I got an arm lift… and now I'm going sleevelessJanuary 12, 2023
I got an arm lift… and now I’m going sleeveless for the first time in a decade
- I’ve always felt embarrassed by my out-of-proportion, chunky upper arms
- I’m ashamed to admit that I have used photo-editing apps to slim them down
- But now my arms are smaller and will keep shrinking until they’re fully healed
- READ MORE: I’m proof you CAN get rid of bingo wings
Hot pink, figure-hugging and, more importantly, strapless. There couldn’t have been a bolder expression of my newfound self-confidence than the dress I chose for my friend’s recent wedding.
For the first time in more than a decade, I was daring to bare the part of my body I had doggedly kept under wraps. My arms.
I’ve always felt embarrassed by my out-of-proportion, chunky upper arms that, in my opinion, simply didn’t match my size 8 body.
I would always position myself behind my husband, Rob, or friends for photos, careful to conceal my arms behind theirs.
Hot pink, figure-hugging and, more importantly, strapless. There couldn’t have been a bolder expression of my newfound self-confidence than the dress I chose for my friend’s recent wedding
I’m ashamed to admit that I have even used photo-editing apps to slim them down for social media posts.
So, what changed? Last September, I became one of very few people in Britain to undergo a highly specialised arm lift procedure costing to remove the stubborn excess skin and fat once and for all.
It’s major surgery, very painful, will take six months to fully heal and — due to my insistence on returning to work too soon — resulted in complications. But my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.
Now 35, I have joined the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Halle Berry and even the Princess of Wales, who all boast beautiful, naturally sculpted arms. And I haven’t so much as lifted a dumbbell.
I was so thrilled with how I looked in my hot pink frock that I posted pictures of myself from every angle — showing shots of my arms I’d never imagined I’d be happy about.
For the first time in more than a decade, I was daring to bare the part of my body I had doggedly kept under wraps. My arms
There’ll be plenty who question why on earth I’d put myself through such a gruelling procedure. It’s certainly no quick and easy Botox or lip filler (I’m no stranger to either). But I’m sure there will be just as many women desperate to follow suit.
There’s something about the arms that makes you feel particularly self-conscious. Many women dread the onset of so-called bingo wings, especially as perfectly sculpted arms seem to be everywhere you turn. As a TV presenter who often interviews stars on the red carpet, I’m perhaps even more aware of the trend for toned and taut.
In this line of work, you’re also more conscious of your appearance in general. I have trolls commenting daily on my supposed eye bags and thinning hairline, so I’ve always ensured my arms were covered so as not to attract further criticism. The trouble is, as experts agree, this is the most difficult part of the body to alter through diet or exercise.
While I have yo-yoed from a size 6 to 16 and back over the years, the only part of my body I’ve ever truly hated is my arms. No matter my size, my upper arms always remained two to three sizes larger than the rest of me, throwing the proportions of my body out of kilter.
I first noticed when I started dressing up to go out with friends in my late teens. I didn’t receive nasty comments, but that’s probably because I always wore sleeves so as not to draw attention to my arms.
Over the years I have tried every crash diet, exercise regime, ‘fat freezing’ treatment and cream going. Nothing made the slightest difference. As so many personal trainers say, it’s not possible to ‘spot lose’ — that is, target fat in a specific area. And it turns out that the very last place I lose fat is from my arms.
Even covering up is fraught with issues. Long-sleeved dresses and jumpsuits are few and far between — particularly if your taste runs to sexy, glittery and glam, as mine does. And finding garments that fit my 26in waist, as well as stretching around my plus-size arms, was challenging.
Brands often send me outfits to wear on TV and I can sense the shock when I tell them I’m a size 6 to 8, but that if the arms are close-fitting they’ll need to send me at least a size 12.
How often have I gone shopping and slipped a gorgeous little number on over my head, only to be unable to get the arms on any higher than my elbows? It’s no mean feat getting out of that situation elegantly in a small changing room, let me tell you.
The only small comfort has been knowing I’m not alone. My mum has the same body type, as did my nan, and a lot of women have a complex about their upper arms. It’s simply where I put on fat — for some women it’s their bums or stomach.
My arms even dominated my wedding plans last year. For the occasion, at London’s Dorchester Hotel in the sweltering heat of early summer, I was sure to cloak them in voluminous, tailor-made silk to avoid any possible bad angles ruining the pictures.
And even though I adored my wedding day, it was around this time that my resolve to finally deal with this issue stiffened.
I had already heard of arm lifts, or brachioplasty, but was put off by the potential risk of scarring from the elbow to armpit. Then, early last year, during one of my regular Google searches for new arm procedures, I started to see mentions of a less invasive procedure, dubbed a ‘mini’ arm lift.
A standard brachioplasty involves two incisions from armpit to elbow. The loose skin is removed and the skin stitched together along that line — leaving a long scar on each arm.
With a mini brachioplasty, however, there is a single incision under the armpit through which skin and fat is removed. It meant you’d just be left with one small scar under each armpit, invisible from almost every angle.
My husband supported my choice, as he always does. I’m no stranger to cosmetic treatments — I love a bit of lip filler and have regular Botox treatments. My attitude is: ‘Why not, if it makes you happy?’ But an arm lift isn’t an injectable — it’s full-on plastic surgery, and I was nervous.
I searched and searched for the right doctor to perform the procedure, which is relatively rare in the UK. According to BAAPS (the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons), only 178 UK women had a brachioplasty in 2021, and the mini brachioplasty is not even listed.
Finally, after speaking to several doctors, I found Dr Paul Tulley at the London Welbeck Hospital, one of just a handful of UK specialists in the procedure.
I knew he was the one for me because he really listened and was the only one to say he’d rather do the mini arm lift on me. In fact, he flat out refused to do a full brachioplasty.
Admittedly, not everyone can have a mini arm lift — the key factors are the elasticity of your skin, which decreases with age, and the amount the arms need to be reduced.
I was to have my arms reduced by just a few dress sizes (by removing 140 cubic centimetres of fat from each arm and 5cm of skin) and, although saggier than it should be at my age, my skin was still relatively elastic, so had a good chance of ‘bouncing back’.
I decided to have the procedure in winter, as I’d be in a compression garment for six weeks after surgery. This way, I wouldn’t have to face discomfort during hot weather. And, with a six-month healing process, my arms would be in perfect form for my honeymoon, which we delayed until this year. Would an arm lift be worth the money? Absolutely.
When the day finally arrived, my husband accompanied me to the hospital at 7am. The nurses said they’d never seen anyone so excited to have surgery.
I had all sorts of tests and checks, and Dr Tulley marked my body to show exactly what he was planning to do and to make sure I was still happy to go ahead before taking me down to theatre.
Along with the mini brachioplasty, I had liposuction to avoid any ‘armpit cleavage’ that can reside above the bra line.
When I came around in my compression garment, I felt no initial pain due to the morphine. But I was groggy and uncomfortable and aware I couldn’t really move.
Having the drains removed was agony, due to my sutures being so tight. But by the time Rob drove me home around 9pm that night, I was feeling almost as positive as when I’d got there that morning.
I slept in the spare room for two weeks, because I’d been told to sleep on my back with my arms elevated. I fashioned a throne of pillows and slept semi-upright for most of that fortnight.
I spent the first week doing nothing. Rob cleaned my wounds and washed and brushed my hair for me. Yes, I married an angel.
When we removed my compression garment for a few minutes at the end of that week, I was black and blue from elbow to armpit, and across my chest. I’d been prepared for this, so didn’t worry.
By the second week, I could move more, bathe very carefully, and just about get myself into button-up shirts.
While realistically, I should still have done absolutely nothing, I forced myself out at the end of that week to cover the National Television Awards. While I was there, I felt a pain under one of my arms and the next day woke up with the compression garment under my armpit full of blood.
I was due to have my sutures removed at the clinic that day anyway, and they told me I’d split the skin around some of them. It turned out repeatedly holding the mic towards celebs on the red carpet was too much, too soon.
I was patched back together with steri strips and sent home with an extra week of antibiotics and firm instructions not to overdo it, and since then, my recovery has been smooth. Just four weeks on, my arms looked amazing, and when I had the photoshoot for this article eight weeks after surgery, I already felt I couldn’t be happier.
Now, three months on, you can’t see the scars at all with my arms down. Even if you were to look directly at my armpit, you’d just see a flat, red line through the crease, which will fade to white and become almost invisible.
My arms are so much smaller, and will keep shrinking until they’re fully healed in another three months.
Now, I finally have arms that fit my figure. In the summer, I’ll jet off on holiday to hot countries without packing voluminous cover-ups. I can go on nights out and dance with my hands in the air wearing strappy dresses, and I’ll never stoop to delete unflattering photos or crop parts of myself out of the frame ever again.
Interview by Libby Galvin
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