Last month I had a four-part plastic surgery procedure that helped me realize was a judgmental prick I’ve been about quite a few things in my past.
The decision to have my breast implants removed seemed like a “no-brainer” to me as an athlete, but the rest of the operation made me take a good hard look at my priorities, my professional ethics, and my pretentious reflex that unfortunately still gets the best of me sometimes.
In this post I’d like to tell you about my decision-making process that lead up to the operation, and the mental hurdles I had to overcome in order to make peace with all of it.
*If you’re curious about why I got breast implants in the first place, you can watch this video from 2013 where I explain the whole dang thing.
HOW I KNEW THE IMPLANTS WERE A PROBLEM
As I’ve discussed many times in the past three years, I’ve had a right-side shoulder injury / movement dysfunction that began in late 2015 and never fully went away since.
In my last post, I mentioned how I finally decided to take some time away from intense training last year to try to let it heal up.
Sure, I’ve been in less pain because I wasn’t pushing myself as hard in the gym and I would steer clear of movements that bothered it. But EVERY time I allowed myself to have a little fun, the whole thing would flare up again and I’d be back where I started.
Not only would this shoulder pain come back, I’d also realized some upper pec tightness as well. And by December, I could tell that my scapular range of motion was even more limited than it was in 2017 when I was training with way more volume and intensity.
While all this is going on, I also started to realize the asymmetry between my breast implants was becoming more pronounced.
Everything looked and felt normal when I just standing there, but when I would do any type of pressing, pulling, or chest fly motion, the right implant would jump up much higher and tighter than the left one.
I started noticing this a couple of years ago when my shoulder problems began, but I thought my lack of scapular control was causing me to engage my chest in order to get things done, so I sort of brushed it off as a firing problem.
But more recently, this chest tightness had actually become painful and inhibitory. Additionally, I had begun having ulnar nerve problems on my right side as well. If I raised my arms into a “T”, I would have tingling all the way down my arm into my pinky finger.
In short, it was become more and more apparent that not only did I have a shoulder thing, my boob was now in the way of my shoulder thing and making it worse.
This could have been from a capsular contracture or because the pocket of my breast implant and shifted. Either way, I KNEW I wanted these things gone.
THE FIRST DECISION: REMOVING MY IMPLANTS
Any plastic surgeon will tell you that breast implants are not a lifelong thing.
Most recommend to have them replaced every 5 to 10 years due to shifting, gravity, weight gain or loss, or possibly a bad initial procedure.
The typical answer for most women is a breast implant revision surgery, where the old implants and scar tissue are removed, the pocket is shifted as needed using a few cool techniques, and a brand new set of implants are then inserted.
But I knew that wasn’t the answer for me.
Because I feel like I have missed out on three years of my athletic career already, I was 100% sure that I didn’t want to chance that again.
There would be no revision. The only possible solution in my head was complete removal of the implants to ensure that I would never have this problem again.
THE SECOND DECISION: LIFTING MY SKIN
As you can probably imagine, when the breast implants and capsule of scar tissue are removed, there will only be lots of empty, saggy skin left on my chest.
As I bet you can also imagine, this was not ok with me.
I don’t need big boobs, but I was not okay with the option to have a completely flat and empty chest with saggy skin dangling.
This is where my first emotional hiccup came in. As it turns out, the standard procedure for removing saline implants is simply to drain them, remove the casing, and let your skin hang out for a while to see if your skin shrinks back up a bit. Then after 6 weeks, the decision is usually made as to whether the patient would like a breast lift or another set of implants.
As someone who usually takes pride in their ability to be my own person and “not care about what everyone thinks”, I certainly did NOT want to walk around with saggy empty skin for 6 weeks to wait this out.
For one, it seemed like a lot of time wasted. Secondly, I already know that I have crappy skin elasticity. I get stretch marks easily, and my first set of implants had already dropped a bit since I got them 7 years ago.
This whole “drain and wait” method just wasn’t going to happen for me.
So ultimately, we decided that a breast lift was going to take place.
In short, this means that they cut around your nipple, “lift it” by pulling the skin surrounding it downward, and then cutting off the excess skin.
THE THIRD DECISION: FILLING MY SKIN
So at this point, while I was happy we could lift the breasts, I wasn’t too happy with the fact that they really wouldn’t be “breasts”. I would have nice high perky nipples and nothing else.
Since I’ve already decided against implants, this is where the fat transfer procedure comes in.
They would take fat from another part of my body and insert it into my breast tissue.
On my body, the locations with fat to take from were my love handles and my lower abdomen. And even then, the doctor wasn’t entirely sure we would have enough to make a very full A-cup, but it would be at least SOMETHING to fill out a small bra.
The idea of having fat injected into my breast seemed ok.
The idea of having liposuction to achieve this was the hardest decision of all.
This is where I realized what a true asshole I have been.
You see, my whole life I have always judged people who got liposuction.
Other than extreme weight loss cases or mothers whose bodies had been destroyed by pregnancy, it seemed like a cop out. If you elected to have liposuction before dieting, training, and learning about what the human body is capable of, I thought you were lazy.
Or, if you truly were in decent shape and elected to get lipo, I judged you because you were someone who needed to have a few pounds of fat sucked out in order to feel validated and you were probably emotionally weak or insecure.
And yet, there I was, about to have fat sucked out of my body in order to have the boobs of a 16-year-old rather than a 9-year-old. The difference between a training bra and a small A-cup.
As you can imagine this fucked with my head pretty bad. I am embarrassed by how much I judged people for fat removal, when I’m the one who wants fat injected.
This becomes even more stupid because I’ve already had breast implants (so obviously I care how I look), I have never judged people who got nose jobs or or other non-fat-related things (which is still entirely cosmetic), and I have always said that people should be free to dress and look how they want (how is this not any different?).
I never publicly said any of this, but it’s honestly how I felt. Every time I saw another Kardashian Brazilian Butt Lift, all I could think about was why these ladies hadn’t tried just growing glutes on their own with heavy squats instead of being lazy and not trying?
Anyway, apologies if I offended anyone here. I now see the error in my ways.
ALREADY JUDGED OTHERS, NOW JUDGING MYSELF
Completely objectively in terms of the surgical outcome, the procedure was going to give me exactly what I wanted: no more foreign objects in my body, and small boobs that I would be happy with.
It was decided that I would have the following five-hour procedure, with the steps performed in this order:
1) Liposuction of fat from my abdomen and flanks
2) Breast implant and capsule removal
3) Breast lift
4) Fat transfer into the breasts
But now I was feeling like a fraud of a fitness professional.
I have dieted down for the bodybuilding stage many times. I have coached many people to do the same thing. I have the knowledge and discipline to take whatever fat I needed off of my body at any time I truly desired.
Why was having it sucked out of me so damn difficult?
When I told the guys I work with at 3DMJ about my procedure, I let them know I had decided that I could never compete in bodybuilding again without feeling like a cheater. (They assured me this made no sense, but emotionally I just don’t have it in me.)
I also envisioned the next time I am at the pool or beach with someone who knows that I’ve had this procedure and being harshly judged in the same way I previously judged others. (Even more so if they are also a fellow fitness professional.)
It makes no sense, but I never felt these negative emotions about my breast implants. I suppose it’s because there is literally nothing I can do to enlarge my breast naturally, while I am fully aware that most people can lose fat naturally with a little hard work. Hence, why I associated liposuction with people who had “taken the easy way out”.
But after being one of these people who is having a very complicated procedure in the name of cosmetics, I suppose I have no room to decide what is or isn’t valid in someone else’s eyes.
I am not above anyone else, even though I let myself think I am sometimes.
I work hard to bring myself down to earth, but apparently I still have a long way to go.
Sure, there are some women who feel they need a full face of heavy makeup and matching outfits to go to the gym. I find myself judging them often. But I am not above them and am trying to be better about this. If that is what they need to feel confident, then so be it.
While they like feeling pretty at the gym, I like feeling strong at the gym. And I am not above doing dumb shit and possibly injuring myself to feel strong, which has definitely happened before and is really stupid.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is everyone has their thing they need to feel how they want to feel.
As an athlete, I needed these breast implants removed and out of my way.
As a woman, I need to have fat sucked out of my midsection and put into my breasts.
I have accepted this now and can tell all of you about it, but it hasn’t been easy for me.
JUST PAYING IT FORWARD
Hopefully someone else facing a similar decision is helped by this piece, as there were a couple other ladies with online articles who helped me as well.
Without fail, people will judge me as I judged others before me, and I’ve ultimately come to terms with that.
I now have a new-found respect for the complexities that come with decisions like this, and I would be doing myself a disservice if I tried to hide this procedure or story from anyone.
Thanks for letting me share it with you 🙂
(P.S. – As I had hoped, I don’t even look all that wildly different. Unless I wear a super tight tank top, which I never really do anyways, you can’t even tell I had a procedure. I am very satisfied with my small, perky breasts and slightly narrower waist as a byproduct. But I am MOST happy with the opportunity to get my shoulder back to health without any obstruction. While I still have a long road of rehab before making my shoulders symmetrical again after all these years, I am free of pec pain and my constant ulnar nerve tingle. Whoop!)