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Sagging, loose skin: the facts

Hängende, lockere Haut: Die Fakten

Sagging, loose skin: the facts

The annoying sagging skin

I got fat between the ages of 18 and 21. I don't really have an excuse for this. Too busy studying, blah, blah, blah.... The real problem was the food. Junk food - tons of it. I gave in to temptation, suffered a temporary bout of stupidity and got fat.

Back then, the "accept your body as it is" movement didn't exist - otherwise I'd probably be dead by now. I simply had enough of being flabby and socially invisible, gave up all the excuses and lost about 70 pounds. Years went by, I rediscovered the gym and started a career in the fitness industry. I only had one problem: loose, hanging skin.

What is loose, hanging skin?

When you get fat, the skin stretches to accommodate the extra fatty tissue. The skin stretches, becomes damaged and loses a (large) part of its elasticity. When you lose fat, the skin starts to sag - kind of like letting the air out of your lower belly.

This doesn't happen to everyone who loses weight, but some people can experience sagging skin even with a relatively small amount of fat loss. Usually, this phenomenon is seen in people who lose about 100 pounds or more of fat, but some people notice some sagging skin when they've lost as little as 40 pounds of fat. Other factors also play a role: genetic predisposition, age, the area where you store fat, how long you stay fat, etc.

It's a bit like pregnancy. Some women get back in shape quickly even after several births, while other women never wear a bikini again even after just one pregnancy during which they prevented excessive fat gain. Formerly fat guys and moms have a lot in common, oddly enough.

In extreme cases, when an extremely obese person has lost several hundred pounds of fat, you may notice sagging skin on the chest, arms, thighs and practically everywhere else. But that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about the average person who loses 40 to 70 pounds of fat and keeps that weight off - the person who has lost the fat and now has to deal with some annoying loose skin. Is there anything you can do about this?

If you're fat now

First of all, you should definitely lose the fat. It's better to have some sagging skin than not to be healthy. Remember that it's not fat loss that causes loose skin - it just makes it visible. And rapid fat loss doesn't cause sagging skin either - that's a common myth.

An increase in fat causes loose skin, which means the damage is already there. Usually, loose skin is then harder to see as it is pushed outwards by all the fat. Don't let the worry of having sagging skin stop you from losing fat. Heck, think of this as a trophy or a battle scar.

If you already have sagging skin

1 - Accept the following: Sagging skin cannot be combated by diet, exercise or medication

There are many products on the market that claim to help sagging skin or reduce the negative appearance of loose skin. Some of these products contain topical diuretics, others hopeful sounding things like collagen or elastin, but all this basically means is a temporary loss of water, which makes the skin feel a little firmer, but in reality it is not. No cream and no non-invasive laser or light therapy will make a few inches of your body's largest organ disappear.

If you're looking for some localized fat loss and temporary tightening, here's a trick. Get a fat burner that uses a self-emulsifying delivery system, open a few capsules and rub the contents of the capsules into your problem areas. You must already be relatively lean to see an effect, but bodybuilders and figure/bikini class athletes have used this method successfully right before competitions. However, this trick obviously doesn't remove excess skin either.

2 - Stop trying to get rid of sagging skin with a low-carb diet

Most of this isn't fat, it's skin. Some people don't realize this, think the problem is a pocket of fat and diet themselves down to a pile of bones with a ruined metabolism. Don't do that.

One test plastic surgeons use is to have the patient bend forward at the waist as if they are doing a deep bow. If it's more of a flat, empty pouch that you can pull down, then it's skin. If it's a full looking roll, then it's fat. And it is possible to have excess skin AND fat deposits. The cruel thing is that the more defined you get, the more noticeable the damaged skin becomes.

3 - Ignore those self-proclaimed experts who have never been fat themselves

You may hear advice on the internet like "Just build more muscle and fill the empty space under your skin!". This advice comes from people who have never had this problem themselves. They are - for the most part - idiots. Yes, build muscle. Muscles are great. But it's doubtful that you can fill several inches of deflated love handles with oblique, side abs. Heck, try it anyway. Oblique side abs are great too. But you probably won't be satisfied.

4 - Sagging skin can only be removed surgically

In the abdominal area and on the side of the midsection, this is often referred to as a tummy tuck. The medical term for this is abdominoplasty. Basically, a large strip of excess skin is surgically removed and the remaining skin is stitched together, making the abdomen firmer. This operation is usually accompanied by some liposuction and, depending on the extent of the damage, other procedures.

Doctors are quite good at this these days, but you still get a knife stuck in your body. There are risks, the recovery time is agonizingly long for an active person and you will have a long scar. Such an operation costs between 6,000 and 12,000 euros if you add up all the costs including aftercare.

Consider surgery if you have lost about 100 pounds or more and consider the damaged skin unsightly. Remember, you're trading some sagging skin for a pretty gross scar that stretches from hip to hip. Apart from extreme cases, non-elastic areas of skin do not cause any health problems. It is a purely cosmetic problem. But if it annoys you and you have the money, you should do what makes you happy after weighing up the risks and benefits.

My decision

Even though my sagging skin wasn't that bad, it was still annoying. I decided to have a free consultation with a plastic surgeon. He said that there was damage, but it wasn't severe enough to warrant the procedure. Of course, I could have gone from doctor to doctor until I found one of those guys who will do anything you want them to, but I decided for myself that the little bit of sagging skin was okay. I probably wouldn't get a contract as a Calvin Klein underwear model either way. I can live with a five-pack and some skin that my wife says she can't even see.

If you don't have sagging skin

Don't get fat. Really, it's sh...e. If you're suffering from the misconception that you need to get fat to build a lot of muscle - or plowing through the menu at Taco Hell sounds like fun and "I'm just building mass" is a convenient excuse - then you should consider giving your skin extra moisture in the form of lotions designed for pregnant women to minimize stretch marks. While these won't help as much and the skin will still lose elasticity, these lotions are probably still better than doing nothing at all.

The best plan: Get a better understanding of effective training, effective nutrition and effective supplementation. The goal is big biceps - not a big belly with a weird-looking navel.

By Chris Shugart | 02/16/16


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