On shows like Extreme Weight Loss and The Biggest Loser, participants routinely commit to losing at least half their body weight on national television. Every tabloid in the grocery store checkout line addresses the latest fad on how to lose weight, with new diets, exercise programs, and even surgical procedures popping up almost daily help people achieve their ideal weights. Typically, shedding a few pounds here and there isn’t life changing. However, when a person drops 100 pounds or more, the change can be drastic and difficult to cope with – both mentally and physically. If you’ve lost a major amount of weight and are having a hard time accepting the way you look, rest assured that there are many ways to battle the bulge and feel comfortable in your body once again.
How Your Skin Works
Your skin has many layers, and its elasticity – or ability to stretch and bounce back – is dependent on a number of factors like genetics and age. Similar to the way a balloon can inflate, your skin can stretch to accommodate your expanding size when you gain weight.
Your skin is comprised of three layers:
- The Epidermis – The outer layer of your skin, the epidermis is what you see and feel.
- The Dermis – Located beneath the epidermis, the dermis contains:
- Collagen – a protein that gives strength and shape to your body’s connective tissue
- Elastin – a protein that gives your skin its elasticity, or ability to snap back into place
- The Hypodermis – Situated under the dermis, the hypodermis is the thickest layer of your skin and consists of cells that store fat.
Challenges After Major Weight Loss
If you’ve lost a lot of weight, the physical transformation may be hard to believe. On the outside, you may look happy and healthy – but on the inside, you may be having a hard time appreciating your new appearance. You may wonder what buying new clothes will be like, how others will react to you, or whether or not you can actually keep the weight off. These emotional battles can cause self-doubt, discouraging and frustrating you – and ultimately causing you to have a negative outlook on life. They may also potentially lead to mental health issues.
Beyond these emotional challenges, there are physical changes that happen as well – changes that may only be noticeable to you. After losing a lot of weight, your skin cannot simply spring back into place. If you’ve lost weight quickly, it may not have had enough time to acclimate to your new shape. If you’re older, your skin may have become thinner due to natural aging and the breakdown of collagen, leaving it inflexible and unforgiving. Years of dehydration, sun damage, or poor nutrition can exacerbate this process, too.
Sagging skin is not only visibly undesirable, but it can be difficult to keep clean – leaving areas prone to rashes and infection.
Surgical and Non-Surgical Treatment Options Post-Weight Loss
Treatments for sagging skin vary depending on the amount of excess skin present. If there isn’t much, a non-surgical approach may be your best bet. However, if the amount of excess skin is causing psychological or health issues, cosmetic surgery may be required to alleviate your problems.
If you are dealing with excess skin, you may want to consider:
- Non-Surgical Skin Tightening – There are several non-invasive skin-tightening solutions on the market today that use laser technology to benefit patients who do not have excessive loose skin. Treatments like SculpSure and Pro-Lipo Laser Liposuction can be extremely effective and have little to no downtime. Their only drawback is that they generally require more than one visit.
- Surgical Body Contouring – Several cosmetic procedures may fall into the body contouring category. They are typically defined as treatments that remove large amounts of excess fat and sagging skin, while improving the shape of underlying support tissue. In a circumferential body lift, an incision is made across the back and then on the sides of the abdomen, cutting away the skin and then tightening it back up with sutures. Other body contouring procedures include tummy tucks, breast lifts, and facelifts.
- Liposuction – One of the most popular cosmetic surgery options, liposuction removes unwanted pockets of fat that won’t respond to dieting and exercise. During this procedure, bulging fat is removed in areas such as the tummy, outer thighs, lower back, waist, and inner thighs.
It’s important to note that before taking a surgical approach, you should treat any persistent skin conditions and maintain a healthy weight for at least six months.
Seek Advice to See What’s Right for You
If you have reached a significant weight-loss goal, congratulations! We know that it was a tough journey, and there are easier days ahead. Whether your sagging skin is excessive or merely unappealing, consult a professional like Dr. Chang about which procedure would work best for you. There are advantages and disadvantages to every treatment option, whether invasive or non-invasive. With a little expert help, you’ll look as good on the outside as you feel on the inside – and you deserve it!