Massive weight loss transformations are the stuff of legends. If you’ve set off on this major undertaking and have successfully reached the finish line, we have nothing but praise and admiration for you for having done what not many are able to accomplish. Not only is your transformation a huge testament to your resolve, it’s also a testimony to your determination and discipline.
What many people don’t realize when they first start this journey, however, is that it doesn’t always end there. Most, if not all, dramatic weight loss transformations are marked by excess skin. This could be just a small pinch of loose skin or, for those who have lost over 100 pounds, inches of excess skin. This loose skin can be a hindrance to continued weight loss as it gets in the way of every day movements and, more importantly, your work outs.
What Causes the Loose Skin?
Many of us forget that our skin is actually a living organ. As we gain weight, our skin adapts and adjusts to the weight gain by expanding and stretching. Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to weight loss. Our skin has doesn’t have the reverse ability and cannot tighten again when the pounds are dropped.
This rings more and more true depending on how long the skin is stretched because the natural elasticity of skin weakens over time. Sadly, some people are also more susceptible to excess skin than others with factors ranging from skin tone quality, your age, genetics, lifestyle choices like smoking, and even sun exposure.
For drastic weight loss transformations, excess skin is pretty much as a guarantee as the rapid weight loss doesn’t give your skin enough time to adjust to your new leaner shape.
Why Can’t I Just Leave It Be?
Some of you might be tempted to say, “I’ve already put in so much work losing the weight. Why do I have to worry about my loose skin, too? Can’t I just get a break?” Well, sure, you could, but allowing your loose skin to stay as it is can have both physical and mental detriments to your overall well-being.
Physically speaking, loose skin can make you extremely uncomfortable as there is a tendency for sweat to get trapped between the folds of the skin. When this happens, the rubbing of the skin together with the sweat causes chafing and rashes.
The irritation can get overwhelming and painful while also taking a toll on any further weight loss and your quality of life. Mentally and emotionally, seeing the loose skin on your body can affect the way you view your accomplishments and weight loss journey.
It could make you feel like you haven’t really accomplished much, that your hard work hasn’t paid off or even embarrassed of yourself event after the monumental feat of losing hundreds of pounds of fat.
What Can I Do?
A lot of people who are eager to get rid of their loose skin are quick to jump to the conclusion that surgery is the only way to move forward. While there are definitely people who will ultimately need to have skin removal surgery, it’s important that you wait and really examine what’s going on with your body.
For example, is what you’re seeing really loose skin? If you pinch your “problem area” and are able to grasp more than a millimeter or two of skin, chances are there’s still a significant amount of body fat to lose. If you’ve gotten to the point, however, where it really is just a few millimeters of skin, or a professional has taken a look at it and determined that it’s mostly excess skin, then the next move would be to try and tighten your skin naturally.
Working on building muscle is the number one way to tighten loose skin naturally. Muscle will fill the loose skin, which, in turn, creates a healthier and tauter look. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to wait until you’ve hit a certain body fat percentage, 10% for men and 20% for women, before you really start considering and researching about skin removal surgery.
Is There a Way to Improve Skin Elasticity?
While it’s true that we will eventually get to a point of no return, there are certain lifestyle changes that you can make to help improve your skin’s elasticity naturally – especially if you’re still relatively young.
Perhaps the simplest way to do so is to manage your diet and make sure that you get a healthy amount of proteins as well as whole fruits and vegetables into your meals daily. Why is this important? Low-protein diets have actually been associated with poor skin health and skin atrophy.
Studies also show that a high intake of vegetables and fruits are linked to healthier and glowing skin. If you’re a smoker, the best thing you can right now is to kick the habit and fast! There are already tons of reasons to quit smoking out there, but if you want your skin healthy and vibrant, the bottom line is that there is no room for cigarettes in your lifestyle.
How Can I Avoid This?
Let’s say you haven’t gotten to that point of extreme weight loss yet. Perhaps you’re just about to start your weight loss journey and want to deal with the threat of excess skin head on. The good news is that there are things you can do right from the get go that will help you manage the amount of excess skin that you’ll have to deal with at the end of your transformation.
First and foremost, maintain a steady weight loss. Rapid weight loss is what shocks the skin and makes it unable to bounce back (literally) from the loss of fat. Aim for a steady drop in weight, somewhere between 1 to 2 pounds per week, and pair it with weight training to help lessen loose skin.
Maintaining a proper diet throughout your weight loss journey is also crucial. Collagen and elastin in particular are two ingredients that you need to include in your diet to help you maintain healthy skin. Good foods to incorporate into your diet for this purpose are tofu, beans, fish and some dairy options like cottage cheese.