It’s an age old conundrum: how to lose weight without your breasts getting smaller. Breast fat transfer is a great option for women wanting a small increase in bust size or to fill out contours and irregularities. If you’re overweight, you may be concerned about whether or not your results will be permanent. In order to address this question, we need an understanding of how body fat works, the transfer process and how to maximize the amount of fat that remains.
Natural Breast Composition
Natural breast tissue is comprised of both fat and glands. The exact percentages vary wildly depending on your natural body composition. If you’ve ever lost weight in the past, you should have a good idea of how your natural breast tissue responds. Some women find their cup size changes very little, while others decrease quite a lot.
If you take a look at female bodybuilders that haven’t been augmented, you will notice most of them have very small, firm breasts. This is because their body fat percentages are well below the average woman’s. The glandular tissue remains, but the fat has been reduced so the pectoral muscle becomes prominent.
Understanding How Fat Cells Work
Everybody has a predetermined amount of fat cells. These cells are distributed differently throughout the body. Some women have more cells in their legs and thighs, while others have more in the hip and buttock area. The distribution is predominantly affected by genetics, but lifestyle makes a difference too.
Fat cells increase and decrease in size based on how much excess triglyceride is stored. Back in the day, when food was hard to come by, this prevented starvation. The body selectively uses the stored triglycerides, along with other substances, to fuel the body in times of famine.
The cells continue to swell until filled to maximum capacity. Once the cells run out of storage room, they replicate themselves. This process continues, and you gain weight.
Fat Cells Never Die
While your body is capable of creating more fat cells, it doesn’t eliminate them. A very small percentage will die off in the natural aging process, but are replaced by new ones. There are only a few things that actually destroy or remove fat cells, liposuction and Kybella both being an example.
Weight loss won’t kill the cells either. It only shrinks them in response to smaller amounts of stored triglycerides. So if you lose weight, you won’t lose the fat cells that have been successfully transferred to your breasts. The fat will respond the exact same way as the rest of your body fat, decreasing in size.
Fat Transferred Via Liposuction
Not all of the fat cells transferred to your breast will survive. The exact percentage rate is hard to predict, as there are several factors that influence survival. A good guess would be somewhere around 70% of the transfer will take. This is why it’s not unusual for someone to have at least two, if not more, grafting sessions.
Will It Stay or Will It Go?
The amount of cells that survive after the transfer process depends on several things. There needs to be adequate room in the space injected so the cells don’t become compressed. Fat also needs to establish its own blood supply, so the presence of abundant, healthy blood vessels is important. It takes approximately 9 months for the fat to become fully integrated into your body. The ones that successfully integrate will be there forever.
As mentioned earlier, the amount of fat that remains after weight loss depends on your genetics. It also depends on where the fat comes from. If you’ve ever lost weight before, you know that certain areas of your body hang on to stubborn fat no matter what you do. For women, this tends to be areas of the lower body. They’re weight loss resistant fat cells.
Take note of these areas. Taking fat from these spots may protect your breasts from shrinking during weight loss and make your results last much, much longer. As an added benefit, you’ll get a toning and slimming effect on troublesome spots that plague your fitness goals.
Things You Can Do to Optimize Your Results
Probably one of the most beneficial things you can do to maximize your results is to start your weight loss program before the transfer. Ideally, you want to be within 20 pounds of your ideal weight. It is definitely a case where keeping the status quo produces the most reliable results. Keeping a steady weight will help your breasts stay the same size.
There is no magic pill or exercise that will stop you from losing breast volume when you lose weight, if you’re genetically prone to it. That being said, all is not lost. You can optimize your results following all of your post surgical instructions, not smoking and choosing the right areas to harvest. In the event your breasts do get smaller, know that the fat that was added isn’t destroyed. It will stay in place, albeit smaller, forever.
Managing Your Expectations
Anytime you undergo a cosmetic procedure, it’s important to have realistic expectations. Hoping that fat grafting to the breast will transform your A cup into a Pamela Anderson double D cup probably isn’t realistic. On average, you can expect around a 1/4 cup increase in size, done over more than one session.
Dr. Robert Tornambe is a board-certified plastic surgeon specializing in breast augmentation using fat transfer, where he brings his knowledge of cutting edge techniques, over 20 years of experience and compassion to the lives of the patients he treats. As a diplomat of the American Board of Plastic Surgery and a fellow of the American Academy of Surgeons, he has been voted as one of New York’s most talented surgeons by NY magazine. Dr. Tornambe routinely appears on talk shows and writes articles to help educate the public on popular plastic surgery topics.