Here’s Why Liposuction is a Fat Loss (Not Weight Loss) Treatment

Written by Fareesa Sandoval, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist on March 10, 2020 No Comments

fat loss vs weight loss

Body contouring procedures are classified as fat loss treatments, meaning they have the ability to remove localized pockets of fat in order to create more aesthetically pleasing contours.

Unfortunately, in the cosmetic world the terms “weight loss” and “fat loss” are frequently (and often deceptively) used interchangeably. It’s easy to see why so many patients consider the two to be equivalent. In reality, weight loss often encompasses the loss of fat along with other body elements like muscle or water.

This distinction between fat loss and weight loss is very important as patients should clearly understand that both surgical body contouring (liposuction) and non-surgical body contouring (CoolSculpting) centered on fat loss. They are not weight loss treatments and should not be used as a weight loss solution.

Here’s why liposuction is a fat loss (not weight loss) procedure:

Weight Loss Entails More Than Just Fat Loss

Fat only comprises a small portion of a person’s total body weight. Thus, when an individual loses weight, there is a reduction of numerous body elements. While ratios may differ due to age and fitness level, the average body is composed:

  • Fat: 10% – 30% of body weight
  • Muscle: 10% – 55% of body weight
  • Bone: 15% of body weight
  • Water: 10% – 25% of body weight.

Losing body weight does not always result in a more tone or sculpted appearance. Since total weight is comprised of a combination of the above elements, people may become frustrated when their scale shows a reduction in pounds but they don’t notice a visual change in the mirror.

Liposuction Only Removes Fat

Body contouring treatments like liposuction and CoolSculpting soley focus on removing localized fat (along with any water within targeted fat cells). A lipo procedure uses a narrow tube called a cannula to remove unwanted fat deposits in a single area of the body. Targeted fat cells are loosened before they are extracted from the body via vacuum power suction. Muscle, bone, and water based body volume is left unchanged.

Learn how much fat liposuction typically removes in this blog post.

Liposuction Is Limited On How Much Fat Can Be Removed

With liposuction, there are limits to how much fat can be safely removed. In fact, there is broadly accepted scientific link between surgical complications in patients with a higher Body Mass Index (BMI). Potential problems can include delayed wound-healing, blood clots (venous thromboembolism), and infection. Anesthesia complications, in particular, are of greater concern for high BMI individuals as airway complications can lead to serious injury.

Individuals with high BMI’s (30 and up) may be instructed by their surgeon to undertake a broad weight loss program before undergoing liposuction. Often this includes dramatic changes to their exercise and nutrition habits or bariatric surgery, which is a weight loss treatment that can address obesity. Even if obese patients are approved for liposuction, they should understand that the procedure will only be useful in limited areas like addressing submental fullness (double chin).

Body Contouring Is About Shape

Liposuction does, however, enhance the shape and contour of the treated area. This is the result of fat removal in a singular area. Skilled liposuction providers are able to transform bulging areas into tight, lean contours. A lipo procedure removes fat cells permanently, leading to long-lasting results when post-treatment body weight is maintained by the patient.

Most liposuction patients only lose a few pounds after their procedure. This is why the best candidates for lipo are individuals of a healthy weight (within 30 pounds of their target weight) who have issues with isolated pockets of fat that are resistant to diet and exercise. While their scale will not indicate significant weight loss, liposuction patients are left with improved contour and sleek silhouettes.


Fareesa Sandoval, MD

Dr. Sandoval is Board Certified by the American Board of Dermatology and is a member of the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS), the American Academy of Dermatology, the Dermatology Foundation, the Texas Medical Association, and the Travis County Medical Society. Dr. Sandoval’s interests include adult and pediatric medical dermatology, skin cancer management, and cosmetic dermatology.


Leave a Reply