Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Loose Skin Dilemma

So many times, when I am reading weight-loss sites or message boards or other blogs, one of the top concerns people have is: what about loose skin?? Will I lose all this weight and look like a shar-pei or a deflated balloon? Will I look even WORSE when I am thin than I did when I was morbidly obese, because of hanging curtains of excess skin?? People are near frantic about this topic. Me? I never cared about it. I never lost enough weight before to see any hint of loose skin. Let's face it: when you weigh as much as 3 fourth graders, losing 35 pounds is *not* going to result in tons of hanging skin. I never lost this much weight before, and I just figured my skin would snap back into place and be like it was before.

About ten pounds ago the reality hit me: You cannot stretch 30 inches of skin to SIXTY inches and expect it to somehow *poof* those extra 30 inches of skin away into thin air when you lose weight. (Those measurements are referring to MY HIPS. Think about it. My body had to produce or stretch the hip-skin enough to cover DOUBLE the area around my body. And now I expect it to just poof away? Get real.) When you really look at your measurements, it is clear WHY this is such an issue. I mean, my thigh is the size of a skinny girl's WAIST. Just what do we expect our bodies to do with all the extra skin it has had to produce because of our eating? Ugh. If only someone had told me ten years ago!!

And so, with 59 pounds gone, I suddenly noticed that my skin is no longer stretched tight like a stuffed sausage. It is kind of saggy in places... not BAD, but loose, squishy, soft. It's like a deflated balloon. And I imagine it will only be more noticeable as the weight comes off. But let me tell you this: not for ONE SECOND do I think I would prefer to have nice tight skin and be 278 pounds, rather than be a normal weight with loose skin. I will take the loose skin and a normal, healthy life! And if you are really distressed about it, you have two choices. You can have skin removal surgery when you get to your goal. Or, if you really hate the skin problem and don't want surgery, and find yourself longing for your formerly tight, fat-filled skin, you can always gain back all the weight. Right?

In the meantime, I am going to do whatever I think might help to minimize the loose skin problem. I know that things like genetics and age play a part. If you're young, your skin might snap back in time. If you are not TOO overweight or not for a long period of time, that is also in your favor. But for me, at 38 and having been severely obese for 10+ years, I know I am likely to have issues. There is, according to all my research, no proven way to prevent or tighten up loose skin. But my own common sense tells me that improving skin hydration (moisture) and circulation may help. So here is what I am doing to try and minimize the problem:

1. I drink a lot of water to stay hydrated, and I take vitamins. I eat healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, and avocados. A healthy diet yields healthier skin.

2. I use lotion. Often. I get good quality lotions (I like Aveeno) and body butters and I use them every day, especially on the "problem" areas (hips, belly, thighs, upper arms, neck). I also bought a couple bottles of firming lotion. I know this stuff is not going to "fix" everything, but it can't hurt, either. So I use the firming lotion on the trouble spots as well.

3. I use a body brush before I shower. I read on the web about the practice of dry skin brushing, using a brush with natural bristles. I have sensitive skin and it took me a month of looking around various stores before I found a brush that was natural AND very soft for my skin. It was $3. I brush my dry skin starting at my feet and brushing up my legs, and then from my hands and along my arms, and then over my body as described on any website you can Google by searching for dry skin brushing. It takes me about 5 minutes.

4. I do a nice massage on my skin, especially trouble spots, in the shower. I want to improve circulation, plus it feels good.

That's about it. I have no guarantees this will do ANYTHING for the loose skin, but my skin does look better and feel softer. I enjoy taking care of myself in these ways, too. Only time will tell how much of a problem the loose skin will be. I have read that usually, when you get down to an acceptable body weight without much fat on your body, the skin tightens up significantly. Also that toning the muscles under the fat may help your appearance as well. So, we shall see!

In reality, if there's loose skin, so be it. It doesn't change the fact that I want to lose this weight and be healthy. I will get there, and deal with any issues as they happen.

16 comments:

Stephanie said...

I've wondered about this... Watching the Biggest Loser, I always wonder, b/c they lose SO much weight SO quickly... I wonder if the insane amount of exercise they do helps, or if they get surgical assistance... ? In any case, it is a sad thought to use baggy skin as yet another excuse to not work on my obesity, however irritating I might find it when I lose that much!

Stephanie said...

Just wanted to say that you are a great writer and I really enjoy reading your stuff. I just read "Old Ways" and really, that was great. I loved those damned pizza rolls, too (never thought of the ranch, though - good thing). Anyway - thanks for your honesty. You're a talented writer.

Dawn said...

I think there are a lot of different factors that can determine whether someone will have loose skin after losing a lot of weight. I've also wondered about the people on the Biggest Loser and if they have a lot of loose skin after their weight loss. One person's experience with losing a lot of weight and talking about the loose-skin issue can be found at http://www.dietgirl.org/dietgirl/2007/09/dg-by-request-l.html. I hope that link works. If not, go to dietgirl.org and search for "loose skin" and you should be able to find. it.

Vickie said...

http://baby-steps-v.blogspot.com/2008/02/excess-skin.html

I have been collecting posts on excess skin as I see them. I hope it is okay that I added yours to this collection.

Ryry the Adventurous said...

I believe you are indeed taking the right steps to taking the best care of your skin while it tries its best to shrink. Also, increase in strength training seems to be a factor. Especially upper body, with the arms. The more muscle building happening regularly seems to help the skin's adjustment to a healthy size. I know I read that in a few places, can't confirm it myself though. Anyway, you are awesome!

Jenna said...

You know, I've never worried *too* much about loose skin... just loose b00bs. I just warn my husband that he had better still find me marvelously attractive if they deflate and hang. :)

Mal said...

So much about loose skin is "hearsay," so I hate to add to it. Still, I have read that with time, your body re-assimilates and adjusts. I mean, with time our skin stretched out to meet the needs, yes? Once the need is gone, the body is likely to catch up.

Also, I had "heard" (again, sorry for hearsay) that the squishiness is actually due to small pockets of fat that don't all disappear at the same rate. The longer you treat yourself right and overall lose FAT and not muscle or water, the better off.

Just some thoughts. I never worry about it too much, either. I'm so unlikely to galavant in a bikini that I almost don't care.

Fab Kate said...

There seem to be a lot of factors with the skin thing. I know a 70 year old woman who lost almost 200 lbs, and her loose skin was minimal. I've only lost 62 of my 200 and feel my skin is a disaster. I'm not sure if it's going to be age or other factors... there seems to be no rhyme or reason to it.

I do know a woman who has had WLS and after almost 8 years still has a lot of loose skin. I've had to struggle with the whole thing myself, because the loose skin can cause a lot of trouble. I'm hoping that I can have some of mine removed when I reach my minimum weight.

Heather said...

I think all that will help plus exercise tones everything up a bit.

Zentient said...

You remind me to provide simple loving care to my body, no matter what the size. It's amazing how I disregard me with rough skin on feet and elbows, unshaved legs and arms, raggedly nails, etc. Like I don't want to acknowledge what's below my neck. Thank you.

Lynn Haraldson-Bering said...

Great post. I get asked this all the time and honestly, before I lost weight, I had NO idea loose skin was an issue! I'm afraid of fat more than I am of skin! As far as I know, no one died from loose skin. Thanks for writing about this. One of my readers turned me on to your blog and I love it! Hope you don't mind me linking you on my page. www.lynnsweigh.blogspot.com.

Sarah said...

My .02 cents. If you have been heavy all your life and then lose massive amounts of weight the only thing that will fix the loose skin is surgical intervention. I think there is a lot of talk about this... but not much real fact because it is hard to keep the weight off. Those who lose it super quick I think have it the worst off. It took me 5+ years to lose the 190 pounds.

I know that at different weights I felt differently about my extra me as I call it. Now at goal and three years of maintenance I can tell you that it is not going to firm up. My sag hangs past my pubic area. (sorry if it is tmi) my thighs are sagging on the inside and often clothes don't fit right in the arms. My neck has surprisingly not sagged (but I am still young) but I can see the stretched out skin in my cheeks if you can believe it. I will be a jowly old lady someday I think.

All of this used to really get me down. I tried everything, thinking I could change it, but have now come to accept it and occasionally even embrace it. The way I dress has totally changed. Skirts and dressed all the time. Pants are a nightmare scenario for me. All the extra me hangs off my waist (which is tiny) and down over my hips. So I learned how to be a girl instead. A line skirts and the occasional pencil (with proper undergarments) cute sweaters and tops that work with my new shape. I never had any sense of style when I was fat now I do, but I just had to learn to work with what I have. And damnit I look good. I know I do. There are no sweatpants, sweatshirts or flip flops in my wardrobe. Very little with stretch, no elastic waists and you will never see me leave my house with out accessories. I present very well on the outside and used to get bummed about thinking, if only they knew what I was hiding. But now, I don't care. My husband loves me for me.

As for working out and building muscle. It does help. Better to have firm than not under all that extra. It also bulks you up a bit but it is not a cure all. My thighs are rocks but the excess is still there. If I were to have surgery (something I still debate, but having had 11 REQUIRED surgeries on my knee, the idea of elective surgery stresses me out. Maybe someday.) my thighs would be what I wanted taken care of the most. Ever try to keep a knee brace strapped to all that extra? It muffin tops and is not comfy at all.

Okay, now I am rambling-- kudos to you Lyn for taking such good care of yourself. Every little bit helps. And as the other Lynn posted, I too am more scared of being fat that my extra me.

Anonymous said...

I am religiously reading your blog. I was away for a week and had no internet, now I checked my mail, checked your page and was extremely happy to see 4 new entries. In the middle of reading “Old Ways” I said to myself “oh my God , I love this woman, I really do”. I just had to tell you that, now I am going to enjoy other stuff that you wrote. Thank you for inspiration!
Sada

Anonymous said...

Great website. I learned a few things that I didn't know about. I'm struggling with the same issues as you. If you'd like to check out my weight loss website: Savingsuzylee.blogspot.com.

Anonymous said...

My mother has lost large amounts of weight and she has never had sagging skin. She attributed this to drinking lots of water and exercising. I mean she lost weight and wore a two piece in Cancun with her boyfriend. Additionally, her weight loss was fairly gradual. This was 20 years ago when there were fewer options too. Oh! And she was in her late thirties.

lisa Raftery said...

To the Vicki that posted this link:
http://baby-steps-v.blogspot.com/2008/02/excess-skin.html
I signed into the google to read your blog, but it says I need special permission to read it. I clicked on your name in hopes it would provide a way to message you, but no luck. This is the only way I know of to ask you. I am not so great with the computer and web navigation. Can you help me to get to your blog, as I'd love to be able to follow it. Thanks.

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