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How To Deal With Loose Skin After an Extreme Weight Loss

8/22 9:30:56

Recently, a Women's Health reader tweeted at Amy Roberts, a certified personal trainer who writes for us regularly, asking if there were any exercises she could do to tighten the loose skin left after her weight loss. "I was stymied for the kind of helpful, supportive answer I wanted to give—especially one that would fit in 140 characters or fewer," says Roberts. We reached out to different experts to find the answer, and they all said the same thing: Once skin has been stretched, there aren't any workout moves that can tighten it.

This is an issue that Kelly Coffey, a personal trainer who lost 160 pounds, has personal experience with: She was shocked at both the appearance of her now-trim body and how she felt about it when she first lost the weight. “I didn’t look or feel anything like I was expecting to once I was thin,” she says. Her journey of accepting her body turned out to be more of a process than shedding the pounds was, a lesson she teaches in her e-course, "Pleasure Principles: a course to get you happily grounded in healthier habits." 

How loose your skin gets after losing weight depends on several factors: how much weight you've lost, how old you were when you lost the weight, how many times you've lost and gained the weight back, and how quickly you lost it (the faster you lose it, the less time your skin has to tighten naturally). If you really want to get rid of the excess skin, there are some surgical options, says Anthony Youn, M.D., a board-certified plastic surgeon based in Michigan. They range from getting a tummy tuck to a full-body lift—but there are big reasons not to undergo these procedures; apart from the cost, all of these options come with the risk of complications or even death, says Youn.

Coffey ended up getting a tummy tuck, but if you have loose skin, you may find that what you really need isn't surgery but a mental shift. After all, there's nothing wrong with having a few extra folds; it's feeling more comfortable in your skin that really matters, and there are plenty of ways to accomplish that that don't involve going under the knife.

Take Pride in What Your Body Can Do
For Coffey, lifting weights was key to accepting her body. It made her stronger and helped her appreciate the abilities of her body. "It’s hard to have a problem with a body that's capable of taking on the challenges you put it through," she says. Whether your body takes you on runs, helps you lift up your children, or twists itself into challenging yoga poses, appreciating what it does for you can help you become more accepting of it.

Stop the Comparisons
This is a crucial part of combating expectation hangovers. Comparing yourself to models, other women, or even what you pictured you'd look like before you lost the weight makes it impossible to appreciate the health gains you've made or how strong you've become. And at the end of the day, your body doesn't have to be the spitting image of a celeb's to be healthy—and look amazing.

MORE: 'I Never Knew I Could Love My Body'—How One Woman Lost 50 pounds

Fight Damaging Self-Talk
When you have a negative thought about the way your post-weight loss body looks, Coffey recommends doing a "caring action" like talking with a loved one on the phone, going on a walk outside, or meditating. "When you answer those negative thoughts with caring actions, the care starts to beat out that negative mentality."

Buy Clothes that Fit Your New Body
Finding your own style by shopping for clothes that suit your body type helps you accept your new body and take pride in how you present yourself to the world, says Coffey. Even though trying on clothes can be stressful, it'll be worth it when you find pieces that work for you, she says.

Surround Yourself With People Who Know and Appreciate Your Accomplishments
Spending time with your significant other, family, and friends who recognize all the hard work you put into your weight-loss journey will help reinforce all of the amazing progress you've made, says Coffey. This is especially helpful when you aren't able to see for yourself how amazing your new body is.

MORE: It Took Me 5 Years to Lose 40 Pounds Because of These Mistakes

*Editor's note: We initially incorrectly stated that Kelly Coffey had implied that she had not been able to lift weights when she was overweight. Kelly pointed out the misquote, and also clarified that a person's weight has no bearing on their ability to lift. We've since changed the language, and apologize for the mistake.

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