I recently got an email from a reader asking about how to deal with loose skin following weight loss. As I was responding, I thought about my own weight loss and realized that my response might be of interest to other aspiring weight-losers out there.
First Things First. [Bonus points if you thought "I'm the realest" after reading that]. Whether or not you end up with loose skin as you lose weight depends on a myriad of factors, including your age, how much weight you lose, how quickly you lose the weight, and the elasticity of your skin. That being said, there are a few things you can do to help prevent loose skin as you are losing weight, or mitigate the appearance of loose skin that has stuck around post-weight loss.
1. Eat and supplement properly. The creation of a caloric deficit is a cornerstone of weight loss, and if you reduce your caloric intake too dramatically, you will struggle to get enough micronutrients (vitamins & minerals), which are critical to skin health. This site has some great information on the specific vitamins, minerals and antioxidants you’ll want to focus on to ensure that you’re fueling your body appropriately throughout your weight loss.
2. Lose Weight Slowly. If you plan to lose a lot of weight, some loose skin might be inevitable. However, you can minimize the effects by losing weight in such a way that your skin can tighten as the volume of mass underneath is reduced. If you lose weight quickly, it’s possible your skin will still tighten, but it may take some time (like years in some cases) and there’s no guarantee.
3. Lose Weight For GOOD. Make sure that you’re losing weight in a sustainable way – that is, something you can do easily for the rest of your life. I am confident that losing 100lbs is not what led to my loose skin, but rather losing 100lbs TWICE. Had I not regained the weight I’d lost in 2004 – and then some – I am sure that my loose skin would be minimal as I was younger and would have put my body through the stress of weight loss only once.
4. Lift Weights. This isn’t a miracle cure and it won’t tighten your skin, but burning fat and building muscle will give you great definition and tone and you should just do it! Essentially, you are replacing some of the lost tissue from fat loss with volume from muscle, which is more desirable anyway. Trust me. Lifting weights is a weight-losers best friend. I wish I had started sooner.
5. Moisturize. Just as eating a sensible diet and supplementing with skin-enhancing vitamins and minerals can help prevent loose skin from the inside, a good moisturizer will help your skin’s elasticity from the outside. I keep a tupperware of coconut oil in my shower and use it in a bath or after washing and shaving to moisturize, and it’s a godsend. I also keep a little travel container of a mix of other nutrient-rich oils – right now I have avocado, hemp, argan and rosehip (basically whatever is onhand) – and will add those to my baths or use them in place of coconut oil once a week or so.
6. Hydrate. Yup, good old water. One of the DIY tests for dehydration involves pinching skin and observing how quickly it bounces back – if it doesn’t ‘snap back’ right away, it’s a sign that you need to hit the water cooler. To help your skin maintain as much elasticity as possible, make sure to drink enough water.
7. Accept. I understand that it is heartbreaking to work incredibly hard to lose any amount of weight and to have to carry evidence of your former size with you. I have heard people say that they would rather be overweight or obese than to have saggy skin on their stomach, chest, thighs and arms (those are the most common places but I even have a bit on my calves). Unfortunately, tightening loose skin requires a combination of time (to allow the skin to tighten, if it will), money (for surgery), and acceptance (of the fact that it may never tighten). This last one is a hard pill to swallow, I know. People say to carry your head high and see the skin as proof of your hard work, but I know what it’s like to want to cry in the gym because you feel like you are working for nothing. Here’s the thing, though: It is entirely possible that you’ll never be able to change it, whether for financial reasons or otherwise. Virtually the only surefire option is to reframe your thoughts about your loose skin and your body. I will probably post more on this later, or feel free to email me and I am happy to give you some tips.