You've made the decision that you're ready to lose excess weight and have started making changes to your diet and exercise routine. But as you're losing, you may notice your skin isn't bouncing back. As an elastic organ, your skin stretches and contracts to form with the shape of your body. While there are steps you can take to minimize the sagginess of your skin while you drop those pounds -- including slow weight loss, eating the right foods and exercise -- a lot depends on your age and how much weight you have to lose.
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It's better to lose weight slowly than quickly, especially true if you're trying to prevent saggy skin. When you lose weight too quickly, you may end up losing more muscle than fat. Muscle acts as supportive tissue that helps hold the skin on your body.
To help you lose more fat than muscle, keep weight loss at a rate of 1 to 2 pounds a week. One pound of fat contains about 3,500 calories, and in most cases reducing your current calorie needs by 500 to 1,000 calories a day can help you lose at this rate. For example, a 45-year-old 6-foot-tall man who weighs 250 pounds needs 3,000 calories to maintain his weight, and loses at a healthy rate by reducing intake to 2,000 to 2,500 calories a day.
Diet Right to Stop Sagging Skin
Skin elasticity plays a major role in determining how saggy your skin gets while you lose weight. Although age plays a major factor in determining how well your skin bounces back after being stretched, a healthy diet keeps the elastin and collagen -- proteins fibers that help support the structure of your skin -- strong. In general, good skin requires you follow a diet that's filled with nutrient-rich foods and that are low in fat and sugar.
More specifically, you need to make sure you get enough vitamin C in your diet from foods such as red and green peppers, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, oranges and kiwifruit. Vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen, and it improves the appearance of your skin. Also, foods rich in linoleic acid, a type of fat found in chicken, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils, helps support better skin strength and structure.
Most important, limit your intake of sugar. Too much sugar may damage skin, upping your risk of sagging. Reduce your intake of soda, baked goods and other sweet treats.
Getting Enough Water
Adequate hydration also plumps your skin to minimize sagging. The amount of water you need depends on your current health needs, exercise routine, diet and climate you live in. An adult should start with 1 quart for every 50 pounds, or 5 quarts for a 250-pound person, and adjust as needed. Your doctor can help you determine how much water you should drink each day.
In addition to helping hydrate your skin, drinking water is good for weight loss. Water before meals keeps you feeling full, so you eat less. It also prevents fluid retention, so you'll get a more accurate reading when you weigh in.
Tighten Skin Up With Exercise
Regular exercise, including cardio and strength-training, may limit muscle loss while you lose weight, which may improve the look and tone of your skin. Fast walking, jogging, swimming, biking and aerobics count as cardiovascular exercise. When trying to lose weight, aim for 60 minutes, five days a week.
Strength-training, which includes lifting weights, using resistance bands and yoga, builds muscle. Work out all your major muscles -- arms, back, legs, butt, shoulders -- twice a week. For best results and better skin, work your muscles to the point of failure. For example, use weights that are heavy enough that your last rep with each set is almost impossible to finish.
If you've lost a significant amount of weight -- such as 100 pounds or more -- saggy skin may be unavoidable. If you've maintained your weight loss for more than a year and are healthy, you may want to talk to your doctor about surgery to remove the excess skin. However, as a form of cosmetic surgery, this may not be covered by insurance, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Check with your insurance company to find out. What's important is keeping the skin folds dry and clean to prevent rashes and infections. Consult with your doctor if you suspect an infection, to get the appropriate treatment.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- KidsHealth.org: How Do I Get Rid of Extra Skin After Weight Loss?
- QuickandDirtyTips.com: Get Fit Guy: How to Tighten Loose Skin After Weight Loss
- FamilyDoctor.org: What It Takes to Lose Weight
- Baylor College of Medicine: Adult Energy Needs and BMI Calculator
- Linus Pauling Institute: Skin Health
- American Academy of Dermatology: Beauty From the Inside Out: Improving Your Diet or Taking Supplements May Lead to Younger-Looking Skin
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin C
- National Cancer Institute: Food Sources of Linoleic Acid
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- Clemson Cooperative Extension: Fluid Needs
- Cleveland Clinic: Surgery After Significant Weight Loss
- American Academy of Family Physicians: Intertrigo and Common Secondary Skin Infections