More and more people are seeking methods to remove extra skin and reshape the body after they lose significant weight, particularly because the development of gastric bypass surgery has made sustainable weight loss more achievable, says Dr. Jennifer Capla, a plastic surgeon in New York City who specializes in body-sculpting treatments after massive weight loss.
But more and more people aren’t necessarily talking about the fact that big-time weight loss – think 50 to hundreds of pounds – inevitably leaves people with saggy extra skin, no matter how many miles they run or broccoli florets they eat. More than aesthetically undesirable and psychologically burdensome for many, flabs of extra skin can put some people at risk for rashes, infections and even immobility, Capla says.
“A lot of people are hiding,” says Capla, who points out that contestants on reality shows like “The Biggest Loser,” whom she’s treated, go shirtless at the beginning but cover up once the weight comes off. “Everyone will say, ‘Wow it’s amazing – you look so great. But in the meanwhile, they’re struggling with the fact that they’re sitting in multiple kinds of compression garments just to hold loose skin in and be able to function every day.”
Fortunately, there are options to deal with unwanted skin, although they aren’t cheap, easy or perfect. “Most people … are under the illusion that there’s some magic pill – usually a cream or something you can do, like shrink-wrap yourself,” Coffey says. “[People often write me] to confirm that this method they’ve heard of for eliminating loose skin actually works, and it never works.”
To figure out what will work best for you, start with these expert tips:
1. Give yourself a break.
You just lost a lot of weight – and are keeping it off. Bravo! Not only have you beat the odds (research suggests only about 20 percent of people maintain a weight loss of at least 10 percent of their initial body weight for one year), but you’ve also likely reduced your chances of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and other significant health risks related to being overweight or obese – flaps of skin or not. Plenty of folks have spoken out about accepting, even celebrating, their loose skin as a sort of battle scar from their weight-loss journey.
2. Don’t regret.
It’s not worth wondering what you could have done during the weight-loss process to minimize leftover love handles. The answer is most likely nothing, says Dr. Alexes Hazen, associate professor in the Hansjorg Wyss Department of Plastic Surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center. “[One misconception] is that if the weight loss is slow, the skin will adapt, and that is not the case,” she says. In her work with personal training clients, Coffey has found that many of the factors that affect how skin will look most (such as age, genetics, heaviest weight and weight loss and gain history) are moot by the time extra skin is a concern.
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