Feel like I "ruined" my body for ever.
February 8, 2006 8:01 PM   Subscribe

In a nutshell, I'm trying (healthily and so far very successfully) to lose a lot of weight (around 70lbs). and I keep wondering about how my body is going to change, and whether I'll ever like how I look...

I'm nearly a third of the way there, and finding it easy and fun. I've lost weight succesfully before, and I have no problems knowing what to eat, sticking to a balanced diet and excercising once I get into the right frame of mind. I wasn't so heavy when I lost weight before, (I lost about 30lbs) but I regained it all and more within a year, largely (ha) I think because I didn't feel any different, or think I looked different, I still felt too fat to do the things I'd lost weight to do. Basically I saw the same person in the mirror whatever my weight. I also went through some major life changes, and I slipped back into not eating well.

Now I have a lot more weight to lose, and I can't shake the feeling that I "ruined" my body by letting myself get so big. It won't stop me losing the weight, but I'm really apprehensive about how my body is going to change. To be blunt: how likely am I to have loose skin and droopy boobs? In all I've read about dieting and people who lost large amounts of weight, I never see this mentioned. Will it be obvious that I used to be much bigger? If it matters, I'm 27 and female.

Additionally, what can I do to adjust my body image, get my brain to understand that I am not fat anymore, and appreciate my body?

My apologies for the anonymous post, this is a subject I feel so weird and ashamed about.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I think the likelihood you will have loose skin problems is going to be proportional to how quickly you're losing the weight. Any faster than 2 lbs/week is unhealthy anyway, but pace it slower than that if you're worried or already getting warning signs about loose skin problems to come.

I'm sorry, I can't offer any anecdotal or scientific information, though.
posted by schroedinger at 8:18 PM on February 8, 2006

I've lost more weight than your taget and indeed I have lots of lose skin. But at the same time I know people who've lost as much or more than me and who shrunk back down with no visible signs that they ever were fat. Genetics, I guess, or something.

A year ago I weighed a bit over 200 lbs, and I've been down to the 170s now for about six months and the skin isn't magically shrinking back, so I think with some people it just doesn't go away. It's no big deal or anything, but it will definitely keep me away from beaches and stuff. I've been referred to as "that tall skinny guy over there" a time or two so it's not something people will notice if you're fully clothed.

Sorry, I can't be of much help with the breasts thing though.
posted by mragreeable at 8:34 PM on February 8, 2006

It depends on how elastic your skin is. It varies from person to person and you can't really predict it.
posted by smackfu at 8:44 PM on February 8, 2006

I lost around 55lbs about two or three years ago. I'm still not "thin", but I'm a lot slimmer than I was.

I'd been heavier than I wanted to be my whole life. At 35 my skin had been stretched for too long and was not going back. After maintaining that loss for two plus years I decided to do something about it. I had a tummy tuck last October and I'm so thrilled with the results. Worth every last penny.

I've known people that have lost over 100 pounds and had much less of an issue with skin. I think so much depends on age and genetics that it's hard to say.

My email is in my profile if you (or anyone else for that matter) have any questions.
posted by FlamingBore at 8:46 PM on February 8, 2006

on many people if you lose weight slowly then your skin and "boobs" have time to adjust to your new size. also eat foods high in vitamin E as well as stuff with lots of anti-oxidants. toxins in your body are stored in your fat, as you loose weight these toxins will slowly start to leach back into your system. eating foods high in anti-oxidants (vit a and the b vitamins) will help to flush them out of your body. the E is just for more elastic and healthy skin. I would highly suggest you try to lose the weight slowly, as this will help the most. as always lots of fruit and veggies to help with the other stuff. good luck.
posted by stilgar at 9:00 PM on February 8, 2006

Oh, right, and another observation:

I'd be very careful about too closely tying your lifestyle changes (eating well, exercise, etc) with visible results. Being fat for a long time will seriously screw up your perception of yourself, so there's a very low chance that you're realistically assesing how you look.

In fact, just this past Saturday I was weighing in for a Jiu-Jitsu competition, and stepped on the scale in jeans and big motorcycle boots (I was in no danger of going up a weight class so it didn't really matter) and the guy on the scale said he never would have guessed I'd be in the high 170s. And I actually got self-conscious about that, mumbling something about how "I'll have to aim for closer to 160 next time." But that's crazy. I'd almost certainly have to sacrifice muscle to get down that low. No matter how much weight you lose, there is a chance that you'll never be a reliable judge of whether you've reached an ideal weight.

So you really should somehow make exercise and a good lifestyle in general a reward in an of itself. I have lots of thoughts on that matter too but that's a bit off-topic here. Much like FlamingBore above, I'd be happy to answer any questions.
posted by mragreeable at 9:17 PM on February 8, 2006

I had been overweight all my life, had dieted up and down since grade school. When I hit 250 at the age of 29 I got serious about doing something about it. I've lost nearly 100 pounds at this point, and it took about 2 years.

I was a mass of loose skin afterwards and it was a real bummer. I must say though that having the saggy skin but being at a healthy weight was still better than being obese. Still, my boobs were destroyed... empty sacks of skin that looked identical to a grandma who's breastfed 12 babies, with nipples nearly down to my navel. No kidding. I also had an enormous amount of loose, hanging skin in the abdomen and belly area that no amount of sit-ups would ever be able to touch. I first had a breast lift (which turned out spectacularly, thank you very much!), than 6 months later I had a full tummy-tuck (again, amazing). It was well worth the pain involved, and given how much better I look and feel, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

As others have already pointed out though, the amount of loose skin you will or won't end up with really depends on your genetics, skin type, how fast you take the weight off, as well as what sort of exercise, weight training, and toning you do, what kinds of foods you eat, vitamins you take, how much water you drink, etc... I did it all, but still, my skin had lost all it's elasticity a long time ago and there was no avoiding it. I knew before I lost the weight that this would be an issue... I already had a lot of stretchmarks and it was obvious that with the amount I needed to loose, there was no way the skin could just magically shrink back. However, comparing the pros and cons of loose skin versus obesity... losing the weight was the obvious priority.

Please don't let the fear of loose skin deter you from loosing the weight. Even if you do end up with some of it, you will still look and feel so much better, and you will be so much healthier. Should you end up feeling you want cosmetic surgery later on to take care of the results of the weightloss, rest assured there are plenty of excellent surgeons out there who can take care of it for you if it comes to that. Cross that bridge when you get to it though... right now is the time to focus on the first half of the equation. The rest will fall into place when you get there. Plenty of people loose a lot of weight and do not have the skin issues that I did.
posted by RoseovSharon at 1:20 AM on February 9, 2006 [2 favorites]

Additionally, what can I do to adjust my body image, get my brain to understand that I am not fat anymore, and appreciate my body?

Body image. That's a tough one. Even though I lost all the weight, I'm still that fat girl in my head. I don't know if that will ever go away. Being able to wear a size 10/12 instead of a size 24/26 though really does help a whole heck of a lot. Having men actually talk to me, look me in the eye and smile back certainly helps too.

I have a hard time looking at old photos of myself. It upsets me that I lived like that for so long. The pictures do help though as I sometimes forget just how far I've come. When I get down and stuck in that rut of feeling like I'm still really fat, all it takes is one look at my old photos and I remember what "really fat" actually looks like (and feels like), and I'm reminded of how strong I am to have gone through what I did, and that I was successful. Sometimes I get to experience these "wow" moments when I realize that I'm not the fattest person in the room anymore... and it's moment like that which help to put things into their proper perspective.

I know none of that was really advice, just some thoughts on what my experience with this transformation has been like. Again, like I tried to convey in my post above, being a thinner woman who still thinks sometimes that she's fat is still way better than actually being fat and knowing it. Shallow and vain, but true just the same.
posted by RoseovSharon at 1:36 AM on February 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

Another anecdotical story: I lost 100 pounds. I think I should have lost it slower and I should have exercised more. It probably also did not help that I lost it after a pregnancy that was already not so good for my skin. My skin is pretty bad and I had a difficult time adjusting to that. When I was fat, I did not have many problems with my body. Sure, I was fat, but the proportions were good and I felt good about my body (people rarely belief that). I lost weight for health reasons, and was surprised to find that I had such a hard time adjusting to the new me.

But: it was totally worth it. When I have my clothes on, nobody believes I once was very obese. I am now slender, have sometimes difficulty finding clothes because in some stores the smallest size is too big for me. Whenever I feel a little bad, I only have to look at a picture of myself when I was fat, and all disappointment disappears. I am SO glad I lost that weight. It feels so much better to not have that extra 100 pounds to carry every day.

FWIW: I only started to feel that way when I had almost reached my target weight (my BMI is now 20-21). My initial target weight was BMI=24, but I felt the same as you describe: I knew I was much healthier, but I did not feel better and still felt fat and I wondered why everybody else seemed to feel so much better after only losing 10 or 20 pounds. For me, going from 150 to 135 did more for how I feel than going from 240 to 150.

What also was difficult for me, was adjusting to seeing myself as thin. That was very weird, seeing a thin woman in the mirror, and realizing it was me. For a long time, when buying clothes, I felt like I was cheating.

Good luck!
posted by davar at 1:57 AM on February 9, 2006

i think one thing you may want to keep in mind is not just how "see yourself" but that very fact that you ARE healthy and will live a more heathly life at the lower weight is just as important if not more so, then meeting a visual ideal that few of us ever hit.
posted by crewshell at 3:58 AM on February 9, 2006

First off, no matter what your body is going to look like when you lose the weight, I almost guarantee you that you're going to look fine--even fuhINE--with clothes on. The skin on your face is very elastic, especially at your age. If you're worried that you're going to look like Leatherface when you deflate, you won't. I can't stress this enough: unless you're so fat you're currently rolling around in a Rascal, your face will look fine regardless.

As for your body, here's my 100% non-scientific theory on the loose skin issue: Based on my admitedly subjective observations at the gym, if your weight was the result of overeating and poor self-discipline, then your skin should snap back. However, if you've always had a problem with your weight--you were a chubby kid, as an adult you never really ate that much yet were always overweight--then you might have a problem with your skin being loose.

(Take all of the above with a huge grain of salt.)

My own example: I was a normal kid, a skinny teenager, a doughy college kid, a chubby grad student, and then a monstrously fat PhD candidate. When I woke the fuck up and did something about the mess I'd made of myself, my skin pretty much popped back. I think this was because I wasn't, er, "meant" to be fat...I was huge because I was stupendously lazy and overeating to the point of sickness or at least sleepiness at every meal.

As for me, I lift weights, and the muscles help inflate what loose skin I have. There are a few places you can still sorta tell I used to be 100+ pounds heavier than I am now, like the back of my armpits, for some reason. Also, no matter how much I work out, I will never be "cut". I have a six-pack I'm pretty proud of, but to examine it I have to stick my hand in the half-inch of beige jello that covers my belly. When I do push-ups without a shirt on, the skin covering my pecs hangs down slightly in an unappealling, almost porcine, way.

But you know what? Fuck it. It's the price I pay for suicide-by-Crisco all those years ago. It's a reminder of what I did to myself and how easy it would be to go back. I guess, in a weird way, I'm sort of proud of my loose skin.

IANAPersonalTrainer, but at any given time I'm helping suddenly-chubby friends lose the weight. The skin issue comes up quite a bit, and what I usually say is "Would you rather be all skinny and sexy--but with flabs of loose skin that only you know about under your tiny new clothes? Or would you rather just be fat?" And, if I'm talking to a guy, I might add that once you get a young lady to the point where she discovers the saltwater taffy under your clothes, you're pretty much golden anyway. (Sorry to be crass.)

Hey! I'm mostly full of shit, but pay attention to this part, it's important: You didn't mention what sort of exercise you're doing, but I highly recommend you start some weight training. It's likely to help tone and tighten your skin, and even if it doesn't you'll still have a tight little body underneath everything. (Note: guys like those.)

Women are really reluctant to lift weights because they're afraid they'll get all beefy and gross. You won't. (As though being a female bodybuilder is a state so easy to achieve through lifting weights that it must be actively avoided.) Those women you see in David LaChappelle photos work really really really hard to look like that, and they specifically work out to bulk up. That's not the look you're going for. Look, go turn on your TV and flip around until you find a sexy woman. Done? I guarantee you she does weight-training, and she doesn't look all ripped and grody, does she?

There are so many advantages to lifting weights: you'll see results a lot quicker than with dieting alone, you'll have a lot more energy, you'll be allowed to eat a little more because you'll be burning a lot more calories, and your body will burn fat faster. Plus, you know, you'll look awesome.

Working out with weights isn't as easy as, say, taking a nice long walk or whatever, so I'd recommend buying a book or two, maybe a video. There are plenty of books that are specifically about lifting weights aimed at woman.

Or, if you have a little dough, you can hire a personal trainer to show you the ropes, design a workout for you, and check in with you a few times to make sure you're doing everything right. I'm not talking about a full-time workout buddy, just someone who can help you on your way.

(Some previous threads. Avoid PTs that are affliated with a gym if you can, because you'll have to join the gym to work out with them and most gyms are shady and IMHO unnecessary unless you're using big expensive machines. (You won't be.))

Additionally, what can I do to adjust my body image, get my brain to understand that I am not fat anymore, and appreciate my body?

Wow, this question is HUGE! I'm sorry this thread--not to mention my answer--has been more concerned with the loose skin issue. Dang.

Do you feel like this is a Really Big Deal in your life? Has feeling fat and unattractive been something you've dealt with for years and years? I know Metafilter has a hair trigger when it comes to therapy, but if you think it's something that will really fuck you up once you try to live a normal skinny life, then having someone to talk to about it is a great idea.

Again: if it's serious, go talk to someone. Not just for mental health reasons, but because feeling fat all the time is a pretty good way of making sure you'll end up gaining all the weight back. And you don't want to do THAT.

But if you think this isn't some deep-seated psychological issue, then let me say this: the best cure for feeling fat is just being in-shape. Once you start prancing around and your friends are passing out from jealousy and dudes are clumsily pretending that they're not looking at your butt, there's a good chance you might not feel as fat as you do now. Hell, you've already identified the problem...you're halfway there.

Finally: congratulations! I'm so proud of you for doing something about a problem that makes you feel weird and ashamed. I know--believe me, I KNOW--how much courage it took to put on those exercise clothes for the first time...the way it felt like everyone was looking at you, wondering why the fatty was even bothering. The fear that someone might come up to you and give you advice. But you did it, because feeling good about yourself in the future was more important than not being a little embarrassed, and that's so awesome.

If you need any more (dubious) advice or just some general encouragement, feel free to email me. My address is in my profile. Your true identity will be safe with me.
posted by Ian A.T. at 4:35 AM on February 9, 2006 [2 favorites]


I'm a guy, so what do I know? When I was in my early twenties I saw a picture of a super model taken during her modeling career and then another after she had done some serious weight lifting.

The weightlifting version was waaaaay hotter. Not grossed out steroids huge, but healthy, feminine, and girl shaped.

Muscle gives shape to the body. Dieters tend to loose muscle because of the lack of protein.

LIFT WEIGHTS. (eat protein)

Every guy who follows you down the street will thank you.
posted by ewkpates at 5:54 AM on February 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

You're young. I think that may help.

I have a saggy abdomen BUT I also had three children one right after the other. Big babies plus small mom equal one stretched out tummy. I also lost my weight in my forties.

Just go for it. The longer you wait the more you risk the sag.
posted by konolia at 6:20 AM on February 9, 2006

I don't have anything to add about the sag, but I have this to add about the body image issues: Turn your body into something that *does* something, and view it as a machine. Lifting weights, or running, or dancing, or rock climbing, or whatever it is you like to do (atheletically), do that thing with gusto and view your body as a that-thing-doing machine. If you can really love your body for what it can do, that can help you get beyond the mirror. I know it's cliched advice, but I have seen it work time and time again. When you find yourself thinking "fatty!" say "well, this fatty can do 5 pullups/run a mile in 7 minutes/salsa till the cows come home, and that is AWESOME!"
posted by ch1x0r at 4:38 PM on February 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

All I want to say is thanks for opening this question. In the year that I have been a lurker/member I have sometimes been hurt by the comments that come up when obesity is discussed. I'm not hypersensitive, some of them are gross, but I guess that reflects any group in society and is probably better than most. A thread like this and the support you've received so far shows me how diverse the community is. I've battled this all my life and having three times during my adult life lost 80 lbs I finally bit the bullet last May and had a Gastric adjustable band put in, not so much to help me lose the weight again, as I had proved to myself I could do that, BUT to keep it off, which I could see I can't. This was the right choice for me, but a few people have commented that it was the cheater's way out so I don't tell anyone anymore. Naturally those people have never had a weight problem.
I'm now 50 lbs down, in my 20's (now 40) I had two children, and besides the boobs which I put down to breast feeding, the tummy and rest look like it's going to be OK. I believe it is because I'm losing at only 1 lbs most weeks now. Yet another friend who lost 100 lbs needs a boob and tummy job. We are both 40. Different people- different skin. I think at your age you will be fine, but as everyone else said, we can't have everything, so better fitter and healthier.

The head issues are huge, and I honestly recommend some counselling. I know I haven't dealt with them yet but I keep putting off until target weight is reached somtime by the end of this year. Having read the answers here though, I think I'll start looking for some help.

all the very best and well done!
posted by Wilder at 3:50 AM on February 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm in a similar situation - I lost a bunch of weight last year (about 40 lbs) then gained it back, plus some more. I've now, rather rapidly lost about 55 and I'm down to near where I was last year - I'm happy to report that I don't feel like my skin's all stretched out and I'm feeling good about the way I look.

I think the reason I feel good and that my body's reacting well to the weight loss is mostly due to exercise - I don't exercise every day, but I try to get out for at least a 20 minute run at least twice a week - more if I can. I'm still overweight (not for long!), but I feel like I'm healthier than I have been since highschool.

As for how to change your body image - I'm still working on this too - buying clothes that fit really helped me. Even though I know I'll only be wearing these clothes for a couple of months (I expect to lose at least another pant size) I got a whole new wardrobe and it really helped me realize that I've done a lot of work and it's paid off.
posted by soplerfo at 9:04 AM on February 10, 2006

Loosing weight and realizing in your head that you've lost weight are two different things. I lost about 25-30 lbs, and it's still hard for me (about 15 months after I was at my heaviest) to remember that, in a way, I'm a different person -at least physically. I have no easy solution for that, but looking in the mirror does help. I also want to add my voice to the throng of folks that have been recommending weight training. You can loose weight in a variety of ways, but when you weight train you really alter the shape of your body, and that might help you see in the mirror that you've come along way…
posted by ob at 1:05 PM on February 10, 2006

I have lost almost 40 pounds in the last 6 months. I don't really notice the difference, but other people do. I do notice when I put on some of my clothes and they slide off my butt onto the floor. Even my shoes seem too big now. Get rid of your fat clothes! I was holding on to my old wardrobe because of the money I paid for it and it was still in good condition, but it didn't fit me anymore. Get rid of that stuff, don't let it haunt you with "you paid $85 for me, when are you going to wear me?" Clear out the clutter in your home and your life as you continue to lose weight. It makes a difference, it really does!
posted by 45moore45 at 6:34 PM on March 4, 2006

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