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OtherSyde

Hi-Def VASER Ab-Etching: Losing the Stubborn 30+ Belly

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So I decided to take a break this year from my biennial hair transplants to focus on a different area that was aging poorly: My torso. As usual, I researched this extensively before I picked a doc and took the plunge, as always (skills I largely learned on this forum!).

 

I'm just posting this for anyone who is curious, since I would imagine a large portion of us are much like me: Over 30, and and toting an anoyingly invincible stubborn little belly that just will not freaking GO AWAY no matter how much you run on the treadmill and lift weights (both of which I do fairly often). After my previous 7-month deployment ending in December 2017 (during which time I worked out a lot and got stronger and more muscular but could not lose the belly), I had saved a fair chunk of change (outside of what I had stashed in my 401k for retirement of course - I'm not completely irresponsible) and decided that while some guys want to buy a big fancy truck, or a sports car, or a bigger newer house after a deployment, I decided I wanted to not have to incessantly and hopelessly battle my stupid gut anymore. It was an uphill battle, and it's always a losing one since we only get older and our metabolism only slows down more and more. So I tentatively began looking into the various forms of lipoplasty; here are the results of my research, very truncated of course:

 

-Traditional "tumescent" lipo is good for sucking out large amounts of loose fat at once, and mostly for low-definition fat removal and removal of free-floating fat. It's suited for rather significantly overweight people, and I was still pretty slim; mostly I just had subcutaneous fat (meaning directly under the skin, merged/entrenched into the under-layers of the skin) and visceral fat (referring to the fat in between the muscles and organs).

 

-Smart-Lipo (aka - "Laser Lipo") is a better option, since the laser beam mounted on the end of the cannula (the wand at the end of the suction hose which they insert under the skin to suck the fat out) is said to melt fat more rapidly and also stimulate collagen production which, especially for significantly overweight people losing a lot of weight, will nicely tighten up the skin afterwards. It also allows for somewhat higher-definition sculpting of musculature due to using smaller and more precise cannulas than traditional tumescent lipo. This is was a good option for me and I was really looking at it, since it is very widespread and getting less expensive. Until I looked at VASER.

 

VASER, or Vibration Amplification of Sound Energy at Resonance, is a more rarely-utilized technology and a specialized form of liposuction, more appropriately called liposculpture due to the more specific goals it's specifically used to achieve. VASER uses a high-frequency sound/vibration emitter at the end of the small cannula which emits a specific frequency that emulsifies soft squishy fat, but leaves the more solid/dense aspects of the surrounding anatomy intact and unaffected - most importantly the delicate meshwork of connective tissue directly underneath your skin and between your organs (exactly my problem areas). This allows a skilled surgeon to intricately etch out the lines between your musculature without damaging supporting connective tissue or muscle tissue, as well as removing the blubbery subcutaneous layers of fat on the underside of your skin which are embedded in the aforementioned meshwork of denser connective tissue. Finally, VASER is known for resulting is far less bruising and bleeding than other forms of lipo due to its less brutal/invasive nature, meaning smoother results and faster healing. This was clearly my ticket, right here.

 

So I researched surgeons, looking for not just a VASER lipo surgeon in general, but specifically one who very directly specializes in high-definition male body liposculpture. Dr. Henry Mentz in Texas pioneered a lot of ab-etching techniques over the last decade, so he was an immediate consideration, but he was located awfully far from San Diego for me which would really complicate the follow-up appointments. Dr. Jason Emer is much closer and does amazing work, but is still 2-3 hours north of me and resides in Beverly Hills, and from my brief research he charges a premium beyond what a mere peasant such as myself can afford - unsurprising, seeing as his clientele is probably mostly very wealthy Beverly Hills/Los Angeles/Hollywood people who considers $15k to $25k to be pocket-change that one uses to buy hot dogs and fish tacos from street vendors or something. Certainly an outstanding surgeon - just not one aimed at me as an intended client demographic, it seemed.

 

Finally I found a doc, courtesy of RealSelf. I settled on Dr. Arian Mowlavi - a mere hour north in Laguna Beach - after seeing numerous beautifully sculpted results and reviews, as well as reading his whole, very-detailed web site that elaborates on the specifics of targeted abdominal etching for men with apt descriptions and sharp anatomical diagrams. I won't link it here because I don't know if I'm supposed to do that, but you can Google it if you're curious. Additionally, he was trained in VASER etching by the renowned UK surgeon Dr. Grant Hamlet. I contacted Dr. M's establishment in November and set up a consultation on December 12th. Despite being very busy, the doctor himself made time to come in and meet with me and assess my situation - he is a very enthusiastic, cheery guy; quick and to the point as well, and didn't try to up-sell anything beyond what I was asking about. He looked me over and said I was an ideal candidate: Already fairly fit, slim, and muscular - just plagued by the typical post-age-30 belly fat obscuring my torso's musculature.

 

So we set the date for January 20th - and as an extra bonus, it turned out Dr. Hamlet was flying in from the UK for a scheduled visitation/collaboration event during that period, so I'd have not one but two high-end VASER experts from nearly opposite ends of the Western World working me over! Finally (for those curious/concerned with price point), since they were doing basically my whole entire torso (ab/six-pack etching, lower side-flanks, upper side serratus anterior - aka "side-pipes," external obliques - aka "Lats," and under/between/outside edges of my pecs to make them pop out more), the whole procedure was billed at $18,500 including $500 for the post-op lymphatic massages detailed below. However, he's partnered with RealSelf (or something like that, I'm not exactly sure) and had a promotion specifically for VASER posted on there which I claimed, so it came to $12,500 total: $6,000 off - not bad. A little steeper than I'd wanted to go for lipo (I'd budgeted for up to $10k) and way more than I've spent on any individual hair transplant, but it's a once-in-a-lifetime thing, I really wanted this, and I was convinced I was getting the best here, so I made it happen. This is when having a decent credit score comes in handy I guess; I just financed what I didn't have cash for.

 

Anyway, the 20th came quickly enough; long story short, the surgery was quick and surprisingly lacking in the crippling pain I thought I would be in; they inserted the IV, I blinked, and then woke up in the recovery room feeling like I'd done about 500 situps the day before and then someone had punched me in the abs a few times and left them bruised - sore, but not debilitating. I was up and walking around within 20 minutes, and once I downed a provided Percocet I felt basically no pain for the rest of the day until I ate a Valium at about 6pm and went to sleep. The bruised-abs pain, accompanied by the intermittent stabbing/tugging feeling from the fluid/blood drain tubes inserted into my abdomen - which really only happened when I would change positions from sitting/standing/laying which would cause the tubes to shift under my skin - was troublesome but bearable; it came and went for a week or so until I got the drains removed and stopped taking Percocet. They also had an on-staff dedicated masseuse (a nice pretty British lady) who would give me lymphatic massages on my torso to squeeze out all the drainage and make sure no weird lumps of fat or scar tissue accumulated. The 30-minute massages (five in total - every two days for ten days) were grueling on my traumatized torso, but I always felt way better and somehow more rejuvenated afterwards.

 

By Day 7 my drains were out and I was far more mobile and active, and down to only around 4-6 Tylenol per day (no more Percocet; I had another week's worth, but I hate how they make me all slow and dumb and useless, and I really didn't need them). I still had to wear the custom foam body-wrap with the tight black compression garment over it for another week and a half to keep me from swelling too much or healing weirdly, but once that came off at about Week 2.5 or Day 20 I was even better.

 

As of this writing I'm at the one-month mark and most of the pain is gone (and no pain meds at all), just a weird numb/tight feeling all over the front of my torso as the inside of my skin attaches itself to its new home directly over my now-exposed bodily musculature. Some weird pins-and-needles feelings here and there, too. My abs are really starting to take shape now though, and I'm wearing a super-tight Spanx tank top for another week or so just to make sure they stay that way.

 

Here are some initial pics...

 

The first pic is a montage of my BodySpace pics at Age 29-30ish, when I lived in Hawaii and worked out constantly and hit the beach all the time, before the post-30 fatness set in like a slow, unstoppable avalanche of demoralizing misery.

 

The next 3 pics are varying dates but within a month or three of Pre-Op - just shots of how craptacular I'd come to look in the gut region. In the blue towel pics I am, sadly, actually flexing my abs, which are pretty much hidden under the layer of fat. The headless shot is just a pic I screen-grabbed from my in-surgery video, showing me on the operating table directly pre-op. Not as fat-looking when lying down, more just... soft and shapeless.

 

Next up is surgery day directly pre-op, with Dr. Mowlavi on the left and Dr. Hamlet on the right.

 

Then there's a shot of me all marked-up in color-coded sections indicating muscle locations and edges, negative space to be sucked out, etc. It was a bit weird being the only naked guy in a room with a female surgical assistant, my girlfriend, and two doctors who were intently feeling up my torso and marking all over me like I was a piece of anatomical artwork, but surprisingly less weird than one would think. I was too busy being excited and nervous. For your viewing convenience I did Photoshop out the little bit of my junk you could see in the original pic so it's just a shadowed area now :)

 

Finally, the last two pics in this post are about 5 hours post-op. The surgery started at about 7:00am and lasted until about 11:00am, and I was out and home by noonish. You can see my tight compression garment and the layers of custom-cut hypo-allergenic foam wrapping my torso tightly, and in the final pic you can see my little drain balls - the tubes lead up to little incisions on either side of my lower-abdomen and also one to my belly button. It looks all bloody, but the fluid soon became less bloody and more yellowish - residual emulsified fat and expelled lymphatic fluid.

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Edited by OtherSyde

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Alright, now for the more uplifting part: Results!

 

First pic is four days post-op when they first unwrapped the foam and compression garment to see how I was looking. Much slimmer, but still a bit shapeless and formless due to all the swelling and accumulated fluid. This would probably have been along the lines of the final result if I'd chosen cheaper, older tumescent lipo or SmartLipo instead of going with an etching specialist using VASER. As it is, this is only the very early beginning! :P

 

The next pics are Day 7, the morning after I had the drains removed; I'd removed the foam and compression garment for an hour or so to wash the garment and take a shower myself. You can see my abs just beginning to take shape, even at this early phase.

 

Finally, in the last 3 pics I'm right at the 3-Week mark, just a few days ago wearing my Spanx tank top and peeling it off (I never wore Spanx before this; they are almost painfully difficult to squeeze into and peel off!) The difference is stark here, and you can really see the shape starting to come in. This is about what I look like today.

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Alright, now for the more uplifting part: Results!

 

First pic is four days post-op when they first unwrapped the foam and compression garment to see how I was looking. Much slimmer, but still a bit shapeless and formless due to all the swelling and accumulated fluid. This would probably have been along the lines of the final result if I'd chosen cheaper, older tumescent lipo or SmartLipo instead of going with an etching specialist using VASER. As it is, this is only the very early beginning! :P

 

The next pics are Day 7, the morning after I had the drains removed; I'd removed the foam and compression garment for an hour or so to wash the garment and take a shower myself. You can see my abs just beginning to take shape, even at this early phase.

 

Finally, in the last 3 pics I'm right at the 3-Week mark, just a few days ago wearing my Spanx tank top and peeling it off (I never wore Spanx before this; they are almost painfully difficult to squeeze into and peel off!) The difference is stark here, and you can really see the shape starting to come in. This is about what I look like today as of this posting.

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Oh and just for a quick comparison, here is the previous screen-grab of me unconscious on the operating table directly pre-op, and the second pic is also me on the operating table but directly post-op, before they wrapped me in foam or any swelling had even started to set in (I was still out like a light). Even with all the marking, wetness, over-bright lighting, residual surgical saline under my skin, etc. you can see the detail added here that generally separates VASER from the other forms of lipo.

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Edited by OtherSyde

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And now for the fun part: Developments!

 

Pics 1 and 2 are Day 7, the morning after I got my drains taken out and got to remove my foam and compression garment for washing and my first full shower in 8 days!

 

Pics 3, 4, and 5 are around Week 3, just a couple of days ago - quite a development, and I've got a lot more change coming in the next 2 months!

 

[EDIT] - It's worth noting that I'm not flexing in any of these shots - I just look like this now, which blows my mind.

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Edited by OtherSyde

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So what happens if you gain that stubborn fat back on in say a year?

 

This is a common question, and one I get just as often as "What happens when all your nice transplanted hair just falls out again in a few years?" It's also one I researched well before dropping thousands on such an investment.

 

The answer is that fat isn't just some free-floating substance in your body - it's contained within fat cells, and if you suck out all the fat cells then your body simply can't store fat in that area anymore. Some new fat cells can be created in your body during adulthood, but mostly only up until late adolescence or early adulthood and mostly only in quantities and in body areas specified by your genetics. Once you're past that stage and into adulthood, new fat cells are generally only created during extended periods of extreme hunger or extreme binge-eating. Otherwise your body will simply redirect new stored fat to other fat cells in other areas of your body. I'll look up some references for this later when I'm not on my phone, but that's the jist/layman's version of it.

 

_____________________________________________________________

 

[EDIT] - One FAQ here explains it pretty clearly.

 

Another FAQ here, states that some of the fat may come back if you gain about 10% of your body weight (which would be about 15-16lbs for me - nigh-impossible with my skinny ectomorph genetics and metabolism). If my body did produce some more fat, it would do it uniformly all over and not just produce a new big fat gut and leave everything else slim/cut like I was before; I'd just be a somewhat beefier version of the same body shape I now have post-op. Although, to be clear, I have no intention to cease working out; half of my two-car garage is a gym with free weights (dumb bells, barbell, etc.), body weight machines (pull-up bars, a situp bench, a Roman chair, etc.), and cardio machines (an elliptical and a treadmill), which I use several times a week.

 

Finally this seemingly damning article titled Study: Fat May Return After Liposuction, actually goes on to state that: "...the fat removed returns in a relatively short time, according to a new study. ''All the fat is back by one year," says researcher Robert H. Eckel, MD, professor of medicine, physiology and biophysics at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. However, it does not return to the spot that has been operated on... The areas that had liposuction did not regain fat, he says."

 

So yeah, worst case scenario, my ass or thighs or something put on a little fat, which honestly would be fine since I am utterly unable to build muscle/size on my legs anyway, no matter how many squats and calf-raises I do - making them look scrawny despite my relatively muscled (for my frame) arms. Having my legs gain a little size and look a little more proportional would not be the worst thing in the world by any stretch :)

Edited by OtherSyde

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I'll be honest, I hate ab etching in general. I've seen many cases and 99% of them look really obvious and unnatural, and most simply aren't lean enough to pull it off, nothing looks worse than a guy with love handles and saggy chest but visible abs lol but your work is fantastic and you were the type of candidate if would work on othersyde. Congrats on the procedure and result! and good info.

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I'll be honest, I hate ab etching in general. I've seen many cases and 99% of them look really obvious and unnatural, and most simply aren't lean enough to pull it off, nothing looks worse than a guy with love handles and saggy chest but visible abs lol but your work is fantastic and you were the type of candidate if would work on othersyde. Congrats on the procedure and result! and good info.

 

Well thanks for the tentative optimism and vote of confidence; I've seen some crappy-looking ab-etching jobs that didn't fit on the saggy, chubby recipient bodies as well. Fortunately in my case, besides being genetically pretty slim anyway (aside from the belly/side-flanks region), I'm pretty avid about working out; in the last week as I've healed to a functional level I've reassembled my own gym and hit it pretty hard trying to gain the weight back that I lost in the 3 weeks while I was down. Since the week before surgery to about 3 weeks afterwards, I went from 164lbs to 147lbs, losing 17lbs despite the relatively small 5-6lbs of total fat they removed.

 

Here are a couple of Week 4 crappy cell pics I got my cousin to snap and text me, just so you don't think I'm a lazy slacker who's full of shit about working out or wants to look good without putting in any real work, although I will freely admit that my arms and pecs look a bit too scrawny for my taste - and also that I definitely had some trouble pushing up those 70lb dumb bells after 4 weeks of post-surgery convalescent slacking :) Gotta get back on the horse, and better sooner than later.

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Edited by OtherSyde

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4.5 Months! The residual swelling is almost completely gone, and as my skin reattaches and bonds itself more comprehensively to the underlying musculature I am slowly gaining more definition. I really like the way my pecs are now more defined, and how they sort of stand out from my torso (instead of just blending in like formless lumps) even though they haven't gotten significantly bigger (just maintaining via chest press, flies, pushups, etc.). I also like that the definition isn't too high - it doesn't look over-the-top, my individual abs are visible but not sticking out in freakish bold relief or anything; they're sort of downplayed and streamlined. They look about on par with my arms, back, etc. - i.e. - more or less natural.

 

Overall, very happy I did this. I know it won't make me look as shredded as a pro bodybuilder or anything, and I never expected or wanted that - really I just wanted a good, solid physique that I could maintain by steadily working out and doing cardio (which had, as outline above, gradually worked less and less as I got further and further past 30). Definitely worth the investment, in my book.

 

Anyway here are a couple pics from of 4.5 months post-op!

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3 hours ago, Spanker said:

Looking good man. Congrats. 

Thanks! Almost forgot I posted about this here lol.

Anyway, here's a 5-Month update. I actually went back to the same tanning bed where I took the Before pics back in January (I rarely tan, I was just about to go on vacation and didn't want to be too pasty), and snapped a few similar pics - same crappy lighting and all - for some side-by-side comparisons! I think the biggest difference is when I'm relaxed; in the "Relaxed - After" pic I'm actually kind of pushing my belly out a little for emphasis, and there's still definition. FYI I don't walk around like this with my belly deliberately distended like that in normal  life - it's usually a sort of moderate position somewhere between the "flexed" and "relaxed" poses to be honest. In any case I'm quite happy with it! Next up: Finally filling in my crown and rear mid-scalp once and for all so I can cut my hair down shorter without it being transparent in the middle! :)

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