends.
In the second week of my recovery, I was able to spend at my own apartment and was able to fully function and drive. I worked from home that week but a majority of the time was spent on the couch watching every single episode of gossip girl on Netflix. #xoxogossipgirl
I had a few more post-op visits, one of which I went to on my own because I thought I would be able to handle it. During the second visit when my doctor removed the second drain and some other small stitches I almost fainted. Thankfully I was able to sit down before I actually fell all the way down and my doctor grabbed a cold towel and put it on my neck. When planning your surgery, definitely keep in mind that you will have at least 3 post-op visits and having someone come with you to the appointments is very helpful.
As the weeks went by my doctor finally released me at around 4 weeks post-op to start walking on a treadmill. From past experience, I knew being away from the gym was going to make it hard to start back up because I’m a routine person. I’m not going to lie, it was hard. I was excited but I had also enjoyed having a legitimate excuse not to go for a while. on my first day back I walked for 30 minutes at about 3.5mph and it felt so so so strange but also great. My stomach was still extremely numb and it feels strange because your skin is so tight. I wore my garments to the gym for support. I started slowly, walking a few days a week, doing some arm exercises after about 6 weeks post-op, and slowly but surely I was cleared at about 9 weeks post-op to go back to my regular intense workouts. I still couldn’t do some ab exercises and anything laying on my stomach also was somewhat uncomfortable but as the weeks and months went on things started to feel back to normal!
Some areas of my stomach are still pretty numb, which is normal. I may never fully regain full feeling back but in general, my stomach, belly button, and scarred areas never bother me or interfere with my life. Every day I’m so thankful I was able to have this procedure done. it really has brought my journey full circle.
I couldn’t be happier with my results or my choice of doctor. I will forever have these scars but every day they are a reminder of me conquering my struggles with weight loss and they tell a wonderful story of success.
I waited so long to write this because honestly, it felt daunting to me to write it out. I wanted to give you guys as much information as possible and I wanted it to be perfect. Well, we all know nobody’s perfect, so if I don’t answer something or this just isn’t enough please leave a comment below and I will do my best to answer it.
ps. I’m not a plastic surgeon or medically licensed professional. These are all my own opinions and my personal story of my extra skin removal. Skin removal is not a weight loss surgery. Please consult a medical professional to see if this procedure is something that would work for you.
pss... I became bathing suit obsessed post-op! here I am trying on one of my very first bikinis and honestly, this is still one of my favorites!