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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 October 2007, 10:55 GMT 11:55 UK
Suck it and see
Louis Theroux

He wanted to explore California's obsession with plastic surgery, but Louis Theroux is never one to stand on the sidelines... and, despite his lean frame, ended up getting some work done himself. Was it worth it?

I've always thought of myself as being quite lanky and skinny.

So when, in the course of making a documentary on Beverly Hills plastic surgery, one of the doctors gave me an impromptu consultation and told me I'd be a "pretty good candidate" for liposuction, I was surprised - and maybe a tiny bit put out.

The consultation took the form of him pinching and squeezing the flab around my torso and back for a few minutes. I'd agreed to it half in jest - yet he was quite serious.

The issue, he explained, wasn't weight loss, my weight was fine but I was "disproportionate". My fat was unevenly distributed round my body and I had too much on my belly.

I didn't think too much more about it. But later, when I looked at the unedited film footage of the scene, I realized I did look a bit flabby.

Plastic surgeon Dr David Amron and Louis Theroux
Theroux and his surgeon Dr David Amron, prior to the op
I was pretty confident I could get rid of the flab through diet and exercise. But then again, I'd wanted to get a procedure myself, as a way of participating in the story, and this might be it. I had been thinking more along the lines of botox.

After all, where was the harm in it? Some journalists risk life and limb investigating human rights violations in far-off countries. I would be getting some of my fat taken out - and paying about $5,000 (2,500) of my own money to do so.

The worst that could happen would be it might look a bit lumpy (well, actually the worst would be if I died under the knife, which I guess was possible but extremely unlikely). And it might be an improvement.

On the day itself I was pretty nervous. Most patients take a Valium to calm their nerves, but I wanted to be sober for the filming.

The doctor numbed six incision points. Then, having changed into a tiny posing pouch, a gown and a shower cap I went into the operating room.

For about 24 hours after the operation fluid kept seeping out of my six holes
The operation was under a local anaesthetic - this apparently removes a great deal of the risk. Being awake also meant I could move into different positions on the operating table, allowing the doctor a better angle of entry as he gave me my "body sculpting".

For half-an-hour or so, using long tubular skewers called cannulas, the doctor injected tumescent fluid into the areas he was treating. The fluid works as an anaesthetic and it also helps to dislodge the fat. The "tumescing" took about half an hour and was the most uncomfortable part. There were a few painful pokes and prods.

The actual sucking of the fat was, by comparison, plain sailing. It took about 15 minutes. I could see my blubber coming out in gelatinous lumps and travelling down the transparent tubes as the doctor chiselled away with his cannulas.

The fat was solid and the doctor had to work quite hard to shift it - he told me I was unusually sinewy. It was like watching someone carving a very large and very tough leg of lamb, except the leg of lamb was me.

'Like chicken fat'

By the end he'd managed to suck out about half a kilo, though he said it was a mistake to judge the success of the operation by weight.

Before and after
Louis, before (left) and after the op
It was bright yellow, like chicken fat, tinged with pink from the blood, and suspended in the tumescent fluid. They let me hold a pouch full of my fat at the end of the operation. I had a vague urge to take it home with me as a memento, but this did not seem to be an option.

I walked out of the doctor's offices wearing baggy sweat clothes, with an elasticated corset underneath to keep everything in place. Under the corset I had pads to absorb the excess tumescent fluid.

For about 24 hours after the operation tumescent fluid kept seeping out of my six holes and, though I wasn't in pain, I had to be careful how I slept and how I bent down. I kept the corset on for about two weeks, and I was still tender for some time after that.

Several months on, with swelling down and the healing complete, my abdomen is leaner and more sculpted. My doughnut is basically gone. Though I haven't had many compliments - and I won't be standing in for Brad Pitt any time soon - it does definitely look better.

So would I consider getting something else done? I doubt it. I don't feel it looks so much better that it warrants all the pain and the expense, and I still feel that I could have made almost as big a difference through diet and exercise.

Also, weird as it may sound, I miss the old me a little bit. My belly doesn't feel like it's 100% me any more. I'm not sure if it's because it doesn't look totally natural, or maybe because I know it's been "lipo-sculpted".

Still, I don't regret getting it done. It's just one more of life's experiences.

Louis Theroux: Under the knife is on Sunday at 2100BST on BBC Two


Add your comments on this story, using the form below.

Inexcusable. How many vainglorious people will now been drawn towards the surgeon's scalpel without any true medical reasons?
Malcolm, Altrincham

Fair play to you. Putting your money where your mouth is. A very admirable quality. It even made me think about having lipo for a minute, but I'll stick to the gym.
Rory, London, UK

I think the doctor was irresponsible to advise Louis to have this procedure. The photos show that Louis is a slim man who has probably got a bit of tum through age and lifestyle (who hasn't?). It's all too easy to change the bits we don't like in our lunchhour, but for some people the fundamental issue or problem underlying the procedure will remain and they will be particularly vulnerable to this type of cynical marketing. Surgeons like this one won't care about changing diets and lifestyles as these procedures give them a very nice income!
Sarah, London

It would be interesting to know if the fat creeps back. I would love to have my "love handles" sorted and also my belly but have reservations as to whether the fat returns with a vengance to theplaces it was removed from. You are a truly brave man Louis, well done you!
Carol Murphy, Surrey

Fat is naturally deposited around the body in various parts. It's what the body does. Just because it offends the aesthetics of Californian body fetishists doesn't mean it's wrong. It's perfectly right. The ONLY way to remove fat should be to diet and exercise. Assuming a person has mobility, the only reason why they would get this done is chronic idleness.
Nik, London, UK

Was it really totally healed? Or was there a small but unsightly indentation that he'll have forever, as is the case with friends of mine who've had this procedure. This kind of programme seems largely a waste of BBC money to me: I can't see that yet another programme about having cosmetic surgery is going to add much to the viewer's knowledge of health matters.
John Gammon, Brighton, UK

Quick-fix "solutions" like liposuction lack the lasting benefits that you get from improving your diet and exercise programme. Developing a sustainable healthy lifestyle enables you to achieve the health and fitness levels that you want together with creating a body shape that you comfortable and happy with.
Karl Chads, London, UK

Very admirable and brave. But I notice Louis chose not to get fully involved in his programme on prostitution citing he didn't want to get to involved with the subject. Any reason why filming with plastic surgeons is different?
John, South Africa

I have very recently had large lipo to my stomach hips and waist and must say I think it was worth the discomfort and the money. I have got my waist back and I can see me feet again, so do feel quite pleased with the result!
Carol Gower, Lowestoft, Suffolk

I have always admired Louis style of journalism. His laissez-faire approach to his subjects always seems to bring the most of out them. He always manages to put his subjects at ease by never judging them at the time, which shows them in their truest light. He also seems to immerse himself in the world of the subject he's filming and it's impressive to see that he has once again put his wholeself (litterally in this case) into another of his documentaries.
DS, Bromley, England

Hmm. An otherwise intellegent, successful person getting voluntarily mutilated. Diet and exercise waved aside for professional reasons, and the thinnest "would I consider getting something else done? I doubt it" and "I miss the old me a little bit" by way of caveat. Sorry, this consitutes a form of endorsement (albeit a wishy-washy one) for an industry that is leaching the world of medical talent and resources to the detriment of societies, and doing damage. The graphic descriptions are part of the endorsement, part of the consumer "trial by fire" technique that marketers & reality shows are so keen on. He only hints at the damage these commercially available voluntary mutilations (sorry, if there's no medical necessity then it's a form of mutilation) do, not only when they go bad, but to impressionable youth. The cultural trends that fuel this industry are perhaps a little more serious than Louis Theroux describes here. Perhaps he doesn't regret the procedure, but he should regret this naff account/endorsement of it.
Eric W., Cambridge

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