Help whip my post-obesity body into shape
June 12, 2008 7:29 AM   Subscribe

I used to be obese. I have lost about 80 pounds out of my goal of 100 lost, and am struggling to lose the rest. My body, even though I am in my mid 20s, is now a complete mess. I am covered in stretch marks from head to toe. I’m hardly exaggerating. They start at my shoulders and don’t let up until my calves. I have big hanging flaps of skin and fat under my arms. Some bits of stretch marks and loose skin on my tummy, hips, thighs, and rear. I look like I had a baby or four. My breasts sag and are also covered in stretch marks. I’m aware that I’ll likely only ever look normal by plastic surgery, but what I am looking for is how to improve my body as much as I can through accessible methods until I can begin to afford surgery (or better, avoid it). I’ve tried searching Google and here, but I can’t seem to find the right information. Lots of questions/background inside.

I lost the weight mainly through diet changes and using a food log, along with some walking. I couldn’t afford a gym while losing my weight and even if I could, I was too embarrassed to work out in that condition.

I’ve discovered that I had a pretty hourglass figure hiding under the pounds, but what good does it do me? I honestly was not prepared to look this awful after what was supposed to be the triumph of losing all that weight. I look fine in clothes if I cover everything excluding my forearms and below my knees.

I started getting fat as a kid, and was overweight until college, where I went through severe depression, and gained 45lbs. I eventually recovered. I stepped on a scale one day shocked to see it say almost 220lbs. I’d cry daily. My clothes weren’t fitting anymore. It was then that I decided to overhaul my diet and stop hating myself.

How can I lose this last 20lbs, tighten up as much as possible, and see some progress in my body?

I joined a gym late last year, and went regularly until work and illness knocked me off track, and I’ve been having trouble going regularly ever since. I hate working out. I’d never worked out before last year, aside from P.E. at school.

I am terribly uncoordinated and I’m not sure if I do exercises right. My gym is very cheap – there are no trainers on the floor. I can hire a trainer, which I am considering, but I can only afford one session. Maybe two.

Is there anything I should be asking with regards to finding a trainer who can help my specific case?

What exercises might I try that are geared to a beginner’s level, but will help me drop fat, tone, lengthen, and build muscle? I mainly just go in there, pick a couple machines per session according to muscles worked (usually legs one session, arms next, with abs on both) and top it off with about 30 minutes of cardio.

Any advice on setting up a program? Especially one geared to fat loss and toning for someone like me. Does this look like it might work for me?

How would I adapt it? I see his note on adapting it for women on the bottom, but I actually don’t understand the program (mainly the workouts) to begin with.

I’ve read the Ask posts that deal with loose skin and obesity. I followed links there to programs like Body Fat Guide and on other sites to Joyce Vedral’s program. Both claim they can reduce or eliminate loose skin. Do these work at all? I can’t seem to find reliable reviews. The first claims losing body fat will help.

What’s the most inexpensive, yet accurate way to get body fat measured? Due to my stretched out skin, I don’t think using calipers would work. Or would they? While I’m curious if following the Body Fat Guide program works, I’d like to know this in general, since I didn’t exercise while I lost the weight. I suspect my body fat ratio might be really high.

I have NO muscle tone whatsoever. I am soft and doughy and jiggly all over. When I worked out steadily, I saw no progress at all. Weight didn’t change, no change in the way clothes fit, no muscles seeming to grow or tighten. For someone like me, with this terrible body, is it possible to see progress? If so, when?

They say a person should be able to see progress within a few weeks, but I worked out for about four months with nothing apparent. It’s incredibly discouraging when absolutely nothing changes, especially when the whole process of getting to the gym and working out feels like torture. I just want to know that going through the torture of working out regularly is going to net me visible results. Sure, I care about health benefits of working out, but right now, my idea of progress is visual. I want to be as slim and as tight as I can be until surgery becomes a possibility.

The way I look makes me feel incredibly bad, and it causes some conflict with my S.O. who loves me dearly but is sometimes understandably frustrated by how bad my body is. We both are. I’m young and I want to look and feel normal and even to feel sexy. We both were excited when I decided to lose the weight only for it to turn into this nightmare.

What can I do in the meantime to make this post-obesity body of mine look better? Any tips or personal stories? I just need all the help that I can get right now.

Please don’t tell me that I am not my body. Don’t tell me to focus on the health benefits of having lost the weight/working out. I already know those. I need practical advice on what to do.

Okay, enough rambling. Responses or questions may be sent to .
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (34 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Losing the last 20 pounds will help. I've read that what people often call loose skin is actually loose fat that you can still get rid of. But building muscles and getting toned will definitely help as well (IMO)
posted by delmoi at 7:35 AM on June 12, 2008


You should really embrace doing pushups. Google around, use youtube, figure out the proper form for pushups, and then follow the "100 pushups" plan which is a 3 day a week push up program to help train you to beable, at some point in the future, to do 100 pushups at 1 point. Doing pushups will tone not only your arms but will also help with your chest. The more tone your chest is, the less defined the stretch marks around your torso will become and your breasts will tighten and not sag as much. You'll also feel stronger, tone up, and feel better.

Toning will help with the stretch marks and pushups are one start! To tone the rest of your core, try pilates and this thing called the Magic Circle. Supposedly it is awesome (my pilates teacher who hates exercise gimmicks actually likes it a lot). It's 25 bucks, works a lot of muscle groups, and will hurt like hell for quite a while.

I emailed the pushup program to you. It use to be a website that went defunct but I was able to save some of it to pdf before google cache lost it
posted by Stynxno at 7:44 AM on June 12, 2008 [3 favorites]

First off, major huge congratulations on the weight loss - what you've done is such a tough and challenging thing, you really should be proud of your accomplishment.

I have some good news and bad news... first, the bad, about the loose skin:
For a variety of reasons, including genetics, sometimes it easier or harder to loose that loose skin. This article by Tom Venuto runs down some of the biggest causes.

The good news is that weight training can make a wonderful difference in the shape of your body under that skin. One of the biggest misconceptions that many women have about weight training is that you'll get bulky and unfeminine lifting heavy weights - not true, we don't have the testosterone to get "big". However, the only way you can really start to look "sculpted" is if you challenge yourself with weights. The book "Body for Life" is a really good starting point for figuring out what and how to do for a basic weight training routine that will produce results. You could ignore the advice for diet and cardio if you've already found things that work for you, but you wouldn't go wrong with most things in that book.
posted by dicaxpuella at 7:48 AM on June 12, 2008

There's so much here and I don't have time to answer everything, but you really should check out Stumptuous . This is a great site to tell you what you need to know for the gym and beyond. Specifically, the dork to diva section will show you how to do the major exercises without looking silly. She covers nutrition as well. There is no fad diet or workout advice here, and everything is straightforward and easy to understand.

For bodyfat measurement, I use a tanita scale. This is not going to be the most accurate method out there, but it will give you a consistent reading to determine a trend in your bodyfat percentages. I got mine for $40 with a 20% off bed bath and beyond coupon.

Finally, it's harder to build muscle tone while on a diet (calorie deficit). This could be a contributing factor, especially if you are not getting enough protein. Keep in mind that losing 80 pounds is a huge accomplishment. I know it's hard to be patient, but you will get there!
posted by smalls at 7:50 AM on June 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

x2 for dicaxpuella's advice... I had lots of success with the Body for Life program a few years ago. I didn't use their expensive supplements for the nutrition program, but I still use this method of eating. This is kind of a weight intensive program, though, so you have to be pretty committed to spending some time in the gym.
posted by smalls at 7:55 AM on June 12, 2008

My theory: fat cells have a mind of their own. They want to be full. They don't want to be too full, and they really don't want to be empty. SO if you're eating an excess of calories, the cells fill themselves to the limit and send some kind of signal to themselves "make more fat cells". When they are empty, they send the "argh! EAT!" signal and you are hungry.

So now you have a bunch of hungry, empty cells. Congratulations on that, that's a huge accomplishment!

The second part of my theory is that it takes forever (=years) for fat cells to get the message that they aren't needed and that they should go away. They say that the number of fat cells in your body is unchangable, that once you have them they are yours for life. I don't believe that's true- there are too many people who were overweight who have, over the course of years, become trim, lean people. It's hard to get rid of them, yes, but not impossible. Also, you might need to revisit your eating patterns- make sure to eat based on "fueling yourself up" for whatever activities come next. Even if you are eating and expending a net balance of energy, if that energy is still being stored as fat due to meal timing issues, the fat cells will never go away.

So, what you probably need to do is just keep on eating and exercising, and it will eventually go away. Part of that (to my mind) is making sure to wear very supportive undergarments, so that as your skin and fat and connective tissue go through their natural life cycles, they aren't being stretched out. The skin and connective tissue won't be under stress (which causes stretch marks and drooping) and as it goes through its process, it will shrink up.

I would also offer that I've seen pictures of formerly obese people who have gotten the skin reduction surgery, and they look weird. If I were you, I'd make any such surgery a last resort. I'm not sure it would be a net positive. Hit teh webz and look for photos of people who've had it done and make your decision based on that- I wouldn't be surprised if a few stretch marks look better to you than all those scars.

Good luck and good job- you will have a happier, healthier life not carrying around all that weight!
posted by gjc at 7:55 AM on June 12, 2008

Seconding the congrats on the job well done so far.

I have NO muscle tone whatsoever.

This is really the problem. I would guess from what I'm reading that you probably do light weight training / resistance work at best, and find this pretty miserable.

Your skin, however, is much more elastic than you think, and so its a safe bet that much of the remaining flab that you're struggling with are thin pockets of fat yet to be burned off. You burned through the easy part in losing the first 80, burning through the last 20 is going to take essentially the same total amount of effort you put into the first 80, concentrated into a much smaller timeframe, if that makes any sense. (I'm not saying it will completely tighten up loose skin, but growing some serious muscle underneath will give the skin something to hang on.)

Weight didn’t change, no change in the way clothes fit, no muscles seeming to grow or tighten.

That actually makes sense. Muscle weighs more than fat, so you were probably getting some muscle gain while losing your fat, and your weight didn't change much. Your muscle growth is probably hard to see under the remaining 20% of fat near the skin that you're trying to lose. Again, you're going to have to really burn through that.

For someone like me, with this terrible body, is it possible to see progress? If so, when?

Absolutely, the question is: Are you patient enough to stick with it? You need to carefully (i.e. consider getting a trainer if at all possible) vary your workouts regularly to keep your muscle groups guessing at what's going to hit them next. Try to do a set of aerobic exercise and anaerobic each day. Switch up the order in which you do them regularly. Drink lots of water before and during exercise, and get them muscles some protein after you finish, especially after weight work. Even investing with a trainer for short-term, just a couple of weeks, can teach you a bunch of these tricks and more - write them down and put them into practice. If you can't afford a trainer longer-term, TELL your trainer that you can only afford them for a couple of weeks and that you'd like to learn as much as possible that you can put into regular practice on your own. Most trainers I know aren't going to treat you like an ass because you can't afford the, they will help you out.

Burning through that last 20 is going to take months of pushing yourself to exhaustion, again and again and again. But if you really want to do it, it is possible, and you'll be glad you did. And the less work there will be for any potential plastic surgeon in the future.
posted by allkindsoftime at 8:05 AM on June 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

I will recommend Crossfit again here - it looks pretty intimidating at first, but it's got a great video library for all of the exercises, an excellent online community, and BrandX does very workable scaling for non-elite athletes.

It isn't catered specifically to your loose-skin problem, but getting yourself into shape, including building muscle, is something that I've found it does really well - I suspect that between that and time, your skin issues will clear themselves up.

I also second Stumptuous as a women-friendly look at weightlifting, too, but I like Crossfit's daily workouts better, on the whole, than any bodybuilding-style program.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:18 AM on June 12, 2008

If you cannot afford a trainer, find a friend to work out with. Having a workout partner does wonders for your accountability and perseverance and encourages you to push yourself further. Consider working out at home or at your friend's house to save money. You can invest in some inexpensive weights together. Alternatively, joining a women-oriented gym like Curves might help you both feel more comfortable during your workouts.

Massage, including self-massage if you are not yet comfortable going to a masseuse, may also help restore some elasticity to your skin. Consider consulting a dermatologist to see if any over-the-counter or prescription creams or lotions would be helpful.
posted by jedicus at 8:23 AM on June 12, 2008

Re muscle: Save the cost of a trainer for now and go for (3rd here) the Body for Life program. Vedral is good too, if you push hard and go to progressively higher weights rather than stay light for toning. When you read up about it, you'll learn that pushing the limit is what makes the difference. BFL explains things well. Push yourself hard and you should get some muscle results in weeks. If you're doing it right, you should feel great after, and even the hurt the next day can feel good. (And I was the physically uncoordinated slow fat kid that everyone made fun of, so, yes, it is possible for us, too.)
posted by Listener at 8:24 AM on June 12, 2008

They say that the number of fat cells in your body is unchangable, that once you have them they are yours for life. I don't believe that's true- there are too many people who were overweight who have, over the course of years, become trim, lean people.

They being reputable scientists with all that training and research to support their claims. I guess your observation of a few ex-fat people trumps that.

When you lose weight, you don't lose fat cells (excluding lipo), your existing cells shrink and grow but you only make new ones to replace dead ones.

Anon, congrats. May I suggest some nice lingerie for the bedroom, it wont make the problem go away but it might improve the situation with your SO till you can bust that last 20lbs and improve your toning - its covering but sexy at the same time.
posted by missmagenta at 8:30 AM on June 12, 2008

I've been down more than 100 lbs from my maximum weight. The first 40 or so came off accidentally (went to college; started walking everywhere). The rest was diet and weightlifting, mostly. Even when I was in the 9-10% bodyfat range, I had some unusually jiggly and dangly bits. That's just the way it is when you lose that much weight. I'm up maybe 15-20 lbs from that point now (at a more normal weight for my frame), and things have sort of normalized. I'm a little jigglier than a 145lb man probably ought to be, but hey, them's the berries.

You're young; your skin will tighten up. Maybe not completely, but definitely some. But you need to eat (don't starve yourself), and you need to lift heavy weights. As everyone has been implying, muscles burn calories. I've always believed that hard, anaerobic work is more beneficial, weightloss-wise, than aerobic activity. Warm up with 10-15 minutes of running, but then lift hard for a half hour or 45 minutes. You will see improvement immediately.

Good job, and good luck.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:32 AM on June 12, 2008

Also, my boyfriend is having great success with the Hacker's Diet fitness ladder - he's only been doing it 3 weeks and theres already been a noticeable improvement in muscle tone, particularly his arms and pecs.
posted by missmagenta at 8:33 AM on June 12, 2008

What’s the most inexpensive, yet accurate way to get body fat measured? Due to my stretched out skin, I don’t think using calipers would work.

There are plenty of tools to measure body fat through electric resistance; you grip them and it sends a little current through you and tells you how much of you is fat. (It sounds scary, but it's not; it's the same principle as the little silver grips on the workout machines that measure your heart rate).

This is one of the things I loved when I worked out at Curves - they measure your body fat every four weeks, and graph it on a chart for you. In fact I just wrote another post for someone else plugging Curves' methods of keeping track of your progress; it's easy to get frustrated, but when you see the actual, objective numbers it feels pretty good. I think their workouts may be too low-key for what you're trying to achieve; but stop in and check them out. They're not too expensive.

Have you tried asking the people at your gym if they'll do that test? If they don't have the capability, go by a Gold's Gym or something in the area and see if they'll perform this test for you without a membership.

When I worked out steadily, I saw no progress at all. Weight didn’t change, no change in the way clothes fit, no muscles seeming to grow or tighten.

First of all (and I think someone said it before), once you've gotten down to a certain ratio of fat and muscle, your weight will not change. You should be *proud* of this! Because 2lb of fat weighs the same as 1lb of muscle, this meant that every week you were burning twice as much fat as you were building muscle! It may have been very small amounts, but eventually it will all add up. Right now you're too heavy to notice much change in clothing fit and muscle growth, unfortunately... so you just have to trust and keep plugging. I've found that one way to keep from getting frustrated is to measure every two-four weeks or, like I said, get Curves to do it for me.

You wouldn't be able to see it visually at this stage. That "you should be able to see it in a few weeks" has never been true for me, either. I think it's talking about people who are already slim, who already have muscles nearly showing. If you were working out to the point of sweating, and keeping up your heart rate for at least 20 minutes at a time, then your body was undergoing changes.

And actually the fact that you're having trouble losing these last 20 pounds is enough evidence that your body is changing. Bodies will slough off truly excess fat with relative ease, but as your body fat index changes it begins to realize that it's slimming down, and starts fighting to keep what it thinks is necessary to its survival. So yes, it sucks, but it's a true sign that your metabolism is changing! Congratulations!

One of the things I've learned from researching how to lose pregnancy weight is the phrase "nine months up, nine months down." In other words, it takes at *least* as long to take weight off as it does to put it on... longer actually, since your body genetically *wants* to gain and keep fat. So how long did it take to get this way? Double that and make that your goal.

Unfortunately the only thing you can do to combat your body's newfound stubborness is to up the exercise. Lift weights as heavy as you can for several reps. Add another 5 minutes to your cardio routine. Start jogging instead of walking (invest in a good sports bra first, with a beefy underwire!). Just walking isn't going to give you the toned body you want. Mix up your exercises every day so your body doesn't know what's going to hit it.

It might help to know more details about your workout routine, if you'd like a critique.
posted by GardenGal at 8:38 AM on June 12, 2008

What you need is 12 Weeks to Weight Loss.

It's a directed exercise program. You sign up for this and each week you get an email telling you exactly what exercises to do each day. There's a beginner, intermediate and advanced level. If you're anything like me, you need structure. If you do this program, you'll tone up those loose areas and easily drop some weight.

And let me join the chorus of congratulatory messages. What you did is no small feat.
Good luck.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 8:41 AM on June 12, 2008

2lb of fat weighs the same as 1lb of muscle

I think you need to rephrase what you were trying to say.
posted by cardboard at 9:00 AM on June 12, 2008

My theory: fat cells have a mind of their own. They want to be full. They don't want to be too full, and they really don't want to be empty. SO if you're eating an excess of calories, the cells fill themselves to the limit and send some kind of signal to themselves "make more fat cells". When they are empty, they send the "argh! EAT!" signal and you are hungry.

Fat cells do not reproduce

The second part of my theory is that it takes forever (=years) for fat cells to get the message that they aren't needed and that they should go away.

Fat Cells do not go away

They say that the number of fat cells in your body is unchangable, that once you have them they are yours for life. I don't believe that's true- there are too many people who were overweight who have, over the course of years, become trim, lean people.

Oh wait, you seem to know this, but just don't believe it.

Look, fat cells expand and contract. Thats how they work. Your body weight is regulated by the hypothalamus, not by individual fat cells.

If you don't know, or don't believe, the basic science you really have no business 'theorizing'
posted by delmoi at 9:04 AM on June 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

CONGRATS! And I feel your pain, I hate going to the gym, too, sometimes. That is why the summer is so great: you can get a lot of good exercise outside. How about bike riding for a start? Your hourglass figure will look great in a little spandex. Canoeing? Hiking up some hills/mountains? Join a morning beginner's tennis class? Ultimate frisbee? Or, if you can stand the idea of a bathing suit, swimming in a pool or lake? I find that tightening, for sure. For me personally, the gym can wait until it's cold outside. Enjoy your exercise this summer! That is no small goal, and just as important as appearances: by the end of the summer, find a way to enjoy exercising. Do what you gotta do to make that happen, find just one activity you enjoy. Then, when you go back to the gym, your workouts can be about making you better at that activity, and you can see progress in this way, instead of on a scale. You are young and believe it or not your skin may recover on its own to a large extent. Keep plenty of sunscreen on the stretch mark areas. Congrats again!
posted by Eringatang at 9:09 AM on June 12, 2008

There are plenty of tools to measure body fat through electric resistance; you grip them and it sends a little current through you and tells you how much of you is fat.

Blah, those things are bogus. If you want to measure body fat, get One of these. Only $9!
posted by delmoi at 9:10 AM on June 12, 2008

Lots of terrific advice. Personal trainers are expensive, but how about exploring buddy sessions, one or two friends sharing the cost. Lots of trainers will do this.

Congratulations on sticking with your program and losing so much fat.
Don't lose hope--you are so close to your goal, and the answer is simple:
Weight training.

If you can only afford a few sessions with a trainer, make sure you find someone who can teach you the fundamentals of weight training because cardio you can cover on your own (though you may want to consider doing intervals--maybe 2 minutes of regular pace, then 2 of fast pace, etc. for
30+ minutes). Unfortunately weight training with free weights--the ideal
way to go--does require instruction in form. You can find some info on proper mechanics here (and I like this MUCH better than the grand claims of the blog you linked to):

You should weight train 2-3 times a week. Work all major muscle groups. Do
3 sets of 8-12 reps. But here's the very most important part: MAKE SURE THE WEIGHT IS HEAVY ENOUGH. You should barely be able to complete the second set, and the last reps of third set should be a serious struggle.
Once you have been doing it for a while and find that you can lift the weights for 3 sets without working hard, increase the load. Always increase once the load gets light.

Good luck!
posted by Echidna882003 at 9:11 AM on June 12, 2008

Burning through that last 20 is going to take months of pushing yourself to exhaustion, again and again and again.

I think this is an important point. The best fat-burning (as opposed to muscle-wasting) weight loss comes from sweating your guts out combined with a moderately trimming, higher-protein, balanced fat/carbs diet.

20 pounds is 70,000 calories of stored energy.

An hour of good cardio exercise might burn 400 calories -- 175 sessions on the treadmill at 4.0 MPH.

n.b. to tech-oriented people like me who think the treadmill is boring: I've started watching the Battlestar Galactica TV series (which I haven't seen) on my iPod Touch during workouts -- it's been amazingly encouraging. Just last night I put two episodes on and walked 40 minutes out and 40 minutes back, glancing at the screen along the way.
posted by tachikaze at 9:13 AM on June 12, 2008

Because 2lb of fat weighs the same as 1lb of muscle
I think you'll find that 2lbs of fat weighs the same as 2lbs of muscle, much in the same way that a ton of feathers weighs the same as a ton of bricks.

Muscle is more dense than fat but 1lb is 1lb, no matter what its a lb of.

According to my bathroom scales, I haven't lost any weight in weeks (and maybe gained a little) but I know I'm still losing fat because the tape measure says I'm 2 inches smaller in most of my flabby areas. A simple weighing scale isn't the best/most accurate tool for determining your progress, especially if you're working out. A combination of weight, body fat and actual measurements give the best overall view of your progress.
posted by missmagenta at 9:13 AM on June 12, 2008

Fat cells do not reproduce

"Once adipocytes reach a threshold size, they secrete factors such as hormones and growth factors that stimulate surrounding pre-adipocytes to differentiate irreversibly into new adipocytes. This process increases the total number of adipocytes, a process known as hyperplasia. [6] Adipocytes communicate with the brain and peripheral tissues through the use of adipokines, which send metabolic signals for food intake and energy usage. Adipokines signal for processes such as glucose production in the liver, glucose and lipid use in muscle and the release and mobilization of lipids from fat tissue."[1]
posted by tachikaze at 9:24 AM on June 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wow, 80 pounds is a tremendous accomplishment! Congratulations!

Previous posters clearly have a lot more knowledge about fat cells, diets and skin resilience than I do, but I want to share one thing that's really helped me stay on the exercise "bandwagon." I loooove the Nintendo Wii Fit. I've had it for two weeks, and used it 12 out of 14 days (one day I went on a long walk and was exhausted, one day I was just lazy).

It's basically an exercise video game, where the controller is a "balance board" you stand on so it can tell when you're lifting your feet, shifting your weight, etc. and a hand-held controller that can tell when you're lifting your arm, punching, etc.

It's good for a few reasons:

(1) it shows progress. It doesn't just chart weight, it charts how you progress on balance, strength and endurance. I find this really motivating. Even in just two weeks my balance has improved dramatically, and that makes me very happy. Oh, it also tracks how many minutes you've been exercising, how many days in a row, etc. and congratulates you along the way. (Yes, I know I am a trained lab rat, easily incentivized by automated, virtual cheese. But I am OK with that.)

(2) it's fun. There's yoga, weight training, aerobic exercises and balance games, so there's a lot of variety. And the exercises are pretty entertaining -- the "hula hoop" one feels downright silly but is a serious calorie burner.

(3) it's a cheap and private way to learn exercises. I know it's best to learn yoga and weight training from a professional, but that's just not feasible for me. The software is much better than a DVD or book because you can watch the trainer from multiple angles. Also the "balance board" does a scary-good job of figuring out exactly what position I'm in. ("Are your knees extended past your feet?" it asked. "Holy @#$, how do you know that?!" I wondered.)

It's definitely not for serious athletes, but I think it's a great way to improve.

Anyway, congrats again and best of luck to you!
posted by CruiseSavvy at 10:14 AM on June 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Because 2lb of fat weighs the same as 1lb of muscle
I think you'll find that 2lbs of fat weighs the same as 2lbs of muscle, much in the same way that a ton of feathers weighs the same as a ton of bricks.

Erp! Thanks, Cardboard and Missmagenta - that's not what I was trying to say! I meant fat weighs half as much as muscle.

posted by GardenGal at 10:23 AM on June 12, 2008

You are a rockstar. Seriously. What a huge accomplishment.

I hid from gyms my whole life and dreaded the thought of doing free weights. When I was 31, I splurged and bought 10 weeks (20 sessions) with a personal trainer.

The first 3-4 weeks was hellish. I was so sore, so tired. My trainer was great, very supportive and encouraging, but I also wanted to spit on her shoes each time she coaxed me to do one more lunge during those first weeks. I felt like I was getting heavier and flabbier, not tighter and svelter. I almost gave up.

But, then, whoa. My body adjusted and my fat cells realized I wasn't messing around anymore. The heaviness? Was the muscle I was building. The flabbiness? Was my fat being pushed outward from my growing muscle before it began shrinking and disappearing. Within 10 weeks, I craved working out if I went one day without doing something physical. I quit looking at the scale because my weight wasn't a good indicator of how toned I my clothes fit and my measurements became the yardstick. I slept better. I felt more relaxed. I felt like I could kick shit over with a mighty "HI-YAHH!" because I felt so damn powerful.

Although I don't have a trainer anymore, I felt that the money I spent was the best idea ever. It was like a crash course on HOW to work out. Even though I've had a kid and need to tone up again, I know exactly what a good work out feels like and how to make it happen. I know how to use free weights and machines. I know how to adjust machines. I can confidently walk into any gym and know what I am doing.

This is going to be different than losing the weight. But if you can make it through 4 straight weeks working out with some kind of weights or resistance training at least 2-3 times a week, you will begin to see a difference. You can email me with horrible curses if you don't and call me out on Metatalk if you don't. :)
posted by jeanmari at 10:36 AM on June 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

This is a purely cosmetic quick fix, but I would treat yourself to one of those fancy spray tans. They cover a lot of flaws and I'm guessing would diminish the appearance of the stretch marks, it certainly does for cellulite.
posted by whoaali at 11:30 AM on June 12, 2008

You might want to look at this guy's case. He got really trim by lifting heavy weights and eating a high-protein, low-carb diet. You can find most of the exercises he did by googling or do approximately the same things at least. He also takes lots of supplements but I wouldn't worry about that too much; the web-site sells supplements.
posted by creasy boy at 11:32 AM on June 12, 2008

Okay. First of all, take a deep breath. Everyone has covered weight training and tightening your skin a bit, but I'm here to talk to you about the stretchmarks.

I was a kid who suddenly got fat when she was 11. I have stretchmarks from about midway down my upper arms down to about two inches below my knees. You are not alone. I know what it's like to be told you have a pretty face and know that if that person complimenting you saw you naked, you're afraid of what the look in their eyes would be...

First off, stretchmarks fade. I assume yours are still very visible, but as you get older, they will fade more and more until they are so light that they are barely visible. Mine are white, and I am extremely pale. I see them every day. I would literally give up 10 years of happy, healthy life to have an unmarred body. Unfortunately, that is not an option.

You have two choices... either you can avoid the sun as much as possible, as I do, so that your skin and your stretch marks are pretty much the same color, rendering them invisible to the passing glance; or, if you are a person with olive skin or darker, you can apply self-tanner and try to even out the tone. Also, body lotion with a bit of a sparkle to it can help give some shimmering, eye-distracting texture to your arms and legs when you're out in a dress.

I didn't wear shorts or sleeveless shirts until I was well into my 20's. Amazingly, almost nobody notices. When someone does ("oh, wow! you've got the rips on your arms, are you lifting?" or, worse, "it's almost like... flames going up your sides! neat!")... yeah, the tears come. I've had a boyfriend or two during a breakup lash out at that part of my body to victimize my insecurity, but most people won't even see them.

If you are willing to spend some money, there are laser treatments and other new technologies being tested in doctor's offices and spas all over the country that can help, but only if the marks are still fairly dark. When mine began, they were purple and very painful, but that was 25 years ago. Not much to be done about them now, they're barely visible.

As far as doing cardio, I have pretty severe asthma, and real trouble losing weight. It happens when you're five feet tall... there's nowhere for the weight to go! (boobs, yes, but hey, not everybody gains weight the same way). For me, I change it up: I do the elliptical, walk on the treadmill, the rowing machine (the rowing machine alone will give you decent, toned arms, without lifting weights, just so you know). Different amounts of time on each machine every day and in a different order so your body doesn't get used to the routine. I bought some Denise Austin videos that are basically pilates, lunges, that sort of thing, and when the weather is crappy or I'm too depressed or emotional to go to the gym or don't have clean workout clothes, I do those at home instead. They will help tighten and lift things. Kathy Smith has quite a few, too.

Your favorite music can get you through almost any workout. I like to download new music and listen to it ONLY at the gym... that way, it's like getting a treat.

If you are still struggling with the last 20 lbs, let me pass this on... I tried to lose weight for 9 months with no results. What worked for me is eating 200 or so calories every 2.5-3 hours. I was never really hungry, I was never really full. My metabolism was going all day. I was the master of the individual serving of cottage cheese; apples; granola bars; protein bars; triscuits; etc. Basically, imagine you're packing a large lunch picnic style and keep it at your desk. Set an alarm if you have to at the beginning to get into the pattern. After a couple of weeks, it'll be second nature. DO NOT get discouraged; hell, you're almost there!

If you need someone to talk to, Memail me. I'm another girl who knows what it's like to spend her entire life afraid of a swimsuit or being stared at in a tank top. Most women and men have scars; nobody in real life gets Photoshopped like models and actors do.

YOU ARE ATTRACTIVE!!! Tell yourself that until you believe it, because confidence gives you a glow that everyone can see.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 11:36 AM on June 12, 2008 [4 favorites]

whoaali is really onto something. just a little bit of tan - fake or whathaveyou - can really do wonders for how you see your body. It's bizarre, but wonderful. I'm not overweight but do have things about my body that I really dislike. You'd never think that a tiny (and I mean tiny - I use gradual tanning lotion) bit of tan would make me more confident, but look at me suddenly strutting around the house in tiny shorts and a tank top!

Another thing I love - pilates. It seems like not much at first, but even short sessions (like 10 minutes) can lead to noticeable muscle tone in a relatively short span. I struggled with push ups, free weights, squats, etc for years and never saw any pay off (and had the same feelings you must have - "what's the point? my body's awful.." etc). Last year I bought this pilates DVD, which is designed on the principle that if you've only got 10 minutes, use them! It has a series of short workouts, either whole body or focusing on your abs, thighs, butt, etc. After doing the ab one for a few weeks, I noticed I was getting a waist... then I was looking thinner... that I was feeling better about my body... and it all snuck up on me. I was doing it in short, relatively painless bursts, and then forgetting about it... and one day noticed muscle where there previously had been none. It's been a great motivator now to keep at it, and to get more of other types of exercise as well.

Good luck. I really admire you for losing the 80 already! It's an amazing accomplishment.
posted by AthenaPolias at 1:45 PM on June 12, 2008

The bad news is, not much can be done to tighten skin after weight loss, aside from cosmetic surgery. (There's a lot of snake oil out there that's best avoided.) But the good news is that your skin tone will improve quite a bit, of its own accord, during the first six months after the weight is lost. Although you've a lot of stretch marks, you're young. So hold tight - you may see some improvement yet!
posted by hot soup girl at 3:52 PM on June 12, 2008

The non believers can google "fat cell apoptosis".
posted by gjc at 5:30 AM on June 13, 2008

Response by poster: I do Crossfit myself, but given that you are a beginner who is interested mostly in burning fat and gaining a little bit of muscle for aesthetic purposes, you really should try Body For Life. Starting the program is INCREDIBLY easy, and it combines nutrition, weights, and interval-training cardio. It would be very effective for your goals. There is a lot of advice provided on how to do exercises and which exercises to do on what days. It makes programming very easy.

Do not make the mistake of going only cardio, especially just 30 minute steady cardio sessions or some crap like that. It won't build muscle, and it won't do much for stimulating the hormone response required to change your body fat composition, either.

Regarding measuring your body fat, I don't think you will have much help with calipers or digital body fat scales you can get at the supermarket (and these are notoriously inaccurate anyway, even for people who aren't dealing with loose skin). Most methods of measuring body fat can be thrown off for a whole host of reasons--bone density, the amount of water or food you consumed that day, etc, etc. So I can't imagine how much loose skin is going to mess with it. Perhaps if you talk to a doctor, especially a doctor who deals with a lot of formerly-obese patients, they will be able to give you ideas.
posted by Anonymous at 2:26 PM on June 13, 2008

Let me join the people who are congratulating you on losing 80 pounds. That's wonderful - don't let yourself lose sight of this impressive accomplishment.

I also want to chime in on the recommendations for strength training. I want to second the recommendation for Stumptuous. I also recommend SparkPeople. They have many wonderful articles about fitness, including strength training. They also have a little library of movements/exercises, and those are explained in detail and illustrated by real people doing these movements (in animated .gifs). They also have exercise videos on YouTube. They also have a feature that will generate strength training workouts for you.

Also, I've been seeing a personal trainer recently, and he's really recommended getting a stability ball (sometimes called a Swiss ball) and a resistance band. He thinks you don't really need anything more than that, and I've been impressed by the range of things we've done with these tools. I don't think they're terribly expensive - I think the balls run anywhere from $15-30 and the bands are about the same (probably significantly less if you don't get the kind with handles).
posted by rikhei at 7:54 AM on June 19, 2008

« Older not looking for ass, looking for love   |   Wish you were here, love from 1924 Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.