July 5, 2017
If you’re dealing with the problem of loose skin, especially after major weight loss, here’s what you can do about it.
Have you busted your butt for months and months to lose weight only to be left with handfuls of ugly loose skin?
Do you want to know once and for all what it takes to tighten this skin and show off that new body you’ve worked so hard for?
If so, then this article is for you!
First, let me say that I understand how frustrating the loose skin problem is. It’s extremely discouraging to feel like you’re doing everything right without getting the results you really desire.
Some people might say to stop worrying about how you look and just be happy with what you’ve got, but I have a hard time with advice like that.
Sure, some people develop unhealthy obsessions with looks and image, but there’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a lean, strong, healthy body that looks and feels great. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that everyone should have that experience.
And so in this article, we’re going to take an in-depth look at the loose skin issue and see what can be done about it.
The Problem isn’t Always Loose or Excess Skin
While there are legit cases of excess skin after weight loss, what many people think is loose or excess skin is actually just excess body fat, which is soft and jiggly and easily mistaken as skin.
There’s an easy way to tell if you’re dealing with actual loose skin or too much body fat.
Pinch the area you’re concerned with and if you can grab more than a few millimeters of skin, there’s more fat in there to lose.
Until you lose that fat, your skin has no reason to return to its former size and tautness. Remember that skin isn’t a curtain of passive, inert flesh–it’s a living organ that adapts to its internal and external environments. As long as the fat it’s attached to remains, it will sag.
If you’re a man, I wouldn’t consider surgery to deal with loose skin until you’ve hit 10% body fat. If you’re a woman, 20% is the number.
These are the body fat ranges where your subcutaneous fat levels become low enough to accurately assess the state of your skin. And chances are just getting lean enough will resolve the entire problem.
If, however, someone gets to this low level of body fat and his or her skin is almost paper thin and looks like crinkled papyrus, then it truly is a matter of excess skin, and can be dealt with accordingly.
Now, one thing you should know is that certain fat stores are harder to burn than others. The science is fairly complicated, and I dive into it here, but for the purpose of this article all you need to know is the fat in certain areas of our body is harder to lose than the fat in others.
Not coincidentally, these “stubborn” fat stores cling to the areas most often associated with loose or excess skin problems: the lower abdomen, lower back (love handles), hips, thighs, and butt.
What many people think is loose skin is just excess amounts of stubborn fat.
Now, you can’t directly “target” stubborn fat stores with special diet or training tricks, but you can use several strategies to help eliminate them faster.
Building Muscle and Reducing Excess Skin
A big part of tightening loose skin is building muscle. The reason for this is simple.
There are two layers of tissue underneath your skin: fat and muscle, both of which press up against your skin and keep it from sagging loosely.
When you gain a large amount of weight, your skin must expand quite a bit to accommodate the increase in body size. When you lose the fat, however, and especially when you lose it quickly, your skin doesn’t necessarily shrink at the same rate as your fat cells. This imbalance can lead to loose skin.
Furthermore, many people use various forms of starvation dieting as well as large amounts of cardio to lose fat, which also causes significant muscle loss, further expanding the void between the skin and the underlying tissue.
The end result is a reduced body fat percentage but a small, soft physique with sagging skin. The “skinny fat” look, as it’s called.
Building muscle is the solution to all these woes because it literally fills in the looseness in the skin, creating a visibly tighter, healthier look.
This advice applies to both people that have already lost a lot of weight and those that are just beginning. If you’re currently dealing with issues of loose skin, you should start lifting weights. If you’re starting a weight loss regimen, be sure to include weightlifting in it.
Remember the goal isn’t just to lose weight but to lose fat and not muscle.
Improving Skin Elasticity
If your skin loses elasticity–its ability to expand and shrink as needed–it can’t return to its proper size. This happens naturally as we age but it can afflict younger people as well. What can you do to improve it?
Several things, actually.
As if there weren’t already enough reasons to stop smoking, here’s another: it ruins your skin.
A study from researchers at the International Association of Ecologic Dermatology analyzed the skin of 64 female Italian smokers for the presence of lines, vascular and pigmentation state, elasticity, brightness, and texture.
The initial assessment revealed that the average biological age of study participants was 9 years older than their chronological age. After 9 months of not smoking, however, the average reduction in the biological age of the skin was 13 years.
The bottom line is this: if you want healthy, vibrant skin, you need to stay away from cigarettes.
Eat enough protein.
Research shows a correlation between protein intake and skin youthfulness and health. Low-protein dieting is associated with poorer skin health than high-protein dieting, which helps reduce wrinkles, dryness, and skin atrophy.
If you’re not sure how much protein you should be eating, check out this article on the benefits of high-protein diets.
Eat your fruits and vegetables.
Your body needs a wide spectrum of vitamins and minerals to carry out the millions of biological processes that keep you alive and healthy, and eating several servings of fruits and vegetables every day is the only reliable way to provide everything your body needs.
In terms of skin specifically, research has shown that higher intakes of fruits and vegetables are associated with healthier, better-looking skin.
No pills or powders are going to give you a “quick fix” for your loose skin, but there are several supplements that may help. Let’s look at each.
A study conducted by scientist at Stanford University found that supplementing with 250 mg of gelatin per day improved skin elasticity.
Getting gelatin in your diet can be a little tough, though, unless you enjoy eating a variety of strange foods like oxtail, chicken feet, or short ribs. Supplementing is the easiest way to go here, and here’s the product I would personally use (NOW Foods is a trustworthy company):
Among fish oil’s many health benefits is the improvement of skin elasticity, and a significant improvement can be seen in as few as 3 months.
A high-quality fish oil is one of the best all-around supplements you can take to preserve health and protect against disease, but not all fish oils are equal.
There are two important things to consider when choosing one:
You want to know how the oil has been processed.
There are two forms of fish oil on the market today: the triglyceride form and the ethyl ester form.
The triglyceride form is fish oil in its natural state, and the ethyl ester form is a processed version of the triglyceride form that includes a molecule of ethanol (alcohol).
While plenty of studies have proven the benefits of supplementation with fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEEs), research has shown that the triglyceride form is better absorbed by the body.
One of the reasons for this is the ethyl ester form is much more resistant to the enzymatic process by which the body breaks the oil down for use.
Another downside to the ethyl ester form is during the digestive process, your body converts it back to the triglyceride form, which results in the release of the ethanol molecule.
Although the dose is small, those with alcohol sensitivity or addiction can be negatively affected. Furthermore, research has provided evidence of cellular and organic toxicity and injury resulting from the ingestion of FAEEs.
You want to know the EPA/DHA content of each serving.
Because of the varying quality of fish oils on the market, it’s important that you look at how many milligrams of EPA and DHA (omega-3 fatty acids) are actually in each serving.
Lower-quality supplements might have as little as 150 – 200 mg per 1 gram of fat, which makes them nearly worthless as you have to take far too many every day to get enough omega-3s (you want a minimum of 2 – 3 g of omega-3s per day).
A high-quality fish oil can be quite a bit more money than a low-quality one, but when you look at how much you’re getting for that money in terms of omega-3 fatty acids, the price makes more sense.
For example, here’s the label from a cheap, low-quality (ethyl ester) fish oil product:
This product costs about $11, and comes with 100 pills containing 300 mg of omega-3 fatty acids each.
This means you’re getting 30 g of omega-3 fatty acids per bottle, and paying about 37 cents per gram.
Now, here’s the label from the high-quality triglyceride fish oil that I take:
This product costs $29.95 and contains 120 pills of 600 milligrams of superior, reesterified triglyceride omega-3s, for a total of 72 grams per bottle.
That comes out to 41 cents per gram of EPA and DHA, which means it gives you the highest quality fish oil you can buy for only slightly more than the lowest quality products on the market.
Here’s the supplement:
And in terms of dosage, 1 to 3 g of omega 3 fatty acids (not fish oil but the omega 3s themselves) per day is sufficient for most purposes.
What About “Weight Loss Pills”?
The US weight loss market is absolutely massive (worth nearly $61 billion as of 2011), and weight loss pills account for about $1.5 billion of that pie.
When people are spending that kind of money, count on the hucksters and shysters to be operating in force.
The result is, well, what we see in the marketplace: an absolute glut of weight loss products and dietary routines, all advertised as better than the next.
This can make weight loss a very confusing, frustrating, and expensive endeavor.
Well, the first thing you should know is that NO pill will cause you to magically lose weight. You have to regulate your caloric intake to lose weight (you have to feed your body less energy than it burns every day).
That said, in this article, I go over the ingredients in a variety of popular “weight loss pills” and show you which can speed up weight loss when combined with a proper diet, which don’t, and which scientists are unsure of.
The Bottom Line on Loose Skin and Weight Loss
In some cases, there is no way to fully eliminate loose skin without surgery. Before you go down that road, though, follow the advice in this article and see where you’re at:
- Get to 10% body fat (men)/20% body fat (women)
- Build a significant amount of muscle to replace some of the “space” left from the fat loss
- Don’t smoke
- Adopt a high-protein diet
- Eat several servings of fruits and vegetables every day
- Use supplements proven to help if your budget supports it
If you do all these things and remain patient, there’s a very good chance you can dramatically reduce or even eliminate your loose skin problem without going under the knife.