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The Weight-Loss Side Effect That No One Talks About

Will I Have Excess Skin Once I Lose Weight?

-- By Megan Patrick, Staff Writer
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Studies show that the vast majority of people who lose 50 percent or more of their body weight (whether through surgery or lifestyle change) report being unhappy with their bodies later. Why? Because even after all the work and the weight loss, losing that much body fat usually results in excessive amounts of loose skin on the abdomen, arms and thighs. However, medical experts agree that the health benefits of losing weight far outweigh any potential problems that might be caused by excess skin.

Does Everyone Have Loose Skin after Losing Weight?
Thankfully, no! There are many factors, including age and genetics, that determine how much your skin will "snap back" after weight loss. The younger you are when you lose weight, the easier it will be for your skin to adapt. As we age, our skin naturally loses elasticity, and this is exacerbated by things like sun exposure and even gravity. (Try avoiding that one without becoming an astronaut!)

The amount of weight you lose and whether your weight has cycled dramatically throughout your lifetime will also play a role in how your skin looks. There is no scientific evidence to the popular advice that losing weight slowly will prevent skin from sagging, so focus, instead, on losing weight at a pace that works for you and your body.

What Can I Do if I Have Loose Skin after Losing Weight?
The only way to really get rid of excess skin is to have it surgically removed. If you've maintained your new weight for 12-24 months but still have excess skin, you can safely assume that it won't shrink more on its own. Body-contouring surgery can address one or more problem areas. Common procedures include:
  • Panniculectomy: This procedure, which is sometimes covered by insurance, removes hanging skin from the abdomen. It's often performed along with an abdominoplasty.
  • Abdominoplasty: Also known as a tummy tuck, this option removes hanging skin from the abdomen and tightens the underlying abdominal muscles. It is usually not covered by insurance.
  • Belt Lipectomy: This "body lift" removes excess skin on the thighs and buttocks.
  • Medial Thigh Lift: Removes excess skin from the upper leg.
  • Mastopexy: Removes excess skin from the breasts and tightens the surrounding tissue.
  • Brachioplasty: Removes excess skin from the upper arms.
As with any kind of surgery, body-contouring procedures are not without risk. Full recovery can take many months, and it's usually necessary to take 2-4 weeks off work (more if you have a physically demanding job). There will certainly be pain, bruising, swelling and long-term scarring. Other risks include infection, asymmetry, uneven scarring, tissue death and seroma (a lump caused by fluid buildup in tissue).
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About The Author

Megan Patrick Megan Patrick
Megan Lane Patrick has been a professional writer and editor for the past 16 years, and was a chronic dieter for at least 30. A combination of weight loss surgery, mindful eating and daily exercise finally allowed her to maintain a weight loss of more than 100 pounds. As a SparkPeople editor, she’s able to combine her love of writing with her passion for health and fitness to help other people achieve their goals. When she’s not lifting weights at the gym, you can find her walking shelter dogs as a volunteer for the SPCA.

Member Comments

  • Thank you for addressing the excess skin aspect of losing weight. Having a sagging stomach already, my subconscious is addressing fears of what will be when I lose that 100 pounds. This helps us to know what options are available.
    - 4/9/2014 7:36:38 AM
  • Eh...It's just skin. - 4/8/2014 8:56:02 PM
  • Okay this article depressed me. Now, I have visions of looking like a melting Michelin Tire Man. - 4/8/2014 6:53:38 PM
  • I am pleased to read this thorough article. I am 67, have lost 193.6 pounds to date, about 100 more to go. I am very lucky to have great skin, and my body is shrinking back well. I attribute this to sound nutrition, no smoking, Vit D supplement, no sun worship, Avon Skin so soft aqua gel lotion daily, and my heritage. As the story goes " love the skin you are in" I'm too old and have come too far to do anything different. - 4/8/2014 5:45:06 PM
  • I loved this article. I am a 54 year old and I have always had extra skin after my third child many years ago. I have thought about getting a tummy tuck but decided I would rather use that money somewhere else. I liked the idea of using shapewear because honestly that is what I do to smooth out the bumps. I have in a few years lost 40 lbs so with age gravity and just being a large framed woman the excess skin is here and it is going to stay. I have now been using weights for my arms and back. I stand tall and do crunches just to strengthen the muscles of my abdomen. I have a little loose skin under my neck I am still working on that.

    I just say love your body and if you want to alter it and have the funds to do so.
    If the money is not there then opt for shapewear it works too. - 4/8/2014 4:17:43 PM
  • Makes me glad I'm fairly young and have really good skin and only needing to lose about 25% of my weight (I've already lost some of that). - 4/8/2014 3:06:37 PM
  • Thanks for sharing! Part of it is becoming comfortable with ourselves, part of it is vanity, and part is an issue with finding clothes to fit. I find that with loose skin in the arms, legs and stomach, it makes shopping for clothes difficult. When I find a top to fit my arms, its typically too big everywhere else. I'm definitely contemplating skin removal. I don't think I'll ever have a flat stomach either....and I do lift weights and do core work and drink plenty of water. - 4/8/2014 11:41:18 AM
  • Good article. I've been wondering if a person has less stretched skin if they lose slowly instead of having something like a gastric bypass. - 4/8/2014 11:24:45 AM
  • I lost 200 lbs, and needed a panniculectomy. My loss was so extreme I actually needed a second one - removing extra skin around the back, also. The first surgery was so painful that I couldn't hardly take it, but the second one actually removed the areas that hurt (about 12" overlap in first and second surgery), and I've been just fine. Of course, first surgery to final recovery (free from Army profile) has been 14 months. - 4/8/2014 9:45:18 AM
  • Timely article for me...I have been on the weight loss roller coaster all of my life and this time I plan for the loss to be forever. I have been successfully maintaining now for about seven months so I still have a long way to go but I feel like I am doing it right this time. I have a lot of loose skin this time, something that never happened before. I won't do surgery so I must learn to live with it. I think that the causes this time are age and sun damage...I am out in the sun all summer long and not good about protecting my for all of the young people out there who like to tan, I totally recommend a lot of sunscreen, otherwise you might end up with saggy wrinkly skin just like me! - 4/8/2014 8:22:37 AM
  • Love the title. We older Sparklers often discuss the loose skin problem among ourselves and also refer to it as the weight loss surprise that nobody talks about. Don't get me wrong, I do hate my hideous loose skin, but at my age, I find the best approach is just to proudly jiggle my flying squirrels and giggle that all that used to be full of fat. - 4/2/2014 11:22:06 AM
  • I'm so glad to read this article. I joined SP a few months before I had a mastectomy and reconstruction and my weight has been on a roller coaster ride. I'm working now on getting back to my starting weight and losing after that.

    After my surgeries my upper arms grew and my spare tire appeared. I'm working to tone those muscles under there somewhere and hoping that I won't get those flapping underarms!

    Time will tell and I'll deal with it. I think short sleeves rather than tank tops are in my future for this spring and summer though to hide these ginormous arms. I'm glad I have arms and I love 'em I just don't like seeing them so big. Gotta go do some upper arm exercises and triceps extensions and some chair marching so I can get fit for spring! - 3/26/2014 1:28:48 PM
    Hi and congrats!
    I too have Lots of weight to lose so I can symphathize with your plight. I'll get there one day or another. But your success shows me that it's possible for me. - 3/25/2014 11:15:22 PM
  • More applause for Don Doornbos. He is really focused on the most important things- and that is what will make him a happier human being going forward. No matter what he looks like. - 3/25/2014 12:23:18 PM
    So is "Cool Sculpting", that I see all over now, a scam? Kinda sounds like it. - 3/25/2014 11:11:34 AM
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