Excess skin after weight loss
May 13, 2012 11:02 PM   Subscribe

I have finally lost most of the extra weight I gained for the past 20 years. What can I do to get rid of the flabby skin?

I am a man who recently turned 30 with extra weight I want to get rid of.

My weight problems started in my early teen years. Somehow, kids of my age in school thought I was worthy of their insults, so I started eating my emotions. Snacks, chips, anything with carbohydrates, cola, sweets, chocolate milk... The list of detrimental foods goes on.

For the past 5 years or so, I've unconsciously taken steps to lose weight. During that time, I've changed my food habits, starting from cutting snacks and junk foods. Today, my diet constitutes mostly of fruits and vegetables, eaten four to five times a day. On top of that, I eat almonds, yogurt, salads, fish, sometimes meat and eggs. Bread, rice, and pasta are almost entirely gone from my diet. In other words, my eating habits have improved much. I have also changed my lifestyle to avoid events where drinking and eating is excessive.

Before that phase, during my early twenties, my weight was at around 110 to 120 kg. After my diet change, it went down to around 90 kg. After a while at that level, I decided to start training three times a week at the gym, by lifting weights and doing cardio. After around three months of training today, I weigh around 80 kg, and I'm aiming for 75.

The only problem I have today is I have a certain amount of extra skin. It is not huge: my arms and legs are fine. But I have that "tire" around my belly that I don't see leaving anytime soon.

I've asked my friends, and opinions differ. Some say I need surgery. Among those who think otherwise, some say it'll take a few months to go away, while others claim it will take years or it will always be there.

What is the best way for me to deal with the excess skin? Should I get some kind of surgery to get rid of it? Or should I be patient and still go at the gym regularly as I wait for the skin to stretch back?

Thank you in advance.
posted by remi to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Unfortunately there is no good way to tell. How much skin you have left after weight loss and how much it shrinks is influenced by everything from smoking habits to genetics. From what I've heard from other people who have lost a lot of weight is the excess skin does tend to shrink, but that happens over the period of years and years. The appearance is also minimized by loss of body fat (not weight, but reduction in body fat percentage) and gaining muscle. Give yourself 2-3 years of maintaining your weight while you put on muscle and drop body fat. Whatever you've got at the end of that is probably what you're going to have, with further changes after that only being noticiable 5-10 years down the line.
posted by schroedinger at 12:22 AM on May 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Schroedinger's got the right of it, although they neglected to mention cosmetic surgery. I only know that it's a possibility, though, not what it actually entails.
posted by DemographicLanguage at 2:42 AM on May 14, 2012

Warning: anecdata.

I went from 113kg to 79kg during my late teens and very early 20s. I had a size 40" (58/UK) waist at age 17 and a six-pack when I turned 30. My weight fluctuated back and forth a lot during that decade as I struggled with my habits, behavior, and self-image.

At 32 I went to see a cosmetic surgeon about this very issue. He grabbed at the extra flesh around my belly (about 1-2" worth) and said my skin tone had basically been destroyed from years of fluctuation. He said I was in basically amazing condition, physiologically, but I'd never have the superficially "perfect" body, given the stress my skin had been through. He advised me to either make peace with it or be willing to spend thousands of dollars on a tuck to achieve a result basically nobody but me would ever really care about. He said I could also opt to have some of the stubborn residual fat removed, but it would make the loose skin problem even worse. I decided to live with it.

So, just a case in point that it may or may not spring back. I'm sure it can happen, but it basically depends on the condition and remaining elasticity of your skin, and that's a very case-by-case thing. Certainly harder to imagine as you move into your 30s, I would guess.
posted by mykescipark at 3:17 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wait at least a year, because that's how long it may take for your body to sort itself out and for your skin to achieve the maximum level of natural shrinkage. After a year, then decide if you want to do something more drastic, such as plastic surgery. But unfortunately, there's no cream or lotion or potion that will fix loose skin. Bodybuilding can help, because building muscle can help give your skin some more bulk to cover. But otherwise, either your skin will shrink or it won't, and if it doesn't, there's not much to be done about it other than surgery. In your favor is the fact that you're still relatively young and it doesn't sound as though you've gained and lost this weight before, so I'd say there's a decent chance that you'd experience at least some shrinking over the next year. Be patient, and then reevaluate in a year or so, once your body has had time to adjust.
posted by decathecting at 5:33 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is purely conjecture, but it makes some sort of sense: while waiting the year or two for the skin to sort itself out, wear spandex-y kinds of things to keep it all in place. As it goes through the process of rebuilding itself, it isn't going to tighten up if it is under strain.
posted by gjc at 6:09 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

it makes some sort of sense


Consider "We have no medical evidence that wearing a bra could prevent sagging, because the breast itself is not muscle so keeping it toned up is an impossibility." via, (and the many arguments that wearing bras causes breasts to sag)
posted by kmennie at 6:24 AM on May 14, 2012

Consider adding Pilates or some other kind of isometric core training program to your regime. Strengthening muscles in your core provides a "natural girdle" that minimizes the whole spare tire phenomenon.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:15 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Since there's no way for me to mark this question as resolved anytime soon, I will at least provide an update.

I am still going regularly to the gym, three times a week, and dieting. After a few months, I've noticed that, as my weight loss is naturally slower (now down to 75 kg), my belly skin is stretching back... little by little.

Like growing up, you only notice a difference over a long period of time. I've noticed the skin around my ribs and at the bottom of my thoracic cage is getting tighter, and I look slimmer.

In other words, the effort is worth being done as soon as possible, and patience is a virtue.
posted by remi at 11:04 PM on July 19, 2012

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