Loose and sagging skin after weight loss is a not-so-delightful side effect of losing large amounts of weight in a short period of time. While it is more common for those who undergo weight-loss surgery to have excess skin, it is also a problem for people who take the traditional diet and exercise route.
Stacy Toth posted this photo of herself on her blog, Paleo Parents, after she lost 135 pounds.
“My poor body has lost its elasticity and shows the many, many years I spent over 300lbs. This is is what happens when you lose and gain and lose several hundred pounds inside half a decade. Not to mention 3 pregnancies, 3 lower abdominal surgeries, and a gall bladder removal.
I am not ashamed. I will not compare myself to those who had a different journey.
Am I mortified at what I did to my body then? Absolutely. Am I proud of what I’ve done to my body now? Without a doubt. Can I change what happened as a result? Only with unnatural medical interventions, and then what do I have to show for my journey? More scars, more emotional trauma, and bills.
But guess what? These things make me who I am. And despite the fact that pants never fit me because designers don’t plan for extra lower abdominal skin, or the fact that I only feel comfortable wearing Spanx every day, I am learning to embrace this skin, these stretchmarks, as being as beautiful and sexy as the healthful changes they represent.”
The unfair truth is that not everyone suffers from loose skin. There are variables that factor into whether you will experience loose skin after losing a bunch of weight:
"Older patients (generally 50 years and over) are at higher risk for getting loose skin after weight loss surgery because their skin is less elastic and less able to recover from the change in size," explained Dr. Ninh T. Nguyen, MD, president-elect of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, in an About.com article.
So if you’ve been carrying around an extra 100 pounds or more for five years, there’s a greater chance of loose skin than, say, a pregnant woman who had an extra 35 pounds for nine months.
According to Tom Venuto, fat-loss expert, transformation coach and bestselling author of "Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle," exercise has a lot to do with how your skin appears after you lose weight.
“If you use very low-calorie diets, you are likely to lose lean body mass, and this is going to exacerbate the loose, hanging skin appearance, he wrote on his website. “On the other hand, if you are exercising regularly and increasing lean body mass with weight training, you will be more likely to minimize the appearance of loose skin, as the muscle literally pushes out on the skin, making it more taut.”
Nutrition has a lot to do with the health of your skin, Venuto says. “Essential fatty acids in particular are very valuable for many reasons, and one of them is for the health of your skin. It would be worth taking an EFA supplement, such as fish oil, flax oil or an oil blend like Udo's choice. Antioxidants are also very important, so be sure to consume copious amounts of a variety of vegetables and fruits. By the way, whey protein is high in a powerful antioxidant called glutathione. Green tea also contains powerful antioxidants and has proven skin-improving benefits. Also pay very close attention to hydration and drink plenty of water.”
If you’re looking to drop 100 pounds or more, be sure to talk to your doctor first. There could be serious health issues that arise if you decide to drop that much weight on your own, including gallstones, a damaged liver and a slow metabolism, making your body go into “survival mode.”
According to the National Institutes of Health, obesity is treated using a diet low in calories, increased physical activity, behavior therapy, prescription medications and/or weight-loss surgery. Your doctor may decide to put you on a low-calorie diet, which allows between 800 to 1,500 calories per day, or if you are extremely obese, a very low-calorie diet allowing only up to 800 calories per day for significant, short-term weight loss. Either way, consult with your doctor first and allow them to monitor you throughout the diet.
Slow and steady weight loss — losing 1 to 2 pounds per week — can help prevent loose skin because it gives the skin more time to regain elasticity and recover and it gives you a better chance of keeping the weight off.
Be sure to combine a cardiovascular workout with strength training so you can burn fat and gain muscle at the same time.
Venuto explains that the key to tighter skin is to "improve your body composition (muscle to fat ratio), and lose more body fat, slowly and sensibly, up to the point where your body composition rating is better than average (in the "good" to "great" category, not just "okay"). Only after you reach your long term body fat percentage goal should you give thought to 'excess skin removal.'"