Oh, how we all dread loose skin after weight loss. Short of surgery, it seems like a lost cause. The worst part is trying to retain the drive to continue a healthy regimen of diet and exercise when these behaviors appear to have little or no positive impact on body shape.
Loose skin versus body fat
First, measure body fat to assess if these skin sags truly reflect too much skin or if what you are seeing is residual fat. A common assessment tool is the body fat caliper, which is applied to different body areas to generate readings of subcutaneous fat tissue and estimate body fat composition. This is the type of fat that sits directly under the skin. Trainers in fitness centers are generally equipped with this device. Your doctor probably has this device as well and can offer guidance on alternative body fat measurement methods, which vary in reliability and complexity.
Body fat ranges
Acceptable body fat ranges differ for males and females. For physically fit adult men, the range is 14% to 17%; for women, 21% to 24%. Of course, body fat for athletes would be lower. If your body fat falls well below these ranges, then you may indeed be looking at excess skin. If not, continue to work on reducing body fat.
Keep in mind that body fat measurement is different than body mass index, which is based on height and weight. BMI serves as a rough measure of body fatness that is easy to calculate, but it does not take other factors into account such as muscle mass, age or gender.
Build muscle strength
Baggy skin can be exacerbated when weight loss is achieved primarily through cardiovascular exercise with little or no muscle building. Lean muscle under the skin naturally engenders a tighter appearance. Incorporate weights or resistance bands into your workout. If this is already part of the routine, gradually add intensity by either increasing the weight or adding repetitions.
Eat healthy to improve skin
In conjunction with exercise, increasing protein intake is essential for building muscle and improving skin quality. There are many ways to raise protein consumption regardless of your dietary preferences or lifestyle. For those who avoid red meat, consider some of the ideal food combinations for high-protein meals such as peas, lentils or beans with grains; seeds and legumes; and dairy and grains. Of course, eat plenty of vegetables and several servings of fruit every day. Not only do the antioxidants do wonders for skin, but nutrients increase stamina and positivity, facilitating energetic workouts.
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The hazards of smoking are well-known, but not everyone is cognizant of the dire affect that smoking has on skin. Smoking produces free radicals, a biochemical event that damages skin in different ways, often resulting in a leathery look and premature wrinkles. So if you are looking for an added incentive to stop smoking, think about the quality of your skin.
Surgery as a last resort
There are some people inclined to consider a surgical solution. A lipectomy, otherwise known as liposuction, is a way of removing fat deposits through suction. The fat is drawn from a thin tube that has been surgically inserted. If you are considering this, consult with your personal physician to assess if you are a good candidate, and be sure to understand the pros and cons. As with any surgical procedure, there are risks and potential side effects. Today, there are multiple alternatives, some of which are non-invasive. A physician should fully explain the extent of the anticipated results so expectations are clear. Inquire about radio-frequency, micro-needling and contouring procedures.
Lose weight gradually
An overabundance of loose skin may be influenced by the rate of weight reduction. When weight loss is rapid, fat cells may shrink faster than skin cells. Hanging skin seems most prevalent for people who have lost 100 pounds or more. Another consideration is the percentage of body weight lost. An average body weight reduction of 25% may be a contributing factor.
While plastic surgery is typically required to follow bariatric surgery, a mild case of hanging skin is best treated with prevention. For those just beginning their weight-loss journey, it is best to resist the desire to lose weight quickly. Baggy skin tends to be a common side effect.
Healthy weight loss
A healthy weight loss is generally considered to be one to two pounds per week. Give your skin time to contract little by little. After the desired weight is achieved, skin can continue to contract for as much as a year. After one year of weight maintenance, skin tone is not likely to change.
Other considerations for dealing with loose skin
As a word of caution, be careful about trying to lose too much fat. Many idealize the long, lean look. However, from a health perspective, a normal amount of fat is vital for protecting organs, regulating body temperature and absorbing fat-soluble vitamins.
Additionally, be kind to yourself and a little forgiving as you age. As the years go by, skin naturally loses elasticity, and this contributes to loose-hanging skin. The less elastic the skin is, the less capacity to contract back to its original state. Heredity is a factor as well. Put your efforts into strength training, good posture and balance exercises. Most of all, focus on wellness.
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