People planning to lose a large amount of weight may be concerned about how they will look afterward. Will their skin turn out as baggy as their old "fat clothes"? Under normal circumstances, loose skin will shrink as you drop the pounds but in cases of large weight loss it is harder to tighten skin. With a sensible diet and exercise plan, and realistic expectations, you can help your skin to adjust to your new body shape. Besides, a little sagging skin is a smaller problem than the serious health consequences of carrying extra pounds.
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Understanding Your Skin
If you pinch your skin, it immediately snaps back into place when you release your grip. Healthy skin is naturally elastic and will change shape to hold the form of the tissues beneath. However, any elastic material has its limits. If your skin has been stretched too far, it may be slow to recover. It is even possible to stretch it so far it is impossible for it to regain its previous shape without help.
Slower Weight Loss Is Better
The more time you skin has to adjust to changes in your body, the more likely it will do so. If you plan to lose weight, even a great deal of weight, a slow and steady rate of loss will give your skin more time to react and tighten up as the underlying fat is burned off. The more weight you lose and the faster you lose it, the less likely your skin will be able to adjust.
Our skin loses elasticity as we age, so people in their 40s will have a harder time with loose skin than people in their 20s. Excessive sun exposure can damage the underlying tissues reducing skin elasticity. Smoking and unhealthy eating, including crash diets, can also make it harder to tighten skin after weight loss. Sometimes we are simply victims of our genetics, and some people have skin which is less elastic than average.
What Can You Do To Help?
Stay well hydrated during your weight loss program so your tissues have the best chance to adjust. Use moisturizing lotions to help your loose skin keep its elasticity. Exercise may help a little by building up muscle to use take up the slack from excess skin, but it doesn't directly tighten skin. You may not be able to build up enough muscle to replace the fat volume lost. Finally, you can help by being patient and realizing it may take months for your loose skin to tighten.
Surgery - A Last Resort
According to Go Ask Alice, a health resource provided by Columbia University, health care providers recommend people wait at least two years for their loose skin to tighten up naturally before considering surgical options. In some cases, particularly after rapid weight loss or pregnancy, the skin has been so badly damaged it is incapable of recovering on its own. Surgery can remove excess tissue and tighten skin in these cases.