Weight loss seems like an easy alternative to breast reduction surgery. After all, breasts are made up largely of fatty tissue, so when you lose fat, it seems logical that you'll lose a proportion of your breasts. Breasts do get smaller when you lose weight, but you can't be guaranteed as to how much you lose, and you can't target them for weight loss. Your body mobilizes fat from all over your body during weight loss, not just the area you want. If you're overweight, losing weight can definitely improve your health. But, unless you have a significant amount of weight to lose, you can't be sure it will act as an automatic breast reduction.
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Breast Tissue Breakdown
A woman's chest consists mostly of fatty tissue. The larger your bust size, the more fat you're carrying in your chest. Ducts and lobules, the other types of breast tissue, are glandular and necessary for breastfeeding. The ratio of fat to duct and lobule tissue in your breasts is genetic, and you can't tell what that ratio is without a mammogram or other imaging. Skinny woman who naturally have large breasts are just genetically inclined to carry a greater amount of fat in their chest, just like other women carry more fat in their hips or thighs. Breast fat is subcutaneous fat, the type of fat that sits right under the skin. Subcutaneous fat is healthier than metabolically active visceral fat that sits deep in the belly and promotes inflammation and risk of disease.
Breast Fat's Impact
Large breasts aren't always a genetic blessing. If you have symptomatic macromastia, the clinical term for physical problems occurring because of large breasts, you may experience chronic neck, back and shoulder pain. Additional complications include headaches, a slouched posture and chafing or rashes along your bra line and under the straps. Some women develop grooves at the tops of their shoulders where the bra straps sit, caused by holding up the heavy weight of the chest. Extreme symptomatic macromastia can cause sleep disturbances as well as interfere with exercise. The symptoms are similar to arthritis, disk problems, thoracic outlet syndrome and sleep apnea.
Large amounts of breast fat don't raise your risk of disease. But, when a woman has a body mass index in the overweight or obese category and large breasts, she also tends to store more visceral fat in the belly area. Visceral fat raises your risk of developing some cancers, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Large breasts on heavy women indicates a pattern of fat storage that is unhealthy. It's not the breast fat that's the problem, but the way in which she carries fat in general.
How You Lose Fat
Fat tissue in the breasts acts like other fat in your body when it comes to changes in weight. The fat cells swell when you put on pounds and shrink when you lose them. Fat loss happens when you create a calorie deficit, meaning you eat fewer calories than you burn daily. Your body sense this deficit and mobilizes fat from fat cells to use for energy. Which fat cells your body decides to use for energy isn't directed by your diet or any certain exercise, but by your genetic pattern for weight loss. The last place you gain weight is often the first place you lose it. You can't designate weight loss to your breasts; weight loss there is a side effect of comprehensive weight loss.
Create a calorie deficit by trimming calories from what you eat and burning calories with physical activity. You might want to lose fat fast, but remember that a 1- to 2-pound-per-week loss rate is safest and most manageable. This rate requires a 500- to 1,000-calorie deficit per day, since a pound equals 3,500 calories. Exercise to burn an extra 250 to 500 calories and trim 250 to 500 calories from your meals daily to achieve this rate of fat loss. If you lose weight faster, you may have to resort to extreme measures that endanger your health and energy. You'll also drop more muscle and water weight, not actual fat. Muscle and water don't makes up your breasts' composition.
Breast Loss Possibility
If you have massive amounts of weight to lose, your breasts will definitely reduce along with the rest of the fat tissue in your body. But, it generally takes losing at least 20 percent of your total body weight to lose a whole cup size. If you weigh 150 pounds, you'll need to lose 30 pounds to notably affect your chest. Women who have a greater amount of duct and lobule tissue may notice even less of a reduction with weight loss, because it's only breast fat that you lose when your body size shrinks.
Extreme weight loss when you're obese isn't a cure-all for heavy breasts either. The skin surrounding the breast tissue has expanded with your weight and doesn't just retract back when you lose weight. The collagen and elastin that give your skin its springiness have stretched out, and you end up with flatter, droopier breasts. Stretched-out skin of the breasts is heavy and means you may still suffer some of the discomfort of large breasts, even after losing weight.
Exercise for Your Breasts
Exercise strengthens muscles and burns calories. Cardiovascular exercise that increases your daily calorie deficit can help you lose weight and some of the fat tissue in your chest, and elsewhere. Aim for at least 250 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise, such as power walking or swimming laps, to lose weight, advises the American College of Sports Medicine.
Your breasts don't have any muscle in them, however, so chest presses, flyes and other "breast-reducing" chest exercises aren't going to do much but strengthen the pectoral muscles that lie behind your breasts. Total body resistance training can help your weight-loss efforts, though. Do at least two sessions per week to address all the major muscle groups. This increases your percentage of lean muscle mass, raising your metabolism and makes weight loss easier.
In the case of bodybuilders and figure competitors, the breast area may seem firmer and more compact due to exercise. This isn't because these women have miraculously worked their breasts; they just have such low levels of body fat that their breast composition has altered. Notable amounts of aerobic exercise, such as that performed by endurance athletes, can affect breast size too, but again, it's because of the extreme reduction in body fat.
Alleviate Pain Associated With Large Breasts
If your breasts are causing severe symptoms that interfere with daily life and body health, talk to your doctor about surgical alternatives. If surgery isn't an option, over-the-counter pain relief, chiropractic visits, physical therapy, heat treatment and massage may help to relieve symptoms temporarily.
Mammaplasty, the technical term for breast reduction surgery, removes excess breast fat and some glandular tissue, explains the American Society for Plastic Surgery. It can help make your breasts more in proportion with the rest of your body, but you have to be physically healthy and experience serious discomfort as a result of your chest to be a candidate. Any surgery is invasive and carries risks, so be sure to cover any concerns in a thorough discussion with your doctor.
- Shape: 5 Factors That Determine Breast Type
- Plos Blogs: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Breast Fat But Were Afraid to Ask
- American Society of Plastic Surgeons: Female Breast Reduction: When Less is More
- American Council on Exercise: Why is the Concept of Spot Reduction Considered a Myth?
- National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Weight Loss and Nutrition Myths
- Shape: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Your Boobs
- American Society of Plastic Surgeons: Breast Reduction
- American College of Sports Medicine: ACSM Position Stand on Physical Activity and Weight Loss