Fitness Articles

The Weight-Loss Side Effect That No One Talks About

Will I Have Excess Skin Once I Lose Weight?

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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. When she's not lifting weights at the gym, you can find her walking shelter dogs as a volunteer for the SPCA.

Member Comments

  • I would hardly call this "the Side Effect That No One Talks About"... Extra/loose skin is almost always touched on in any article (at least that I have read) regarding extreme weight loss. Not to mention it's just common sense... - 2/24/2016 7:01:46 AM
  • Loosing weight and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is honestly a hard fought, individual battle. While it is true that components of the process are the same for everyone, individual needs and health restrictions, etc can dramatically change the how and why we lose. Loose skin that accompanies a significant weight loss, should not be the reward for winning the battle. Self acceptance is key at any weight, but it is hard to love excess anything. While I have literally walked away many a pound with Leslie, I also had an epiphany one day that walking would not produce IN ME the outcomes I wanted. It was then I added strength training, HIIT workouts, and cardio sculpting routines to my fitness arsenal. I have lost plenty of me while I have gained muscle...and learned an entirely different kind of strength. Was it easy? Did it happen overnight? We all know the answers to these questions, I built slowly and was unwilling to settle for less than my best effort. The day I hit my goal weight I want a fit, strong, healthy woman looking back at me in the mirror...loose skin won't deter me. - 11/5/2015 6:50:35 AM
  • CHRISC1971
    This was a great read. It is a serious downer to have this result after working so hard. - 11/4/2015 11:29:05 PM
  • Where else but SparkPeople could I get such well-documented answers to a question that is nagging at me since I am really losing a lot of weight this time. Thank you so much for this article. Well done, much to consider. - 11/4/2015 8:37:54 AM
  • Great article! Gives me much to think about. - 11/4/2015 8:06:02 AM
  • Thank you for this article. Yes, this has been my road block lately. I can cover up the body, but I'm starting to see loose skin on my face. I've always used moisturizer, since I was 16, (re: a comment below) and although my skin is soft and I get compliments, it doesn't prevent sagging. I wish now I had been more fitness oriented and made lifting weights part of my beauty routine, but I will keep going on with my weight loss. - 11/4/2015 5:47:09 AM
  • I am not real big on doing surgery if other options will work. If I had the skin problems that some have experienced, it would be as a last resort.
    YET, this article answers a lot of questions that many of us are embarrassed to ask/discuss and I think it helps to know that we are not alone. It also gives me a lot of sympathy for those who may have these issues. - 10/28/2015 12:05:05 PM
  • I had the excess skin removed from my upper arms and wore compression sleeves for more than a month and the arms looked and felt great for maybe 6 months but quickly began sagging again. I don't now why and the doctor was surprised, too, but I didn't feel like doing it again. I also had the panniculectomy done (stomach) because the skin hung so low after losing that 130 lbs. I woke with a girdle on that fit below the breasts to the knees. Other than washing time, I wore it 24/7 for 2-3 months including a group tour to Germany, Austria and Switzerland. I am still very happy with that surgery and I am sure wearing the girdle did help keep it from stretching out. I highly recommend that surgery because of the possibility of infections under the "apron". My insurance paid all but $100 which was a great bonus. The doctor's office did all the work of getting that approved.
    BTW I also live in Florida and had no issues with the girdles (arms and stomach) and the heat. - 9/12/2015 11:45:00 AM
  • Moisturize! It's the best advice my grandmother ever gave me. Especially if you live in a dry climate (like California) you need to moisturize every day. It keeps the skin from hanging and wrinkles from forming. - 9/5/2015 11:38:36 AM
  • I just looked at these undergarments that those with the operations can use. I couldn't wear those in Florida! I'd die of heat. - 9/5/2015 10:31:27 AM
  • If you have enough collegan and ellasticity you shouldn't have a problem but I'm in my 60's losing the right way and exercising. The skin is becoming a problem for me. - 9/5/2015 10:29:29 AM
  • I think if you lose weight the right way, you will not have loose skin. People who lose weight really fast have this problem. Your article is bogus!

    Read this instead:


    If you notice that you are accumulating loose skin, you need to do something about it right away. Using compression can help because it increases blood circulation which helps burn fat as well as turn excess skin into energy. Yes, you can "eat" your excess skin! It just takes some time, and the skin needs to be attached to muscle for it to work. If it is hanging off you, of course, you will need to reattach it with an abdominal binder or ace wraps. The Spark Diet must not be all that if most people have excess skin and we are being told to go out and have surgery! It's better to go slow, and use compression as you go if you notice a problem with your body taking up the skin as fuel. Even someone with a lot of excess skin can reduce their body fat to reduce the weight of the skin folds and use compression to get skin and muscles to work together again. - 7/15/2015 8:53:58 PM
    I have seen too many bad results from qualified plastc surgeons to even think about that track - but I actually rather linke my "flaps" and I have huge ones!! Too me they are my trophies - and often prove a talking point too!! No - my trophies will stay - and remind me NEVER to go back to those days!! - 5/3/2015 1:29:14 AM
  • I have lost 40% of my body weight and have loose skin on my arms, breasts, abdomen and thighs. It took 18 months to loose the weight at a rate of a little over a pound a week. At 55 years of age this is the first (and hopefully will be the only) time I've lost weight.

    My weight has been pretty stable for about 4 to 5 months now and I am seeing some improvement in the skin sagging. I'll take the improved health and well-being at the cost of loose skin! - 5/2/2015 12:51:21 PM
  • For years my body bounced back after losing weight but now at 57 my belly is hanging. This came as a huge surprise to me. My husband has had a hang-over (belly) since we dated and I don't hate his. I'm not sure what I think about mine. - 5/2/2015 7:45:52 AM

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