Bariatric surgery and plastic surgery help young mother, entrepreneur pursue her dreams

These days, Rachel Ivory is carrying less weight than she used to and feeling confident with her slimmer look and more active lifestyle.

Since 2008, when she underwent gastric bypass surgery at UF Health Shands Hospital, Ivory has been on a mission to revamp her body. Two pregnancies and postpartum depression had taken a toll and she had gained a significant amount of weight.

Ivory, who lives in Crystal River, Florida, was tired of being obese and missing important experiences, such as playing at the park with her children or going horseback riding — a favorite hobby — with her husband.

The gastric bypass surgery, performed by Juan Cendan, M.D., who was then a UF bariatric surgeon, helped her shed most of the weight, taking her down from 289 pounds to about 140 pounds.

As is typical for people who have lost massive amounts of weight, Ivory had lots of excess skin. This skin sometimes became chapped, which was irritating and also set the stage for a potential skin infection.

In addition, Ivory was bothered by the way she looked.

“I still didn’t feel pretty and I didn’t feel sexy, because of all the loose skin,” she explained. “It was making me feel depressed again.”

Ivory began exploring the idea of body contouring, which is a form of plastic surgery, to remove the excess skin. After an initial consultation with a private practice plastic surgeon who made her feel pressured and rushed, Ivory asked the UF Health bariatric surgery team and her own general physician for recommendations.

Both mentioned Bruce Mast, M.D., who then worked in private practice, as one of the area’s top plastic surgeons. Before running his own practice, Mast had served as an assistant professor of surgery at UF from 1995 to 2000.

Ivory appreciated Mast’s attention to her own goals for her body, as well as his no-pressure approach while she gathered information and considered her options.

Eventually, she decided to move forward with a combined lower body lift and tummy tuck.

“I wanted to get what they call the mother’s apron off my belly and get some tightening up, because my skin was really, really loose,” she said.

Happy with the results of the initial plastic surgery, Ivory has opted to undergo several more procedures to trim fat and excess skin, including a breast reduction to remove baggy skin, breast implants to return fullness to her breasts, an upper thigh liftliposuction of her lower body and, finally, excess skin removal on the lower body.

“It’s what I call my mommy makeover,” Ivory said.

In 2010, Mast rejoined the division of plastic and reconstructive surgery in the UF College of Medicine’s department of surgery, this time as chief of the division, a professor and the Maurice J. Jurkiewicz professor of reconstructive plastic surgery. Mast leads a team of plastic and reconstructive surgeons who practice at UF Health Plastic Surgery and Aesthetics Center located at UF Health Springhill in Northwest Gainesville.

Many of Mast’s patients continued seeing him after the transition, including Ivory, who already knew and trusted UF Health Shands Hospital after giving birth to both her children and undergoing gastric bypass surgery there. Several of her makeover procedures were done at UF Health.

In addition to rejuvenating her look, Ivory said her makeover also has helped in her business endeavors. She and her husband both work as real estate agents and also co-own MVP Clips Haircuts in Crystal River, Florida.

Ivory said she interacts with customers and works more in the front of the store at MVP Clips Haircuts than she would have when she was heavier, and also finds it easier to show properties to real estate clients.

“I probably would’ve just been sitting back in the office doing paper work, not wanting anybody to see me,” she said of her work at the barber shop. “And in real estate, it was kind of tough for me because when I was showing a house, if it was warm out, I just hated being outside and hated walking around. It was just too much exercise.”

Ivory said she is not ashamed to tell others she has had plastic surgery, and offered a bit of encouragement for others considering similar procedures.

“Be yourself,” she said. “Think about you and what you want, and don’t do it for anybody else.”

Learn more about plastic surgery after massive weight loss.