When you look at before and after pictures in a weight loss ad, you may see a picture of someone holding up a pair of pants that look like they could fit about three of him or her as they are now. It is far less common to see After pictures of a person showing off their loose skin as proof of their weight loss. No one wants to think that their valiant weight loss efforts will have less than stellar results, yet sometimes they do. Here is why dramatic weight loss may leave you less than toned and what you can do about it.
Why Skin Stretches
The biggest factor in your skin’s maintaining its elasticity is how long you were overweight for. Regardless of how long it took you to shed the pounds, the longer skin was stretched for, the less likely it is to snap back.
According to Marie Jhin, MD, “It’s like a balloon. When you first blow up a balloon, it’s really small and tight.” You stretch it before inflating it, but it doesn’t return to its original shape when the air goes out.” It’s the same with skin. After it becomes stretched, it doesn’t always regain its firmness. Genetics and age can also be to blame. “Everyone starts to lose (elasticity) as they get older,” she says.
Besides its unattractive appearance, saggy skin has other disadvantages. For instance, rashes and yeast infections can develop in the folds of skin. Jhin explains, “Perspiration gets trapped, and you can get a rash. I recommend powder or cornstarch. It will help you absorb the moisture.” Other people prefer to use a little fabric to do the job. Compression garments may also help.
In addition to the rashes, loose skin can make getting in shape more difficult. New York city plastic surgeon Jennifer Capla, MD, says, “It changes your center of gravity. It’s harder to move.”
What Can You Do?
Unfortunately, there is no easy fix for saggy skin. Building muscle may help get some definition back, but Capla warns, “There’s no magic cream. It’s something that has to be dealt with surgically.”
However, only about 20% of weight loss surgery patients have body contouring done. A total body lift can cost $30,000 and, while health insurance may pick up the bill for a tummy tuck, as stomach folds may be detrimental to your health, the insurance companies might not be so generous when it comes to surgeries done for what it considers “cosmetic purposes.”
What Else Can You Do?
Susan Hawkins, of Atlanta accepts her saggy skin, saying, “my clothes do a remarkable job of hiding the aftermath. ‘d take the excess skin any day (over obesity.) For me, it’s my badge of honor.”
For others however, the struggle is more difficult. New York City psychologist Alexis Conason says. “Many view excess skin as a reminder of their old life and associations with emotional issues they are struggling with then they were at higher weight, such as anxiety, depression, loneliness, and low self-esteem.”
However, after a weight loss of 140 pounds, Tanisha Shanee of Brooklyn, New York says, “There are challenges for one to accept with this journey. I had to relearn how to love my body and accept the new healthier one.”
Where do you stand on all of this? Is surgery the way to go? Let’s hear what you have to say.