Reader Questions: Loose Skin?

by Kenlie Tiggeman on June 21, 2011

When I started this blog, I really had no idea that anyone would care about what I had to say.  Receiving comments and e-mails is one of my favorite parts of blogging! And while I still plan to dish out my unsolicited opinions on a regular basis, I also welcome your thoughts and questions.

If you have a question or comment about clothes, food, workouts or anything else I ramble about incessantly, feel free to submit the question by going to the “Ask Kenlie” tab at the top of my blog.  It might even appear on my blog at some point.

This question struck me on a very personal level because it’s something that has crossed my mind many, many times in the last year.  And I know that some of my friends have faced this issue so let’s talk about it…

 

Dawn writes……
Hi Kenlie!

Like many others, I started following your blog after the kerfluffle with Southwest made the news. And, like many others, you inspired me to get back in the saddle and continue my weight loss journey. So THANK YOU! I had no idea there was an online community of “losers” who could inspire, commiserate, and share! Thank you for the introduction.

So, besides finally getting around to saying that, I also have a question. I’ve been watching the Extreme Makeover show where people lose a huge amount of weight in a year. I really don’t think it’s a good idea but it makes for interesting tv. (I assume they are closely monitored medically.) But, in the episodes I’ve seen, they are scheduled for skin removal surgery if they make their second goal. Is this something that you’ve thought about or read up on or anticipate? Is it the norm for people who lose more than 100 pounds? You are younger than I am (I’m 48) so perhaps your youthful skin is more elastic and you will not need surgery. I’m just curious to know if any of your weight loss friends have had it or are considering it.

I really enjoy your blog and I’m rooting for you!

 

Hi Dawn,

Thanks for rooting for me!  And thanks for this question.  It’s definitely something that I think about a lot though, at this point, I’m still so far away from my goal that it’s a dream more than a necessity.  I do believe that I’ll face this issue when I reach my goal, and it’s something that I’ve discussed at length.

My friend, Sarah, has lost  about 185 pounds and kept it off for the last 6 years.  You can read more about her here. She had surgery to remove skin shortly before I saw her last year.  I saw her again last week, and she looks fantastic!  You can see us here. But it took a long time to heal, and she had already spent years keeping the weight off.  She believes that one should lose as much weight organically before going into surgery, and we both agree that extreme weight-loss (as portrayed in TV) isn’t the best way to yield lasting results. In my opinion, they also fail to cover the psychological issues that accompany weight-loss and skin removal surgery.

I’m doing what I can to make the need for surgery minimal.  I workout regularly (cardio, strength training and muscle confusion) and have age on my side.  So who knows where I’ll be when I reach my goal?  I certainly can’t wait to find out!

Thanks again for the question, and stick around because I believe I’ll have to make decisions about this at some point – you know, later.

Best,

Kenlie

 

Have you had skin-removal surgery after losing a considerable amount of weight?  Is it something that you might consider?  Does it intimidate you as much as it intimidates me?

And one more thing, did the guy on Extreme Makeover Weight-Loss Edition last night really lose over 300 pounds in one year?! Did I hear that right?  If so, what are your thoughts?!

 

 

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Joanna June 21, 2011 at 8:09 am

I have recently gone into “strength training” over drive, because I’ve realized that I’ve put too much focus on cardio…and thus I’m now starting to see the signs of loose skin.

I’m like you, and want to lose as much as possible without surgery – so it’s really pushed me into monitoring my work-outs to be all inclusive – cardio, strength, muscle toning. Also, I’ve been drinking a lot of water. I know you’re supposed to, anyway, but I hear it also helps with the loose skin issue.

In regards to Extreme Make-Over…yes, he lost 313lbs in one year. I, personally, don’t think that’s very healthy to start with… but the fact that he had a major hernia on top of it made me question it even more.

Like other weight loss shows do – they had the guy working out 3 times a day for 2 hours at a time…and even on his own, he was working out 4-6 hours a day. To me, that’s just not realistic to maintain… I know I couldn’t work out that much each day. I much prefer doing my 30-60 minutes a day…knowing that it’s something that will give me results slowly, but surely. Just my opinion.

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Alexa June 21, 2011 at 1:48 pm

That’s (one of) my issues with the extreme weight loss reality shows, as well — the lifestyle is not realistic or sustainable. These individuals basically don’t WORK for 6 months/a year/whatever… what’s going to happen when they go back to their normal routine? Or, in the best case scenario that they are totally fine, what about viewers who think this sort of thing is realistic? Yeah, if you have a job/family/responsibilities, good luck working out 6 hours a day. I’m single and I struggle to do all the things I need to do. Women such as yourself with kids are seriously WONDER WOMEN. (interesting that so far they’ve only done young, single people without kids on EMWLE)

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Sarah June 21, 2011 at 8:11 am

I am going to have surgery when I reach my goal. Actually, I will wait about 6 months or so to make sure I am able to keep my weight off. I just feel like after all the hard work I’m doing I deserve it. I think anyone else should do the same if it will make them feel more confident.

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Kenlie June 21, 2011 at 3:46 pm

I agree with you though I’ll be waiting longer than 6 months..It will be a great victory!

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Michelle June 21, 2011 at 9:13 am

300lbs in one year? Wowzers. I haven’t seen that show yet but am really curious about it now. That just seems like so much weight in such a short period of time. I lost about 75 in a 9-10month period and thought that was quick.

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Kris June 21, 2011 at 9:58 am

After I reached my goal (total loss 107 pounds), I waited six months and scheduled my skin reduction surgery – then a real medical emergency came up and I had to have invasive abdominal surgery instead. This delayed my skin removal (I had to wait at least six months to heal). I have not rescheduled, not because I don’t want it, but because of the $$ right now – need to save up again.

I work out regularly, I’m happy with my back, arms, legs, etc. But my abdomen and chest make exercise uncomfortable – I ran a marathon this past weekend, and the skin on my belly rubbed raw – ouch! This is not the first time, either.

So yes, I’m having the surgery one day. As an FYI, I’m 39.

Didn’t watch Extreme Makeover, but 313 in one year??? Not healthy!

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Kenlie June 21, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Kris! Congrats on the weight-loss AND on the marathon! That’s just fantastic!

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nikkianne June 21, 2011 at 10:19 am

I’m glad you posted this! It’s something I think/worry about all the time. When I reach my goal weight I will have lost about 120 lbs. I’m 26 so I think my skin in young and elastic-y and hopefully will be okay. I’ve been thinking about using shea butter cream or even baby oil (one of my friend’s mothers did that when she was pregnant and never got a single stretch mark) and using it everyday to help my skin.

But Jen at PriorFatGirl (http://www.priorfatgirl.com/?s=surgery) started her weight loss journey when she was 26 (I believe) and lost her weight over 2 years and she lost 100 lbs. She has excess skin. I’m worried I’ll be in the same boat and financially I doubt skin removal surgery is something I’ll ever be able to afford.

Is it just the working out regularly that you’re doing to make the need for skin removal surgery minimal?

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Kenlie June 21, 2011 at 3:49 pm

I just have to say that I’ve met Jen, Prior Fat Girl, in person..and she looks incredible. She’s gorgeous even prior to surgery. Just saying.

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Jodi June 21, 2011 at 10:34 am

I have had several skin removal procedures.

To start I had a tummy tuck when I weighed 298 lbs because the skin was so bad after having two kids I was unable to exercise. At this time I also had a breast lift.

Then I lost 100 lbs more and had an inner thigh lift and an arm lift.

Then my surgeon that I loved quit the business due to an illness she was facing so I found a new surgeon. This new surgeon is way more aggressive. I lost around 40 more lbs and this past Feburary I had:

Another breast lift and Augmentation (i did this because after losing so much weight from my high weight of 450 there was nothing left but loose saggy skin) . I had a mini tuck to my tummy, I had a butt lift and another partial leg lift.

This last set of procedures were like a miracle for me. My body finally looks more “normal now”. He considered everything I had reconstructive vs. cosmetic…even the augmentation.

In November I am going in for a little more work on my legs. The legs are the most difficult area in my opinion. I went to very reputable surgeons that are the best in my area for post bariatric reconstruction and they both said legs are tricky. There is also the scar vs. removal debate.

I would do every single procedure again in a heartbeat. The new surgeon I have is very aggressive and he is very quick. That can matter when it comes to time and money and also the time you spend UNDER anesthesia. He was also highly recommended. I have spent a considerable amount of money on these procedures. My quality of life was severely impacted by the skin and also it was very mentally upsetting for me. I spend so much time in the gym and everytime I look in the mirror I was seeing sagging skin. It was important to me to be able to SEE the results. I can now….

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Sarah June 21, 2011 at 10:39 am

I’m the Sarah mentioned above. Let’s talk about stretch marks. One you have them they are not going away. I still have stretch marks on my thighs, the back of calves, boobs, arms, and but. They will always be there. No amount of exercise is going to shrink broken skin. Simply the way that it is. You can firm it up a bit with lotions and creams (Vitamin E seems to work best) but physiologically you have changed the integrity of your skin when you have stretched out- either via pregnancy or via weight gain. This fact also has implications for healing. It’s not the same healthy tissue as it once was and so the only way to reduce it is to surgically remove the excess. Working out will make you overall healthier therefore making all your tissues over all healthier which helps its appearance I think… it will also give you muscles which can fill out your skin. Alas, it is one of those things we are left with… so much physical trauma to the largest organ of the body is impossible to over come without some surgical help.

Also… the physiological aspect. I truly think slow and steady wins this race every time. It tool me 5 years (with HUGE PLATEAU in middle) to lose the weight. I struggled with feelings of self worth and vanity when thinking about the excess skin… but it was a fact that eventually I could not ignore and it was getting in the way of my functioning. Mentally it was far harder on me than the gradual weight loss. You go to sleep one way and wake up completely different. Brain has to process this…. for me in the form of nightmares, self loathing for a moment and lots of tears. Especially with my complicated healing. I think it’s best to wait and see where you end up before you change your shape. I also think that a year is a good amount of time to wait… Regain and also your body needs to settle. After both my plastics experiences I did not see true results until a year later. Same is true when you lose weight.

I think I need to see this show. 300 pounds in a year? Ugh. I’m rooting for them… but I’ll want to see the follow up in a year. Change is hard wether it happens over years or over night.

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Sarah June 21, 2011 at 10:47 am

One more thing… I can see very easily why surgery is a slippery slope. My surgeon was awesome and gave me shape that I adore. As close to what could have been organically mine. I’ve also had 11 knee surgeries. Operations are no joke… and complications happen. For me this was determining factor in what I decided to have done (not all that much considering how much weight I have lost). Expectations about what plastics can and can not do for you. I think at mid way through weight loss process they are obviously functional surgeries. But towards the end… I truly believe less is more. And so did my surgeon. Boston has more options than you can shake a stick at. SO many tried to sell me a belt lipectomy or an anchor cut or boobs or DO IT ALL AT ONCE! Umm, yeah no.

You will not come out perfect there will be lumps and asymmetries. But for me… doing all that work was not worth that risk. I look in the mirror and love who I see. When I get dressed every day most people would never known I had surgery and often ppl tell me you don’t look like you were that heavy… It’s all in how you pull it off. In the end do what’s right for you.

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Kenlie June 21, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Well said Sarah…all of it.

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Annie Weighs June 21, 2011 at 11:49 am

I already have some loose skin with 88.8 pounds gone. I have thought about surgery after I hit my goal and have maintained at least 6 months, but I’m not so sure about it. I had a c-section when I had my son and recovery from that wasn’t too bad, but it isn’t something I think I’d want to put myself through again (unless I had a baby in my arms afterward as my reward). I guess I will see once I get there, but for now I’m thinking I won’t do it and I’ll wear that loose skin as my earned “stripes” like the military. It can serve as a daily reminder of where I never want to be again.

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Tara June 21, 2011 at 11:51 am

I lost 173 lbs over a two year period and there is definitely loose skin. However, for the most part it really doesn’t bother me. At least until we talk about my stomach.

I have loose skin on my arms and thighs and I barely notice it. Yes, it would be nice if it was tighter, but it’s not. I still wear shorts and tank tops and remember the days when I would suffer through the summer in jeans and long sleeve shirts in order to hide my fat. I like seeing the muscles work UNDER the loose skin and feel proud of everything I did in order to get those muscles.

My stomach is another story altogether. I am left with a big pannus – it’s much bigger than someone of my frame. For some reason, it just didn’t seem to shrink with my weight loss. I fully believe that I’m a pant size larger than I need to be due to this flap of fat under my belly button. My upper stomach also has hanging skin that bothers me, my shirts “stick” to it and I’m hyper aware that it looks like a fat roll. I’m toying with trying to get a stomach surgery covered by the national health care service here in Canada but then I wonder if vanity (cause that’s all it really is at this point) is really worth risking my life and going through a painful recovery process.

I’m thinking in October, once the summer is behind me, I’ll make an appointment with a surgeon and see what they have to say. I reserve the right to change my mind.

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Kenlie June 21, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Yep…it’s totally your decision…and 173 pounds?! Astonishing…I never get tired of hearing that!

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Jodi June 21, 2011 at 12:15 pm

I just wanted to be more clear. Everyone has to figure out what they can “live” with. Surgery is dangerous but for me the risks outweighed how much skin issues I was having before every procedure I have had. I also think when a person has the surgery is up to them. It could seem irrational or dangerous to have procedures during weight loss. I was 25 when I started losing weight. At that point I couldnt’ afford the skin removal I needed. I gained the weight back. I am not saying that’s WHY I gained it back but I do feel like if I had had the resources to remove the skin at that point I would have had an easier time maintaining my loss for the simple reason that the skin was making it very uncomfortable for me to exercise and completely throwing my balance off. I don’t want to mislead anyone that might read this into thinking I am going for the “Michael Jackson”. I just want to be able to be comfortable and wear shorts in the summer…okay the boobs are fun…I admit it….I love the boobs…and you know what…I deserve to love my body…even with its scars…

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Kenlie June 21, 2011 at 3:56 pm

You do deserve to love your body…as does every person involved in this post. We have all faced this battle head-on…and we’re all lovable! Thank you for that important reminder!

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BrookeNotOnADiet June 21, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Loose skin is definitely something I worry about. But I don’t let it hinder my journey. Maybe I will have it, maybe I won’t…..guess we’ll see when I get to goal! And then I’ll deal with it if I have to.

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Kenlie June 21, 2011 at 3:54 pm

<3 you B! You are SO right!

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MB June 21, 2011 at 9:15 pm

I’m over 40 and have lost 90+ pounds and still have a bit more to lose so I definitely have some loose skin but I’d rather have the skin loose than filled with fat. Jen, a Prior Fat Girl, recently scheduled skin removal surgery and Fab Kate at Fabulous at 50 has been battling with her insurance company to get approval for her surgery which seems more medically necessary than just vanity. I would imagine they would have more info and helpful advice on this topic if you’re interested.

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Tammy June 21, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Great post Kenlie and I love the discussion that it brought. It helps to read comments from others that have the same concern and those that have already lost the weight and the decisions they made. I am just starting my journey (for the millionth time). I’ll be extremely honest here and say that I am worried about loose skin and think about it all the time. Of course, I want to lose my 250 lbs and will be so much healthier for it. But I do worry about what I will look like. I know it’s vanity, and I am okay with that. I’ve been heavy my entire life and have always wanted a shot at just being “normal” or not looking fat. I may or may not be able to afford the surgeries and only time will tell if I am willing to take the risks associated. First on the agenda, is to lose the weight by eating healthy and exercising. I have a lot of time to think about the extra skin and what I will do. Again, great discussion. Thank you.

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Lisa July 27, 2011 at 3:30 pm

Unfortunately loose skin is part of losing weight. It took me almost 2 years to lose 100 pounds and I did it the right way. I counted my calories, I exercised, and I still have some loose skin (and cellulite and stretch marks). Unfortunately surgery is the only thing that will fix that but I’m not ready for something like that. It’s not something I think about every day (yet) but maybe after I have some kids…

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Tara August 1, 2011 at 7:24 pm

I have a lot of weight to loose too (over 100). I don’t think I will opt for surgery. I’m too afraid of surgery. I want to see what my body composition is like when I get to the ideal weight for my body type. I plan to get one of those tests, if possible, where you are submerged in water to determine your true body fat percentage. I read that loose skin due to a massive weight loss might be because there is still a considerable amount of fat attacted to the skin that still needs to be lost. The way it was explained was that a massive weight loss can result in a considerable loss of muscle and that someone who is 150 from 300 is likely to have a much high fat percentage than someone of the same body type and height who is 150 without weight loss. Bottom line, from what I read, is that getting the fat percentage in check will allow the skin to tighten up and lessen the need for surgery. What that might mean, IMO, is that more weight needs to be lost and musle added to get to a more idea body composition. I guess it’s like the term “a skinny fat person” which describes someone of ideal weight who has a higher than ideal fat percentage.

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Cat November 13, 2011 at 10:26 am

Loose skin is an issue that comes with extreme weight loss. I started at 316 pounds, and am down to 258 with much more to go. I have started to see small signs of loose skin, but nothing major yet. I highly expect to be disgusted with the skin when I reach my goal weight, but I know now (and will try to remember then) that my body is sooo much healthier than it used to be, and loose skin is better than heart disease or death.
Surgery will likely never be a possibility for me because of the cost. I’m hoping to minimize the loose skin issue by drinking tons of water, taking vitamin E, using a body scrub to exfoliate my skin (supposed to increase circulation, improving elasticity), and moisturizing my skin. I also do weight training 3 times a week. Just in the 6 weeks I have been doing weight training I have seen a difference in the skin on the underside of my arms. I have read several articles about dry brushing the skin, but haven’t read any reviews, so I haven’t jumped on that particular wagon yet.
I have read several times that it takes skin a long time to bounce back, but most people see a difference after about 2 years of keeping the weight off. I’m sure that in extreme cases it won’t completely go away, but as skin regenerates itself it does tighten some.
I have really enjoyed reading this post and the comments. Reading the experiences of other people in situations like mine keep me motivated and give me a sense of power. Thanks for the pick me up!

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Heather February 5, 2012 at 11:26 pm

Hey,
I saw this picture and I thought it was awesome at least as far as stretch marks go!
http://tumblrgym.tumblr.com/post/16800135452#tumblr_notes

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Kris February 26, 2012 at 1:45 pm

I once saw a letter to the editor of a fitness magazine from a mother of 6 who was overweight (exact weight not stated). She said she was amazed that as she followed a fitness and nutrition plan and lost the weight, her tummy tightened and her skin regained its tone. She was rethinking her plans to have a tummy tuck after she completed her weight loss.
That is my inspiration! Her fitness plan included weight training and I think as the training broke down the muscle fibers it put her body into a rebuilding mode, including her skin. I know this plan cannot erase the stretch marks but I like that it could lessen the need for surgery.

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Irene September 15, 2012 at 2:04 am

I am in day three of recovery from my tummy tuck. I was still 27 lb away from my goal to loose weight. I have lost 85 lb after having two kids. I have a one year old and a two year old. I went back and forth feeling like I was jumping the gun and should wait for more loss. I had stopped loosing weight and lost my motivation to push. I went for the consult on a whim and ended with a set surgery. Now laying here in pain and finding out the surgeon removed 6 lb of skin and more lipo then he had planned I do not regret it. I work out regurally and eat well. I had this skin hanging and bouncing with me when I worked out. I hated family pictures and never did anything that involved a swimsuit. I plan to keep up my healthy life style and feel great for having the surgery

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Michelle July 31, 2013 at 5:16 pm

I’ve lost 140 in a year. Maintaining is definitely the most difficult part. I’d still like to lose about 30 more lbs. And even then, I think I’ll have ‘extra skin.’ I’ve deliberated about whether or not to have surgery. I probably won’t simply because it’s not worth it monetarily for me. That’s a lot of money. I’m still beautiful, extra me and all. I’m whole lot more healthy. Of course, if money were no object, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

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