Former Denver Broncos tight-end Reggie Johnson was playing with his 5-year-old son, Reggie ll, in May, when he suddenly found himself gasping for breath.
“I could barely get up the steps,” says Johnson, 42, who weighed 307 at the time. “I was huffing and puffing. I knew I had to do something.”
And he did. Johnson went from eating 3,000 calories a day to about 1,800. “I stopped playing football, but I still ate like a football player,” he says.
Johnson began a medical weight loss program, began walking, and lost 40 pounds in three months.
But there were some stubborn pockets of fat around his abdomen he just couldn’t lose.
So Johnson, now a sales consultant for Coastal Wine and Spirits, decided to get SmartLipo, a laser-assisted cosmetic surgery procedure designed to be less invasive than traditional liposuction, but with the same results and less downtime.
“I’m just enhancing myself,” says the Florida State University graduate, who now weighs 268. “I don’t see anything wrong with a man that wants to look better.”
A growing number of men are turning to plastic surgery to help them look and feel better about themselves. Some are looking for an edge in the job market. Others have found themselves back in the dating pool, or they’ve been inspired by wives who had their own cosmetic procedures.
While women still account for most cosmetic procedures, last year, 200,000 men had something “done.” That’s about 13 percent of all cosmetic procedures, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. And there was a whopping 42 percent increase in minimally invasive cosmetic procedures among men from 2000 to 2009, according to the ASPS.
“I don’t think its taboo anymore,” says Khalid Saeed, a doctor of osteopathic medicine who practices at Clarity MedSpa√ in Land O’ Lakes. “More and more you see it out in the news, (male) Hollywood figures who are openly talking about their procedures and how they’re keeping up. The technology is there, there’s no need to be shy anymore.”
Saeed says women start visiting the plastic surgeon’s office in their 30s and 40s with a plan to enhance their looks. Men usually start showing up in their 40s and 50s.
Most of his male clients choose procedures like SmartLipo and Botox (to help smooth wrinkles) because they don’t cause a lot of bruising or require a long recovery time, and you can see results quickly. Botox continues to be the most popular noninvasive cosmetic procedure for both men and women. Other top surgical procedures for men include rhinoplasty (nose reshaping), eyelid surgery; breast reduction surgery for enlarged male breasts, and hair transplants.
“Most of the men we see in our practice are athletes or previous athletes,” Saeed says. “Back in the day, they played professionally or had athletic prowess. And now, you get a little older and Father Time is catching up with you. They want to freshen their look, stay competitive and just feel better about themselves. But they don’t want to spend a lot of time doing it.”
After doing some research, Johnson settled on SmartLipo because he could resume normal activities the next day. He was awake listening to music during his Oct. 6 procedure.
SmartLipo is similar to traditional liposuction, but less invasive. The incisions are smaller, which leaves little scaring; it doesn’t require general anesthesia and there is little bleeding, which makes recovery quicker.
Johnson’s SmartLipo cost $6,000; the price can vary from $2,000 to $6,000 depending on the area covered. Most men opt to have their abdomen, flanks and “love handles” worked on.
The procedure takes about three to four hours. Patients go home with a bandage covering the small incisions, but no stitches. And they must wear a compression belt for at least three weeks.
Recovery time varies, but most patients can show off their new bod after about two weeks. It takes about three months to see optimum results and skin tightening, Saeed says.
The best candidates are men and women who, like Johnson, have a body mass index under 30, exercise regularly and are in good health.
“The procedure really isn’t for debulking,” Saeed says. “It’s for sculpting areas of fat that just won’t go away because of genetics.”
Two days after his procedure Johnson was impressed with the results. He’s not ruling out more surgical procedures in the future.
“I want to look good for me and for my wife,” he says. “I didn’t like the way I looked, and I did something about it. I’m not shamed. I feel better about myself, and its going to show.”
Reporter Cloe Cabrera
SmartLipo is a brand of equipment and is not less invasive than traditional liposuction. A great result does not come from a particular brand or technology, but a great Board Certified Plastic Surgeon. Only plastic surgeons receive training in cosmetic procedures during their specialized residency. Physicians who are not plastic surgeons have usually received a few hours of training from the manufacturer of the equipment.