Earlier this week, in my half-asleep daze, I flipped on the Today Show for background noise while getting ready for work. When I heard Matt Lauer introduce one of the segments, I stopped in my tracks, turned up the volume, and braced myself. “Why are thin, fit women getting liposuction?” he inquired. Oh boy. This should be fun. It’s always amusing when the mainstream media seem so shocked and dismayed at a phenomenon that they help perpetuate every single day.
The segment begins with a pre-filmed story about a woman named Nicole Silva: model since age 15, size 2, and current liposuction patient. Oh, sorry, mini liposuction, which according to the Today Show reporter, “is far less invasive than traditional liposuction” and completed within an hour. Nicole wants to trim her thighs, because she’s feeling the pressure of aging in the modeling world. “I love my body,” she explains. “I’m very comfortable with my body. I don’t think it’s bad at all. I just know that it can be better.”
At this point, I’m already scoffing, “Loves her body? Is comfortable with her body? This woman clearly has zero concept of real body confidence.” After a beat though, I have to admit I was questioning myself, or at least my logic on this point. Isn’t it possible to know we are great in other areas of life, yet want to improve to be an even better writer, concert pianist, gymnast? What makes the body any different? Or is it the line that is being crossed in surgically modifying, versus doing what’s in our natural power to be the best person we can be? (Lance Armstrong comes to mind.)
I digress – because at this point, Dr. David Amron, a Bevery Hills dermatological surgeon, comes on screen and states:
“It seems like every other patient I’m seeing for liposuction is a thin, fit patient… somebody can be thin like Nicole and have stubborn disproportioned areas of fat, and they can be a perfect candidate for liposuction. It’s all about my role in terms of rebalancing her body.”
Next on screen, to continue the story’s paradoxical theme, is Glamour Magazine’s Cindy Levy:
“I think you have to watch out when you start fixing flaws that nobody but you can see you might end up with the kind of body you will never be happy with. You need to make sure that once you have the surgery you’re not going to say, ‘any little flaw that comes up, I’m going to fix that too,’ because it’s a slippery slope.”
Her point is hard to argue with, but what is it really worth when the magazine that she works for features mostly models with bodies that are unattainable by 95% of women?
Fast-forward to the live interview, in which Matt grills Dr. Amron and clinical psychologist Belisa Vranich about the motivation driving thin women who want to receive liposuction, and what might be going on psychologically that makes them feel they need the procedure. Dr. Vranich explains, “If I have a patient who wants liposuction, we have to talk about some psychological factors in there. Is it a quest for perfection? Is it a quest for happiness, which should be done somewhere outside a surgeon’s office, maybe in addition to the surgery? Is it an event or is it an age that’s making you go in for the surgery? Once you’ve talked about all that, if you want to go in and get that one little problem area done, it’s not a bad idea.”
Not a bad idea, eh? So what about when the patient goes in for that consultation to Dr. Amron? Matt asks him, “Would you say no to someone if you get the hint and the red flag goes up that this is about trying to win back that guy, as opposed to just being more comfortable in their body? Would you say, ‘No, I don’t want to do this procedure’?” Amron responds, “If I see someone who is a candidate, and I feel that liposuction is going to make an improvement, I will probably want to do the surgery, but I also want to make sure they’re in the right mindset for things, and not be using it to replace some sense of internal happiness.” How thoughtful! Just wait.
At the end, Matt mentions a recent study that the New York Times covered about liposuction, which revealed that weight gained after the procedure would just redistribute to other areas of the body. Dr. Amron defensively rebutted that he “reviewed the study extensively” and felt that it was flawed, because the participants were not evaluated for disproportion. “For example, I don’t ask a patient what they want to do. I determine as a surgeon what really should be done to rebalance their body. If you don’t do that, you run the risk of throwing someone out of balance, out of proportion.”
Whatever happened to client empowerment, especially considering this is an elective surgery? I’m not going to say that liposuction is a bad choice in absolutely every situation. However, if there’s a trend of more and more people feeling like they need the procedure, especially when they are already healthy and “fit” (by their own definition), it certainly does speak to our society’s continually narrowing standard of beauty and demand for perfection. I guess I’m good. Just not good enough.
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Watch the Today Show segment here: