The Six-Pack Shortcut

What to know about those trendy ab-sculpting surgeries

September 1, 2016 9:00 am

There are some things that money can’t buy.

The abs of a 19-year-old Olympian? No longer on the list.

The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reports that the number of cosmetic procedures performed among men has increased over 325% since 1997, with ab sculpting procedures—also known as “six-pack surgery”—among the most popular.

You can thank our collective CrossFit-induced ab envy for the desire, and medical science for the fix.  

Hmm. Isn’t this just liposuction?
That’d be like calling Jessica Biel a housewife. In the past, says New York board certified plastic surgeon Daniel Y. Maman, M.D, doctors might have used liposuction to devolumize the entire area. Now, he says, “we pay more attention to removing fat in strategic areas.” That can mean using lipo to reduce fat, followed by ultrasound “etching” to create the vertical ab line. Or it can mean a combination of sucking and tucking to create that downward V (you know the one). In some cases, liposucked fat can be reinjected into the gut and contoured to create the appearance of muscles.

Am I a candidate?
While Maman can remove up to 5 liters of fat at a time—the size of an 11-pound cheeseburger, just roughly—the men who are the best candidates are those who are in good shape already. “The best results will be on men who are fit, but with bulges” or pockets of fat, he says. “But I definitely see plenty of Dad bod.” In fact, he credits much of the rise of six-pack surgery to men wanting in on something that’s historically been a woman thing. “The biggest market for ab surgery was always post-pregnancy or post-menopausal women,” he says. “Now more and more men are willing to talk about their ab fat, and do something about it.” Beach bodies for all!

Can’t I just work out harder?
By all means—and it’s certainly a healthier approach—but it’ll only get you so far. Maman says that the striations that give the appearance of washboard abs can mostly be chalked up to genetics. Losing weight, meanwhile, will often help you lose that belly fat, but someone’s got to deal with all that extra skin. If you remove the fat but don’t address the extra skin, the results won’t be as dramatic as they should be.

What if I’m afraid of pain?
You’re in luck! An array of non-invasive “fat freezing” techniques can contour abs without surgery, or even anesthesia. One of the most popular is FDA-approved CoolSculpting, a vacuum-like machine that extracts heat from, and then freezes, the layer of fat beneath the skin. Fat is then processed through the liver and expelled. “CoolSculpting can help eliminate fat from the central abdomen or love handles,” says Maman, “but the best outcome will come from liposuction.”

And then, that’s it? I’m Matthew McConaughey?
Maman reports that most patients return to work after three or four days, and bring their new abs to the gym not long after that. That said, ab sculpting isn’t a quick fix. Liposuction will permanently destroy fat cells in a given area, which means that you’ll never again gain fat there. The downside: it will go somewhere else. If you’re looking to be McConaughey in the front and Kevin James in the back, let loose. Otherwise, moderation and cardio (and a s–t ton of situps) are probably the way to go.   

So maybe I don’t need to go under the knife after all?
Not at all. Look, you’re aging. You have a belly. And you’re obsessing about it. Congratulations, you’re a human male. Get used to it!

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