Home Beauty Fit First Lady Watch: Michelle Obama Inspires Unique Cosmetic Procedure

Fit First Lady Watch: Michelle Obama Inspires Unique Cosmetic Procedure

by Erika Nicole Kendall

When the American Society of Plastic Surgeons released its annual cosmetic and reconstructive surgery statistics, there apparently was much there that we already expected.

Boob procedures were still the top surgery out there. Face lifts, liposuction, nose jobs… all expected.

One procedure, however, shot straight up – by almost 4,000 – yes, four thousand – percent:

But the society chose to highlight one procedure that is less familiar: the upper arm-lift.  In 2012, 15,457 patients, 98% of them women, spent a total of $61 million to have liposuction on their arms, or what’s known as a brachioplasty (a surgery that involves making an incision from the armpit to the elbow, usually along the back of the arm, to remove excess skin).  The number of procedures was up 4,378% since 2000, when only about 300 women opted for it, the group reported.

In a statement, the ASPS said that doctors didn’t point to a single reason for the increase, but took note of poll data indicating that women “are paying closer attention to the arms of female celebrities” including Jennifer Aniston, Demi Moore and Kelly Ripa. The most-admired arms of all? Those of First Lady Michelle Obama.


Plastic surgeons emphasized that diet and exercise should be a part of a woman’s plan to tone her triceps, but that for many, getting the look they want proves impossible by those methods alone.

“We are genetically programmed to have different accumulations of fat in different areas, and for some women the arms can be a problem area,” said Dr. David Reath, chair of the ASPS Public Education Committee and a surgeon in Knoxville, Tenn.

He cautioned, however, that brachioplasty often leaves a visible scar — presenting a “trade-off” for women. [source]

Cosmetic procedures are interesting, to me, because they are very “present.” Not as in “a gift,” and not as in “very here.” I mean, they’re very “here and now.” People get lipo all the time, but wonder why the procedure doesn’t “last,” and have to go back and get it again. The same can be said for brachioplasty.

I know I haven’t talked much about loose or dangling skin – I don’t have much, but I’m very young and also very patient… also very cheap – but this, for some reason, shocked me. It also saddened me.

Lots of people wind up with loose skin for lots of reasons, but I’m wondering what these kinds of surgeries look like in real life – not just photos on the Internet – and how people keep themselves from losing the physique for which they went under the knife. If you don’t have muscle under all that skin, you’re not really getting those long-admired Obama arms and shoulder caps, are you? They might be petite, but are they toned? (And, is that what you truly wanted?)

And that’s what makes me a bit sad. Are you getting the full scope of advice on your physique and how to acquire and maintain the look you want without the surgery?* Are you a “repeat customer” who gets cosmetic surgery, winds up gaining weight back in the spot that was originally cut, and has to go back again? Have you ever sought out guidance for actual body management?

This isn’t an indictment of women who receive cosmetic surgery, truly. No one’s circumstances are the same, and I don’t have the time or brain space to judge everyone individually. This doesn’t change the fact that lots of people are unaware of how their daily habits affect their bodies physically, and if you care enough to go under the knife to change it but not enough to learn how to avoid having to go back, then what? There’s nothing more frustrating than talking to a client who saved up all her money for a breast reduction, only to find, a year later, that her breasts had grown back to their original size… something like an I cup.

So, while I’m glad that our FLOTUS is givin’ ’em all shoulders and people are swooning – especially since I’m half-way demoralized by the number of people describing FLObama as “stocky,” “manly,” or “muscular” like it’s a pejorative or something – I just want people to be future-focused when they do it.

What do you think?

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peace warden May 3, 2013 - 10:10 PM

I am challenging myself to do 25 overheads, and tri dips everyday for the next 90 days. along with 50 squats and a full plank for a minute every morning. I have lost 60 lbs. I am studying to take my certification as a health coach. I want clients to know I get the journey and Michelle just did not start training when she got to the white house. This is her lifestyle and healthstyle.

Erika Nicole Kendall May 3, 2013 - 10:24 PM

Doing that much every day, especially if you’ve never trained like that before, isn’t going to give your body much time to physically heal… and will result in you eventually quitting. You’d truly be better off trying to do it three-four times a week, every other day.

sJea13 May 3, 2013 - 10:18 PM

It is so unfortunate that in addition to obesity becoming the new normal, we now have a whole bunch of ageless, plastic folks running around….looking quite unnatural.

So much so that people are starting to forget what natural beauty looks like.

Jess M May 3, 2013 - 10:21 PM

I tend to think that procedures that pull out fat are a waste of money. If you don’t change your eating, the fat will just come back. My boss said that her daughter got lipo on her legs before having kids. When she got pregnant, she supposedly gained a lot of fat in her upper body, since the new fat accumulated were there was existing fat. I haven’t seem this woman to vouch for this, but it is interesting nonetheless.

Erika Nicole Kendall May 3, 2013 - 10:38 PM

I don’t know… there’s a little bit of research that I’ve seen that implies that *what* you’re eating can dictate *where* the fat goes.

Besides, pregnant women gain weight in their bellies and chests because, duh, pregnancy; especially if she wasn’t relatively lean before, chances are high that the same habits that resulted in her needing lipo are also the same habits she partook of during pregnancy. Lots of women leave pregnancy with spare tires and big boobs/arm fat. That’s pregnancy, especially if you gain major weight there.

TeeNikki May 4, 2013 - 12:52 PM

My grandmother, her mother and her mother’s sister all had disproportionately large upper arms. It skipped everybody but me. Add in my large bone frame, and that alone is a hot mess. Being full figured makes it worse. But my arms are insane. Very disproportionate. I’m trying to eat as clean as possible, taking vitamins and trying to get to the bottom of some other non-weight related health issues so I can get rid of this crap once and for all, but my arms make me angry. With that great-agreat aunt AND my grandmother, they both lost weight due to health issues, but had to buy bigger clothes to accommodate the arms. I only wear stretchy tops or ones with dolman sleeves because if I buy for my size, the arms don’t fit, but if I buy for my arms, the rest is too big. Case in point, I ordered a winter coat once. The body was big enough for my daughter to stand in front of me and I could still zip it. I couldn’t get my arm in it.

I’ve known some women had gastric bypass and their arms were decent without surgery. One lady got the arm surgery and the scar, to me, was not cute AT. ALL. If it were me, I would’ve been pissed about it. Given my issue I foresee it being necessary at the end (prayerfully not), and I’m hoping it’s progressed some by then. Plus the scars weren’t even straight. She was an older woman, so hopefully that was why.

Erika Nicole Kendall May 4, 2013 - 6:00 PM

“My grandmother, her mother and her mother’s sister all had disproportionately large upper arms. It skipped everybody but me.”

So, wait… were they generally large women? Or were they petite, with large arms? Was there ANY definition to their arms?

Lots of people have arms that are shaped “differently,” for lack of a better phrase, because of the amount of fat in other places pushing it around and readjusting things – back fat affects the fat on the back of the arms, which pushes outward and makes your arms look much larger than they actually are.

“I only wear stretchy tops or ones with dolman sleeves because if I buy for my size, the arms don’t fit, but if I buy for my arms, the rest is too big.”

Have you ever considered seeking out a tailor, or taking a sewing class?

I feel like there might could maybe possibly sorta kinda be some kind of animosity about the fact that your body doesn’t fit a conventionally-accepted ready to wear piece of clothing, and I wish you wouldn’t feel that way. There are lots of reasons why you – or people like you, for that matter – don’t fit into ready-to-wear clothing, and it has nothing to do with your arms being built differently. We don’t feel that way about our thighs and the fact that they generally don’t fit into jeans without us experiencing that giant gap in the back of our pants… so I really wish you wouldn’t feel that way about your arms.

There are lots of things that you can do to work on your arms, mama. And, in the meantime, consider seeking out a tailor, and buy the sizes that look their best on you now and have them cut accordingly.

MM May 4, 2013 - 12:57 PM

As a plastic surgeon, I see a lot of patients after weight loss from various ways (lifestyle change/exercise, gastric bypass) and I always encourage them to get to their goal weight, be STABLE at that weight for a long time to make sure you maintain it, and build muscle & tone up as much as possible (during the whole process) before doing any body contouring procedures. Of course even if you lose weight slowly and tone, a 200lb loss usually ends up with some loose skin which people don’t like so I understand wanting the procedures done. However, the scars are NOT pretty, they are PERMANENT, and no surgery comes w/o the possibility of complications so it should be a seriously thought out decision. It’s most times not covered by insurance either so you really need to think hard before spending that kind of money. Even after all that, you most likely won’t have Michelle Obama arms b/c her arms never had excess fat and skin which makes a difference since surgery can’t make it perfect. Hope that helps!

Erika Nicole Kendall May 4, 2013 - 5:53 PM

THANK YOU for this!

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