The Daily Beet

18 Feb Excess Skin

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As you lose weight you might notice a side effect that you did not intend on dealing with, and that is excess skin. Having lost over 200 pounds (with a lot more to go) I already have a fair amount of excess skin, especially in the abdomen, thigh and upper arm areas. I expect that as I lose more that I will have more.

I asked a few of the doctors we work with about this issue. There are a few things that can help, but the short answer is that if you’ve lost a significant amount of weight, there are not many natural ways to deal with it.

First, the more slowly you lose weight the better. Rapid weight loss can make excess skin a lot more prominent. Age also has a lot to do with it, generally younger people have an easier time having their skin bounce back more so than people who are more mature. You can do a little to build muscle underneath, but keep in mind that won’t result in tight skin over those muscles. Genetics has a lot to do with it as well.

There are rumors that you can donate skin to burn centers. I’ve looked into these claims, and they are not true.

So what is there?

If it is a big concern for you, surgery is an option. It is an expensive option, but some people feel that is a necessary cost. Insurance will typically not cover it, except in rare cases in which the excess skin weighs so much that it is causing physical problems that are interfering with the quality of your life. I’ve done a lot of research on this as well, because I currently have a lot, and like I said I will more than likely have more when I’m closer to my ideal weight, and my insurance (which is pretty good) does not cover it under any circumstance.

Of course there are some ways to hide the excess skin with different clothing and things that hide, suck, pull things together. Being overweight still, I never find these things to be all that comfortable, though I guess I end up burning A LOT of calories trying to wiggle myself into said clothing.

But the bottom line? I’ve come to be more and more ok with the excess skin. I was once morbidly obese. That is part of my history, part of who I was for a long time. I am never going to have a perfect body, chances are, no one will ever have a perfect body. For some of us we will spend lots of time eating right, working out and doing all the right things, and we still might not get those perfect abs.

It’s ok, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Our bodies tell a story about who we are and who we were. Maybe it is a scar, or a crooked nose, maybe it’s frizzy hair, no hair, gray hair, maybe it’s wrinkles, freckles, weird toes, or in my case, thumbs that look like big toes (so much so that my brothers call me toes). We all have things. Our society is so obsessed with this idea of what the perfect body looks like, when no one actually has a perfect body. We’re all imperfect, and I for one think that is a beautiful thing.

Excess skin is part of my imperfect body, and I’m ok with that. Be proud of the progress you made that caused that excess skin, and start the path to deciding you will learn to love all the things that make your body, your body.

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Natala Constantine
  • Mary Ellen
    Posted at 02:42h, 18 February

    How is it that you turn a pretty general FAQ into something so lovely and thoughtful? Thank you for this message. I get so disheartened when women especially use their body to sell or prove something. Recently one of my favorite plant based authors once again showed her body off, I’m all for her loving her body, but she made a remark that basically anyone could have her abs if they just ate right. I’ve had 4 children, 2 by caesarean section. I’ve been a healthy vegan for 18 years, through my pregnancies, I workout, I practice yoga and have run 2 marathons and countless 5 and 10K’s and I still have a flabby tummy, it will never go away. But the reason I have my flabby tummy is 4 amazing children, to me that is well worth not having a six pack.
    Thank you again for this.

    • justme
      Posted at 19:03h, 18 February

      My husband calls my baby tummy my badge of honor.

    • Lori
      Posted at 21:43h, 18 February

      I think she was saying that abs were made in the kitchen, not in the gym. She routinely says that weight loss is not dependent on exercise, but more about what you eat.

  • Mark Taber
    Posted at 08:09h, 18 February

    Just beautiful! “Nat,” yes! I lost over 100 lbs. (in my 50s), and I have some “extra skin” as well. I love your take on it: scars, and visual record of our histories. (Even guys struggle with this now, though the pressure for perfection isn’t as relentless [yet] as it is for women in our society). I hold my head high in the gym now. No 6-pack abs, but achievement. I know I *have* abs now! My personal trainer makes sure I feel them complain a bit regularly 😉

  • Donna Corpuz
    Posted at 08:37h, 18 February

    Wow! Thank you for sharing! I, too, have excess skin after losing 70 pounds and would poke, prod, and pull at it in disgust. But you, my dear, have given me another (emotionally healthier) way of looking at this skin. It’s going to take awhile, but I am going to start embracing this excess skin with pride! Thank you again and congratulations on your progress thus far, wishing you continued success in your journey!

  • Marty
    Posted at 09:18h, 18 February

    Mine seems to get a little better every year. Now, about my gray hair……

  • letsbehealthytogether
    Posted at 11:28h, 18 February

    Great article. This issue is one that many encounter when they start eating for their health. Thanks for addressing it so practically. -Jeff

  • Jeff
    Posted at 11:50h, 18 February

    My brother and I both lost over 100 pounds a few years ago (before we went plant strong) his skin bounced back, mine never did. We are only 2 years apart. I realized there wasn’t much I could do about it after that, it’s been hard, and I did everything I knew to do, but this post helped a lot, maybe it’s time I accept it and move on and be happy.

  • Patty
    Posted at 12:24h, 18 February

    Very timely! I saw a (former) favorite cookbook author once again showing off her body and her stomach to the world claiming that anyone can have that body. Not so. I’ve lost 150 pounds, I can’t afford plastic surgery, and I’ve had a child. My belly no matter what I eat in the kitchen is not going to look like that, hate to break it to that person neither will hers forever, kids, and age will do that. I was feeling horrible about myself once again after seeing her words, and then came here. Thank you Natala for being a voice of reason in a world caught up with so much vanity they will risk hurting others feelings to show how perfect they are.

  • Lisa
    Posted at 12:27h, 18 February

    I too have excess from weight loss and wondered why exercising for a few years isn’t tightening it. Being 45+ doesn’t help I am sure. Thanks for putting a better perspective on it.

  • Bonnie R
    Posted at 18:52h, 18 February

    I have been maintaining a weight loss of 140+ pounds for almost three years. I became a vegetarian almost by accident as I taught myself to eat healthier over the 18 months it took me to lose the weight. My main form of exercise is running and the extra skin caused real problems for me during my runs. I also had good insurance which would not cover a penny of the surgery. I love the attitude in this article and I am all about self love and acceptance and empowerment. I opted to have the skin removal surgeries due to issues caused by the extra skin. The surgeries were painful and the recovery was hard. They were also crazy expensive and we had to sacrifice a lot to make it happen. I think we should all celebrate our health and our successes. Everyone’s journey is different. With regards to the author showing her stomach. I saw it and I thought is was beautiful and should be accepted in the manner it was shared. She did not say your abs can look like mine if you eat a plant based diet. She said abs are made in the kitchen. That is the truth. Our strong abs may be covered with saggy skin and stretch marks but they are still strong and they weren’t built by Big Macs and milkshakes.

    • Shelly
      Posted at 01:13h, 19 February

      I don’t think she was saying not to get surgery, but for some that might not be an option, I’ve lost a lot of weight and I could never afford it. As for the author mentioned a few times, I think it’s just hard for some of us who know we can never look like that, sometimes in the vegan movement I think there is an unreaistic expectation of body image, they are all sexy, thin, super fit, we’re all different, and that’s ok.

  • Gail
    Posted at 22:40h, 18 February

    Natalia thanks so much for your wonderful perspective! I really appreciate it! This was awesome!

  • Jean Hayes
    Posted at 15:51h, 25 February

    Love you and your wonderful perspective Natala!

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