Tighten Up Sagging Skin
Losing weight delivers an incredible range of benefits from more energy to a longer life. But when the weight loss numbers are extreme, say 150 pounds or more, cosmetic problems can appear. The most visible side effect of dramatic weight loss is excess or sagging skin. To deal with it, you first have to understand the cause.
If you pinch a small piece of skin between two fingers and stretch it out, when you release it the skin goes back to where it was. Try that same experiment with a young child and an old person, and the results are different. In the child, the skin bounces back almost immediately. On the older person, it returns much more slowly. One of the reasons that happens is because of two skin proteins, elastin and collagen.
Elastin and collagen help hold the skin together and give it the ability to bounce back. As we age, we lose those proteins, skin becomes less elastic and wrinkles start to appear. If you gain a large amount of weight, the skin will expand to accommodate the underlying fat. But skin can only expand so far before it becomes damaged and starts to lose its elasticity. That's why when people lose extreme amounts of weight; sagging overstretched skin may be left behind.
Step One - Build Muscle
Fortunately, there are several ways to deal with the problem. The first is to find out what your body fat percentage is. Even if you've dropped down to an ideal weight, you might be carrying a higher percentage of fat versus muscle. Women should be below 25% body fat and men should be below 18%. If your body fat is higher than that, you need to start a strength-training program to build more muscle. Two sessions, at least twice a week is the absolute minimum.
Step Two - Burn More Fat
To burn more fat, you should also look at your cardio exercise. Don't spend hours on a treadmill, bike or elliptical trainer. Instead, use those machines in short intense bursts called interval training. It's the most effective way to burn fat and takes far less time than traditional cardio. Plan on two or three interval training sessions per week, in addition to the strength training.
Step Three - Wait
The next thing you need is a little patience. It can take two years from the point you reach your goal weight and body fat number before your skin will fully "bounce back" and shrink to a smaller size. Remember, it took a long time for it to stretch out as you gained weight, it'll take some time to recover as well.
In the meantime, ignore the fat reducing creams, mesotherapy injections, body wraps, endermologie, iontophoresis, electric muscle stimulators, light devices and fat-blasting pills. NONE of them have been shown to medically reduce the amount of fat in the body OR tighten sagging skin.
That doesn't mean these treatments won't change your appearance temporarily. For example: When you have a body wrap, what you get is short-term water displacement from perspiration or compression. Take off the wrap, wait an hour or two, measure again, and the inches are back. To see this effect first hand, take a rubber band. Wrap it around a finger and leave it on for a few minutes. Take it off and where the rubber band was is an indent. No weight loss and after an hour or so the indent is gone.
Step Four (Last Resort) - Surgery
Once you've reached your ideal body weight, ideal body fat and it's been two years, the only thing proven to remove excess skin is surgery. The procedures go by several names including skin reduction surgery, body contouring, body lifts, panniculectomy, abdominoplasty (tummy tuck), mastopexy (breast lift), inner thigh lifts and brachioplasty (arm lift). If the loose skin is causing pain, sexual function problems or hygiene problems, insurance may cover it. But if the change is only for cosmetic reasons, you'll end up paying.
Surgery is a step that should be used only as a last resort, after you've dropped the body fat, built muscle and given the skin time to properly rebound. In most cases, surgery won't increase your longevity and will expose you to potential problems, as any surgery can. It's primarily a cosmetic change and you should carefully consider the risks and benefits.
If you're dealing with excess or sagging skin, take the healthiest step first. Start working out and building muscle today.
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