Where Did All of This Skin Come From?

Where Did All of This Skin Come From?

So you set a weight loss goal and, after months dedicated to shedding those extra pounds, you reached your target. Sweet, sweet success. But then, a crushing disappointment: looking in the mirror and seeing the fistfuls of loose skin hanging limply, left behind from a loss of elasticity.

Losing a significant amount of weight – 50 to 100 pounds – is a tremendous personal achievement that can lead to improved health and a more rewarding and active lifestyle. But it's not always accompanied by an increased confidence in your body, which may look deflated. That can discourage people who looked forward to showing off the new contours they've worked so hard to earn.

For these people, concern about excess skin after extreme weight loss goes beyond cosmetic worries. It makes a real difference in their futures. Researchers in Switzerland concluded that people who had gastric bypass surgery to help them lose weight were more likely to maintain their new weight if they underwent body contouring surgery to remove sagging skin. And another study found undergoing surgery to remove excess skin after weight loss led to a better quality of life.

Of course, someone about to embark on a weight loss plan can take steps to minimize the amount of loose skin that remains after achieving that hard-fought goal. For starters, the best way to avoid loose skin is by losing weight gradually. Your skin adjusts as you drop pounds — and you'll maintain muscle mass, which typically is lost with rapid weight loss.

In fact, building muscle can help tighten loose skin by replacing the fatty tissue that once stretched the skin in the first place. The degree of skin elasticity – or, its ability to shrink after being stretched – can be improved, as well. A few ways to do that:

Don't smoke (or stop if you are a smoker). Smoking is unhealthy for a number of reasons, and here's another: It's bad for the skin. Nonsmokers' skin is rich with collagen, which helps it remain youthful and elastic.

Eat protein. Research shows that there's a positive correlation between the amount of protein consumed and your skin health.

Eat fruits and vegetables. The variety of vitamins and minerals contained in veggies and fruit boosts the skin's ability to retain its health.

Take supplements such as gelatin and fish oil. Both have been shown to increase the skin's elasticity.

Of course, there are some factors beyond our control that influence the skin's sagginess after losing weight, including age, genetics, the amount of weight lost, and damage to the skin caused by sun exposure.

In some cases, surgery is the only feasible option to get rid of excess skin. Dr. Braden Stridde, a board-certified plastic surgeon who specializes in tummy tuck surgery in Bellevue, says that patients should be at or near their ideal weight and in good physical health before undergoing any kind of body contouring surgery. Maintaining a healthy, stable weight for at least 3 to 6 months is recommended by most plastic surgeons before scheduling surgery.

Whatever the chosen path, keeping excess weight off can result in a healthier and happier lifestyle.

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