Eric Chopin After NBC's The Biggest Loser
After NBC's "The Biggest Loser" Win: Plastic Surgery
CONSUMER BRIEF: Ever wonder what happened to NBC's "Biggest Loser" Eric Chopin after he bagged a one quarter million dollar prize for losing 214 pounds? Chopin went on to bigger and better things, but first stopped at the office of a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon for a body shaping procedure to get rid of 12 pounds of loose, flapping skin.
When Eric Chopin, now 37, reduced his weight from 407 pounds to a sleek 192 on his six-foot frame in eight months, he set the record weight loss on the hit NBC reality show, "The Biggest Loser." Chopin originally lost 124 pounds at NBC's Biggest Loser camp and then continued working at home to drop another 90. But there's an untold side to Chopin's story -- he needed plastic surgery after the weight loss to make his body appear normal again.
Here's how it happened:
After Winning "The Biggest Loser"
A massive amount of weight stretches a person's skin so much, its ability to rebound is lost. After dropping 150 or even 200 or more pounds, yards of loose skin are usually left behind, hanging on the patient's frame. Sheets of skin rub together, creating health and hygiene problems, in addition to other difficulties. Sitting is especially problematic because your bottom never has a stable surface. The patient might feel cursed with sagging, floppy skin that gets in the way of just about everything - exercise, clothing, comfort, intimate relationships, and self-esteem.
This situation is becoming more common because bariatric surgery - the procedure that surgically reduces stomachs of the massively obese - is one of the fastest growing areas in medicine today. Results? Those operations leave many more patients with too much skin.
The cosmetic plastic surgery procedure to remove loose, hanging skin is known as body shaping, body contouring, or body lifting. Although Chopin was living in New York, he eventually choose Andre Aboolian, M.D., a board certified Beverly Hills plastic surgeon to perform the surgery to remove excess skin from his arms, waist, back, and buttocks. "The television show ended in December, '06," Chopin told iEnhance.com. "And I had the body shaping procedure in March of '07. I had just had it with the loose skin. It was irritating me and flopped around when I ran my daily miles. In a dress shirt, I looked nice and neat at the collar and chest, but then there was this big, sloppy bulge at my waist." Even though Chopin lost more than half his body weight and vastly improved his looks, he still felt uncomfortable taking off his shirt because of the excess skin. Dr. Aboolian says he removed about 12 pounds of skin during an eight-hour procedure. He also performed tumescent liposuction on Chopin's love handles, stomach, and buttocks to remove fat deposits that were highly resistant to diet and exercise.
"After the operation, I noticed how good it felt to not worry about my looks while on a vacation in Cabo San Lucas where most guys go shirtless all day," says Chopin. "I felt totally at ease, whatever I was doing."
Finding the Right Plastic Surgeon for Finishing Touches
"I also discovered something about most people who have plastic surgery: Anybody who is self-conscious about one area of the body is less outgoing and social because he or she is on constantly on guard. After becoming several hundred pounds lighter and having the excess skin removed, I found I was at last really comfortable in my own skin."
New York City is famous for its wide selection of highly qualified plastic surgeons. But eventually, Chopin's personal trainer told him about a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon nick-named "The Body Doctor," who has performed about 500 body shaping operations on healthy, active people. So Chopin returned to California, interviewed Dr. Aboolian, looked at his many before and after pictures of previous body lift patients, and decided this doctor was the surgeon for the job.
"I even called former patients and asked about their experience with Dr. Aboolian," Chopin says.
While in surgery, Chopin received ultrasonic liposuction on his waist, upper arms, back, and buttocks. Although tumescent liposuction involves injecting pain killers and other fluids into the fatty areas that are marked for reduction (making it easier for surgeons to remove fat while leaving patients with less bruising because bleeding is almost completely staunched), ultrasonic liposuction also makes it easier on both surgeons and patients because the technology uses sound waves, in addition to suction, to break up fat cells before aspirating liquidized fat from the body.
One procedure used in body shaping, which Chopin received, also known as belt lipectomy, requires an incision completely around the torso to reshape the abdomen, hips, thighs, and buttocks. Plastic surgeons place the 360-degree incision within the bikini line so the resulting scar is hidden by underwear and most bathing suits.
A Poor Self-Image Before The Show
Chopin became disgusted with his large size long before NBC entered his life.
"I decided in 2004 I was getting rid of my excess weight once and for all and was almost on the operating table in New York for bariatric surgery," Chopin says. "I knew the excess weight was bad for my health. I wanted to buy clothes that are in fashion; I wanted to be in pictures with my family. Plus, I have a wife I love and two little girls, now six and four, and want to be around to walk them down the aisle. There were many times my girls were embarrassed by their 400 pound plus dad.
"And I supposed owning a deli didn't help any," Chopin says. "I sold it after 'The Biggest Loser' ended; I just had to ask myself if I was drawn to food as some sort of obsession or passion. My degree is in accounting so operating a deli is pretty far afield."
The Biggest Loser Contest
"At the last moment before bariatric surgery, my brother told me there was an open casting call for NBC's Biggest Loser," Chopin says. "I thought it might be a better option and had to stand in a line five blocks long for the interview but it turned out to be well worth it."
After Chopin arrived in California and reported to the show's training camp, he discovered he was a type II diabetic with high blood pressure and cholesterol readings, all due to his surplus weight. At the training camp, he worked out four hours daily, running, swimming, and working on a treadmill. In the evenings, he exercised for another hour and worked in weight lifting. He consumed a low-fat 2000 calories diet and saw his waist size slim from 54 to 34 inches.
Removing Excess Skin for a Svelte Figure
"After the body shaping procedure, I had a fairly easy recovery," Chopin says. "Pain was not that bad except for the tightness on the scar that went all the way around my waist.
"Afterwards, I went to an aftercare facility and found the most difficult part was waiting for the swelling to subside. While healing, I kept myself occupied reading and going to movies and then got clearance from the doctor to do some dumbbell work if I could do it without twisting."
Adds Dr. Aboolian: "Most body lift patients fear pain after surgery but it's not as bad as they think. Eric wanted to resume running only five days after the operation because he was afraid of gaining all the weight back. But after a major procedure like body shaping, patients just need to relax."
Dr Aboolian also observes that he can usually see, within two weeks, the changes in self-confidence a plastic surgery procedure makes.
A Happy Ending
Since the weight loss and body shaping, Chopin's diabetes and other health woes are under control. He has taken on a career as a motivational speaker, appearing before large groups to inspire others to get off the dime and get it done - whatever "it" may be.
"I love being an inspiration to others," says Chopin, who now tips the scale at a healthier 235 pounds. "For instance, before the show started, my wife said she saw the handwriting on the wall: I would be the one getting thin and she would be the fat wife at home. So, she joined a gym and lost 60 pounds while I was on the show, going from a size 18 to a 10."