Actress Ariel Winter recently opened up to Glamour about her breast-reduction surgery. (Photo: Getty Images/Axelle/Bauer-Griffin)
Like a million other developing young girls, a few years ago, Modern Family actress Ariel Winter longed for the curves that give a womanly, hourglass shape. But when her desire for breasts was suddenly fulfilled, in a big way, it wasn’t what she imagined it would be.
“I remember being in my sister’s wedding and being so flat and thinking, ‘I just wish I would grow boobs!’ and then overnight I did,” the 17-year-old recalled to Glamour.com. “But then they kept growing and growing and growing and it didn’t seem like they were going to stop. … I was 15 years old with [size] F [breasts]. It’s like, ‘How do you navigate that?’”
After back and neck problems from standing on set all day, a slew of online bullying about the size of her chest, and trouble with her self-esteem, Winter underwent breast reduction surgery on June 4. She decided to size down from a 32F to a 34D.
For Winter, the change was immediate and profound. “Once the surgery was completed, I can’t even explain the feeling,” she told Glamour.com. “I was buying clothes and crying as I put them on, I was so happy. You just feel so relieved and excited. You feel like a new person.”
Susan K. Boolbol, MD, FACS, chief in the Division of Breast Surgery at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, says Winter is at just the right age to begin thinking about a breast reduction for struggles ranging from physical pain to poor body image.
“You definitely want to hold off until the breasts stop developing, which is different for everyone,” Boolbol tells Yahoo Health. “At 13, I wouldn’t be considering something like this. But generally, by the time you enter your late teens, it’s a reasonable option for young women who are uncomfortable with their breasts.”
Since it’s a very adult decision to alter the size of your breasts, Boolbol recommends girls to be as close to adulthood (roughly age 18) as possible before opting for surgery. Cutting into breast tissue as the chest is still developing can impact nipple sensation and the ability to breastfeed later on, something a surgeon will discuss at an evaluation.
That said, Boolbol says most women do recover fully, and the benefits generally outweigh the risks. Practical factors are also a major consideration in the decision to have a surgery and its timing. “Self-esteem is a big one,” days Boolbol. “Breast size really does impact the way women and girls feel about themselves everyday, and the way they fit into clothes. If a girl is very athletic and sports-oriented, she may also consider a reduction if her breasts are getting in the way and impeding her ability to play.”
Then there are the neck and back problems that come with that extra weight, which Boolbol says can accumulate and take a painful toll over time. “At some point, just like we’ve done with breast reconstruction, we have to stop thinking about breast reduction as just a cosmetic surgery. It’s much deeper than that,” she explains. “The physical issues are real. If a girl in her late teens is fully developed and has large breasts that don’t change size again until the 50s or 60s, that’s a lot of strain on the back and neck.”
Boolbol says a breast surgeon will discuss sizing considerations with any woman thinking about a reduction, and doctor and patient will generally agree on measurement that feels comfortable and proportional for her body type. Tissue is removed concentrically from each breast, so the basic breast shape and structure remains as unaffected as possible. Boolbol says recovery time is generally seven to 10 days, where you’re back to work in a week and exercising normally in just a few weeks’ time.
“From personal experience, all the women I’ve treated that have had a breast reduction are enormously happy with their decision,” says Boolbol. “It can be life-changing. They become more active, their clothes fit better — it literally impacts so many factors that we know help make women feel better about themselves. We know these body image issues affect every part of your life without realizing it, and breast size is a big part of that.”
Winter certainly seems to agree that a breast reduction can be hugely transformative: “It’s amazing to finally feel right,” she gushed to Glamour.com. “This is how I was supposed to be.”
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