After losing lots of weight and feeling great, a look in a mirror can cause distress. Suddenly there's saggy skin. What can be done?
There are various ways to tighten loose skin after losing weight. Three experts offer their advice.
Dr. Dana Goldberg, a West Palm Beach plastic surgeon, discussed the problem of excess skin with patients who have undergone gastric bypass surgery at Jupiter Medical Center in Jupiter, Florida in October, 2009. “Dramatic weight loss is something to be proud of,” she told the group. “You look in the mirror expecting to look better but loose hanging skin can leave you feeling worse about your body than before you lost the weight."
Dr. Goldberg, a surgeon at major South Florida hospitals such as the Jupiter Medical Center, Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center and Wellington Regional Medical Center, showed the group before and after slides of numerous patients who have obtained amazing results from body contouring. She specializes in performing face-lifts, breast lifts, tummy tucks, lower body lifts, thigh lifts, and a brachioplasty, removal of extra tissue called “bat wings” under the upper arm.
Dr. Goldberg assured the patients loose skin is normal when the weight loss is 100 pounds, or more. Losing even 50 pounds can cause flabby skin.
Insurance doesn’t cover most plastic surgery to contour the body. It is considered elective surgery. “Insurance companies will only pay for surgery that is life threatening, such as when surgery for a hernia or other abdominal surgery requires removal of skin on the abdomen,” she said.
Don’t expect to look like you did before you gained weight, said Dr. Goldberg. There will be scars that mostly disappear in time, up to a year depending on a person’s skin. There is some pain during recovery and there are risks of surgery such as bleeding, infections, or blood clots.
The average price of plastic surgery ranges from a $1,000 to $8,000.
The latest innovation in skin technology is using radio frequency (RF). The instant tightening and smoothing effects of the face after an RF treatment is becoming the facial spa favorite at fees up to $1,000 compared to $5,000-6,000 for a face-lift.
RF heats the tissue of the skin at the mid-dermal level with electric current that causes collagen fibers to contract and tighten.
Studies using these technologies have shown their usefulness in skin rejuvenation and wrinkle reduction, according to Neil S. Sadick. MD, FACP, FAACS of Weil Medical College of Cornell University in New York city and Yuriko Makino, MD of the Tsudanuma Dermatological Clinic of Chiba, Japan. They reported their findings in Lasers in Surgery and Medicine in 2004
“Good results have been obtained with systems that use RF current alone for skin resurfacing, with efficacy comparable to laser resurfacing, but with potentially more rapid healing”, wrote the doctors. Plastic surgeons, dermatologists and licensed aestheticians can perform RF treatments.
When weight loss is slow and steady loose skin will fill up with muscle when you exercise at the same time, said Natasha Perez, a Licensed Group Fitness Instructor in an intervie in November, 2009. She works for the Seminole Tribe of Florida assisting tribal members with their fitness goals and conducts fitness classes with tribal youth.
“If you lose 50 pounds or less you are more likely to firm up but it all depends on your age, genetics and elasticity of your skin. It can take a year of regular exercise, strength training or bodybuilding, to get significant changes so don’t give up. Keep at it and you will get results,” she said. “But, it takes commitment and you have to do it the rest of your life.”
The 40-year old Perez is proof that toning and firming skin after weight loss is possible. When she was pregnant with her first child at 32, she was unable to exercise due to medical complications. She gained 60 pounds. It was depressing for Perez, a lifelong fitness trainer and dance instructor. She had never had a weight problem. It took her eight months to return to her ideal weight of 112 pounds. She battled loose skin and flab on the belly after weight loss.
With a consistent regimen of aerobics and strength training using lightweights, Perez achieved a toned body once again. It took almost a year. Not only has she achieved tightened skin but has witnessed her husband lose 115 pounds and do the same. “Through bodybuilding my husband has also toned and firmed his body,” she said. For women, she suggests dance aerobics such as jazzercise and belly dancing.
Before launching an exercise program or undergoing facial treatments or plastic surgery, consult with your physician.