Skin

It’s an unfortunate fact of weight loss, substantial weight loss anyway. Skin. Loose skin. How much you will have depends on how much you lose. The bigger the weight loss, the more loose skin.

All of a sudden you’re down 30, 40, 50 pounds or even more. Wow! You did it! You’ve arrived at slenderdom. You’re a thin person, and after all the hard work you should have no doubts about that thinness.

But there’s something still hanging on. Sure, maybe there’s still a little fat hanging on to your hips or under your upper arms or belly. That’s to be expected. That’s not so bad. Everyone has a little bit of fat. That was never the real enemy. It was the enormity of the extra space you required, not to mention the fact everyone was hoping you weren’t going to sit down next to them on an airplane. (We’ve all seen the looks.)

That little extra fat isn’t the problem. It’s the other thing. The thing people don’t talk about enough. Skin. There’s just no getting rid of skin that has been stretched out, and now without the fat it once covered, just left to hang, and hang around.

If you’re like me and are pathetically addicted to the television show “My 600 lb Life,” then I am guessing you’ve also seen its shadow show, “Skin Tight” immediately following each episode. Now when I talk about loose skin, in general I’m not referring to the many pounds of it that need to be removed from people to let them move freely and like normal people again like the folks on the show. Very few people are going to have that kind of excess skin problem, because very few people are going to lose hundreds of pounds, and fewer of those that do will keep them off long enough to have the skin removal surgery (or be able to afford it).

Age is a factor too. Even people who have never lost weight and have always been thin have some loose skin as they age. But all of that is compounded by substantial weight loss. I’m in my late 40s so I have both age and pounds lost going against me in this category.

I’ve found I have to be cautious about how I turn over in my bikini trying hard not to be caught in plank position by anyone. It looks like there’s a little sack of skin hanging from my gut when I do that. So I try hard not to do that! However, in a bikini or loose tops or naked, of course, there’s no way to hide that icky loose skin.

In some places like the gut or the butt I can sort of pull it away from my body like the folks on “Skin Tight,” though in comparison to them my little pull of skin is insignificant. But it’s significant to me, and it will be to you too.

Some people on the show say out loud that if they knew they would have this after effect they wouldn’t have lost all the weight. I want to call bullshit on such assertions. If any of us who have lost a lot of weight could really turn the clock back, my hunch is that none of us would do anything differently, gross extra skin or no gross extra skin.

You can’t do things to your body like stretch the skin out of its natural state and not expect there to be unsavory consequences. For some people extra skin on the neck or face give an older appearance. That sucks too, but I’ll take my little chicken neck any day over my huge ass.

In those few instances of hundreds of pounds lost resulting in heavy sacks of extra skin that are difficult to move, there is the surgery option. I know one person who has done it, and she is still happy with the results though she has regained some of the weight. She opted for the 360 degree body lift which is extremely dangerous and expensive, and you better hope you get a surgeon who knows what he or she is doing. You don’t want that surgery to go wrong. If they take too much they can’t stitch you back together easily, and it leaves some hideous scars. Plus, the infection risk is big. I’ve clearly watched a lot of episodes of “Skin Tight.” You actually see part of the surgery too, and it’s an equal mix of fascinating and nauseating.

But that risk and expense seems worth it for anyone who is carrying so much extra skin that it really impedes movement and happiness. For the rest of us, I say we just live with it and accept it as one of the physical scars of our drastic changes. Everyone carries some kind of scar. In this case, ours are physical.

People have stretch marks and wrinkles, and lots of women who have been pregnant have loose skin up and down their torso. They have a baby to show for it. We have our smaller bodies.

While most of us carry emotional scars from our heaviest days we can only pack away in the recesses of our memory. We can’t set them down and walk away unscathed. This skin is a physical reminder to me of where I’ve been and where I vow never to return.

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