Changing Your Shape

By staff June 1, 2007

Sculptors can find a hidden David in a block of marble, shape a thinker from a lump of clay or create the face of Balzac by filling a mold with bronze. There’s a grab-bag of techniques; the act of creation stops when the sculptor decides to stop. (Art, as they say, is never finished, only abandoned.)

The same holds true for body sculpting or re-shaping, an art that takes as its medium the human body itself. There’s no single method: It comprises various techniques, including traditional surgery, liposuction, exercise, diet and more. As with art, sculpting the human body can be a lifetime process. But there is one big difference: Marble and clay can’t talk to the artist. We can.

Cindy Allen knows that through the marvels of surgery, hard work, and a fierce dedication to goal reaching, we can change our bodies to look and function healthier. She’s living proof of it. A summer ago, Allen put on a bathing suit for the first time in nearly two decades. She liked what she saw: a body, “not perfect,” as she readily admits, but healthy and vital-looking.

Allen (now 55) underwent a gastric bypass operation in 2003; after the surgery, she started daily exercise as soon as she could. Two years later, she had shed 100 pounds, along with her high blood pressure and diabetes. Allen eventually reached a target weight of just under 150 pounds. She felt great. Her new clothes fit great. But that wasn’t enough for her.

Allen says there’s something most people don’t understand about radical weight loss. “The skin doesn’t stretch back,” she says. “It just hangs. I felt great in clothing, but my transformation wasn’t complete.” She wanted to look great without her clothes, too,

Allen started researching her options, poring over books, magazines and the Internet, and collecting nuggets of information from her weight-loss support group. She discovered that she was a candidate for a lower body lift, a relatively new procedure that involves the tightening of loose skin through a combination of fat extraction, removal of excess skin and tissue, and stretching of the remaining skin. After interviewing three board-certified plastic surgeons who specialized in this area, she chose Joshua Kreithen, M.D., whom she describes as “an artist.”

“This procedure provides a comprehensive solution for people who have undergone dramatic weight loss,” says Kreithen, “bringing their appearance into alignment with their healthy new lifestyle. It removes excess skin and fat from the abdomen, hips and lower back, lifts the buttocks and outer thighs, and tightens the underlying muscles of the abdominal wall.” Kreithen, who paints in his spare time (the walls of his office are covered with his and his wife’s paintings), likens the process to the task of a master sculptor.

The surgery took nine hours, and the recovery process, which lasted nearly three months, was wearying. But six months after the surgery, Allen says she walked by the mirror and did a double-take. Standing in front of her was the healthy, vital-looking person she remembered from decades ago—before excess fat hid her body. Her skin was taut, her muscles toned.

“It was hard to relate to my new body at first,” she admits. “But after a while, I couldn’t look at myself enough! I’m far from perfect, but I feel encouraged. This changed my life completely.”

Kreithen says his mission is not to sculpt perfect bodies—but to help patients regain the self-esteem it takes to maintain healthy bodies. “It’s all about realistic expectations, “he says, “not miracles.”

Most plastic surgeons agree that while TV shows like Extreme Makeover bring more people into their offices, their expectations are often misinformed and misguided.

Dr. John Strausser is a board-certified aesthetic and reconstructive plastic surgeon with more than two decades worth of experience. Strausser is president of the Sarasota Plastic Surgery Education Foundation; educating patients and the public about the benefits and dangers of cosmetic surgery is paramount to his practice.

“The purpose of cosmetic surgery is to make you look as good as it is possible for you to look. It can’t do more than that. If you’re expecting a miracle, you will most likely be disappointed,” he says bluntly. Cosmetic surgery can do wonderful things, he says, including turning back signs of aging and boosting self-esteem. “But it’s not the same thing as getting a new hair style. It’s surgery with real risks, including scarring.”

He admits to being cautious about cosmetic surgery trends. “This field is filled with its share of gimmicks and quackery,” Strausser says. “If it’s not a procedure accepted by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) or the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), then it’s probably not worth undergoing. I give new procedures five years to stand the test of time.”

Strausser urges people to do their homework and make sure the plastic surgeon they choose is ABPS-certified, which guarantees he or she has had formal training in an accredited plastic surgery residency program. ABPS-certified surgeons have completed at least five years of surgical residency training after medical school, including at least two years in plastic surgery.

Strausser also stresses the necessity of the initial doctor-patient interview. He determines who may be eligible for a procedure on the basis of five qualitative factors, including the state of the person’s anatomy, physiology, psychological makeup, support system and financial capacity. “You’re trusting this doctor with your life, your looks and your wallet,” he says. “You should take your time—and so should the doctor. The first interview is critical.”

And if that interview leaves you ready to go forward, make sure you know what procedures have won the approval of your doctor—and his patients.

Most plastic surgeons agree that there’s really nothing new under the skin when it comes to surgical technique. The techniques used today are, in general, the same safe and accepted procedures employed over the past two decades. That said, there are advances in the combinations of techniques used—and the hype and marketing to describe these techniques.

Take body sculpting or re-shaping, for example. Sounds gentle and comfy, doesn’t it? The term describes alterations to the lower body. The process blends a combination of techniques, including liposuction and skin removal, ultimately removing excess fat and skin from large areas, including the thighs, the stomach, the knees, the arms, and the buttocks.

Where liposuction used to be thought of as the solution for most of these problems, it doesn’t work with older people.

“Liposuction by itself works nicely in people under 50,” says Strausser, “when the skin is still elastic. But in older people who have lost that elasticity, it’s used in combination with skin removal for best results.”

For instance, an abdominoplasty, or tummy tuck, tightens up loose and stretched-out skin. In older patients, the surgeon will also employ liposuction to remove the excess fatty tissue. The surgery is particularly helpful for women who, through multiple pregnancies, have stretched their abdominal muscles and skin beyond the point where it can return to normal, says Kreithen.

Depending on the patient, body sculpting can encompass all or some of the following procedures:

· Breast augmentation (uses implants to enlarge breast size)


· Breast tightening, or mastopexy (raises the nipple on the breast)


· Breast reduction, or mammoplasty


· Abdominoplasty (removes fat and skin from the abdomen)


· Brachioplasty, or upper arm lift (tightens upper arm skin)


· Thigh and buttock lifts (tightens the upper leg skin, and fat is used to improve the appearance of the buttock and thigh)


· Gynecomastia (breast reduction in men by removing excess fat)


A lower body lift (or belt lipectomy) combines several of these procedures and can dramatically transform the mid to lower body, re-sculpting the abdomen, hips, thighs and buttocks.

Jamie Grollman can testify to the boons of body re-sculpting. A healthy 40-something mother and fitness trainer, she has been in good shape all her life. But even in her 20s, she had a “pouchy” stomach. How did she look after two pregnancies? As she bluntly puts it, her breasts resembled “empty water balloons. They sagged down to my belly button. I needed them put back where they belonged!”

Grollman consulted with Kreithen. He suggested a breast lift and liposuction in the abdominal area.

“My husband and I discussed it,” says Grollman. “This was a huge sum of money and a big emotional and financial decision; he needed to be with me every step of the way.”

Grollman underwent both procedures in a single six-hour session. After she healed, both she and her husband were delighted. “I used to turn my face when I walked by a mirror,” she says. “Now I can’t stop looking at myself.

“I’ve always felt that, for all the effort I put into being healthy, I should look the part. I tell my clients this, too. It is genetically impossible for me to exercise or diet away some problems. Women with thunder thighs are never going to look like Cheryl Tiegs, unless they consider surgery,” she explains. “That’s true, no matter how hard they exercise. I feel that we’re given unrealistic expectations. Women are told if we eat right and exercise, we’ll all have the bodies of models. But some of us need a little help.

“I have no problem announcing that I’ve had liposuction and a boob job,” Grollman says proudly. “I say, if something bothers you enough and you want to correct it, and for the right reason—then do it. If God meant for us to be unhappy, He never would have invented plastic surgeons.”

For more advice from professionals on plastic surgery, see our Web-only story at


Here’s a breakdown of a survey by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons:

Although eight out of 10 cosmetic plastic surgery patients are satisfied with their surgical experience, nearly 40 percent believe they should have learned more about the surgery’s potential side effects and complications beforehand.

Nearly 20 percent of cosmetic plastic surgery patients didn’t check their doctors’ credentials before surgery. Thirty-seven percent didn’t confirm that their surgeon was certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, and 54 percent didn’t verify that their surgeon had completed an accredited residency training program in plastic surgery


Samantha Ardenfriend serves up cardio tennis.

You don’t have to be a pro to enjoy this ultimate full body workout.

Love tennis? Here’s another reason to love it more.

The Tennis Industry Association (TIA), in conjunction with the United Tennis Association (USTA), has launched cardio tennis, a new group tennis activity that combines tennis with a high-energy cardiovascular workout. The cardio tennis program features a dynamic warm-up, cardio workout phase and cool-down phase and is designed for anybody at any tennis skill level.

Even non-tennis players are welcome, says Samantha Ardenfriend, a certified U.S. Professional Tennis Association instructor and a member of the National Cardio Tennis Speakers team.

“Cardio tennis is a great fitness workout for anyone—regardless of tennis experience,” she says. “It allows people to burn more calories within short cycles of high-intensity workout and periods of rest, similar to interval training.”

Ardenfriend, who teaches cardio tennis at Serendipity Racquet Club in Sarasota, explains that the goal is “to get into the aerobic zone and stay there for the duration of the class,” which usually lasts an hour. Heart rate monitors are used to determine the level of aerobic workout attained. The activity is paced to high-energy music.

“Cardio tennis is not about age or skill,” explains Ardenfriend. “We match you up with others at your skill level; it’s really only about hitting the ball, having loads of fun and burning calories.” Ardenfriend is obviously passionate about this new sport.

“It’s like a facelift for tennis,” she says. “I think it’s the next best thing to sliced bread!”

For more information about Cardio Tennis, contact Samantha Ardenfriend at (941) 284-3332.

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