When David Mouland summited Katahdin last year, he carried along some extra baggage as a reminder of some baggage he’d lost.
The 57-year-old Ellsworth auto shop owner has lost 241 pounds since 2011, and a photo of him holding his old size 56 pants on top of Maine’s highest peak is his reminder of that journey.
“I’ve never felt better,” Mouland said. “I’ve got my life back.”
Mouland got to his current 291 pounds — much of it solid muscle — through diet, exercise and cosmetic surgery.
After losing the weight, Mouland said, he was left with massive folds of loose skin that were uncomfortable, unsightly and impeded his new active lifestyle.
That’s where Dr. Benjamin Liliav and the Eastern Maine Medical Center Cosmetic Surgery Center came in.
“Cosmetic surgery is a very viable option for any patient leading a healthy lifestyle,” Liliav said. “It does not always have to do with looks. It has to do with functionality and having an improvement of functionality.”
Procedures such as face lifts or “nose jobs” are often viewed by society as vain, image enhancers, but Liliav said they also have major medical benefits.
“Face lifts with nasal surgery or rhinoplasty can significantly improve a person’s ability to breath and eliminate any nasal issues they may have had,” he said. “So although it is seen as an aesthetic procedure, there is a significant benefit from a functional standpoint.”
Body contouring is another popular procedure and is what brought Mouland into Liliav’s office.
“We have patients [like David] who lose 100 to 300 pounds and then are stuck in the body that has a significant amount of skin that hangs everywhere,” Liliav said. “So despite the weight loss they are not allowed to lead a normal life.”
Patients such as Mouland, Liliav said, tell him they thought they’d be done when the weight came off.
“They thought they’d be thin like they once were,” Liliav said. “But because of all that excess skin they have decreased mobility issues and can’t wear normal clothes.”
For Mouland, completing his dramatic weight loss goal has meant four operations by Liliav over the past year to remove 19 pounds of skin.
“When I talked to Dr. Liliav, he really talked about safety in terms of the procedures and, of course, the risks,” Mouland said. “But in the end it really made sense to get it done.”
A big part of Mouland’s exercise regime is running, and he said all that loose skin really got in the way.
“I’d be running a 5K, and it was just flapping all over the place,” he said. “When you’ve lost all that weight and then look down and see all that skin hanging down, it can be really depressing.”
Liliav believes there has been a major paradigm shift in society when it comes to cosmetic surgery that has made it easier for patients such as Mouland to consider it.
“Thirty years ago society looked at it as something Hollywood stars or rich people,” he said. “Now it is becoming more of a common procedure for individuals who can see the functional benefits and view it as a life changing experience.”
Eileen, a 65-year-old Bangor area resident who did not want to use her full name, said she made the decision to undergo cosmetic surgery in 2011 after years of back pain.
“I’d been going to a chiropractor for years but it was not helping,” she said. “X-rays showed I did have some bone degeneration, but I also decided to have breast reduction because that could help with some of the muscle pain.”
Eileen’s breast-reduction surgery, which is considered cosmetic, took her from a size double-D to a B, and she could not be happier.
“I only wish I had done it sooner,” she said. “It’s just so much easier to do everything now, and I feel so much better.”
That feeling of a patient’s wishing to have done it sooner is quite common, Liliav said, adding it’s never too late to consider cosmetic surgery.
“There is no age limit. More and more we are seeing individuals in their 70s and 80s wanting a face lift because with advances in technology people are living longer and they want to look younger longer,” he said. “There are women who are done with having babies and may want to have their breasts reshaped to look and feel better.”
When considering cosmetic surgery, Liliav advises a person research a variety of doctors, check out what procedures in which they specialize and make sure they are board certified by the American Association of Plastic Surgeons. Liliav does stress that cosmetic surgery in and of itself is not always the answer to a person’s well-being and self image.
“I tell my patients having the surgery is only part of a whole process,” he said. “I also recommend healthy habits, exercise, not smoking, good diet and all the things to lead a healthy life, because once your body is changed [through cosmetic surgery] you should maintain it.”
Mouland has no intentions of going back to his 473-pound weight after all his hard work and the hourslong operations during which Liliav literally sliced, rolled up and removed the pounds of excess skin.
“I’ve worked too hard to get here and feel this good,” Mouland said. “No way I am giving that up.”
That is music to Liliav’s ears.
“I look for people with a positive outlook on life and who really care about the whole picture,” he said. “They can’t look at cosmetic surgery as a quick fix, but as a way to complete a process in the life they want to lead.”