I sat in the shade while my classmates played tag. To keep comfortable in the heat I’d hiked up my skirt to my undies. Some girls stopped playing to stare and giggle.
“Hey, what happened to your legs?” one girl said, clearly on a dare. I looked down. The marks on my inner thighs were dark red. It was like I’d been attacked by a cheese grater.
I couldn’t think of a good lie, so I told the truth.
“My mom said they’re stretch marks,” I said, trying to sound matter-of-fact.
“GROSS!” she said, running back to the pack. 1
I had always been the heaviest kid in my class. I was the only second-grader with breasts, and suddenly the only kid in the whole school with stretch marks.
It was a vicious cycle. The less popular I was, the heavier I got; the heavier I got, the less popular I was. I ate more and my body stored more fat and my skin stretched tighter over the load.
The tighter my skin stretched, the less interested I was in playing.
I wanted nothing to do with sports.
I faked illness to avoid putting on a bathing suit.
I was put on diets time and again. I’d lose a little weight, or maybe just stop gaining. Eventually, because reasons, I’d quit the diet and gain back whatever I’d lost. Then I’d gain more.
I hit 300 pounds by the time I was 18. I yo-yo dieted for 5 more years. At 23, I lost half my body weight, going from a size 26/28 to a size 6.
At 27, I became a personal trainer.
Few personal trainers have ever been morbidly obese, so it makes sense that I get tons of questions about weight loss. What’s surprising is that I get almost as many questions about loose skin – namely, how to avoid getting it, and what to do once you’ve got it.
Forget everything you’ve ever heard to the contrary: If you’ve lost – or ever plan to lose – a significant amount of weight, the question is not “Will I have loose skin?” but rather “How much loose skin will I have?”
Factors Influencing Loose Skin and How to Minimize It
The answer depends on three main factors:
- Your age
- Your heaviest-ever weight, and
- How many times you’ve lost and regained a significant amount of weight in the past.
Ignore marketing promises of significantly tighter skin from pills, potions, creams, and lasers. If you want to keep loose skin to a minimum during and after weight loss, there are exactly three things you can do today:
- Don’t get any older before you drop whatever weight you wish to drop,
- Don’t get any heavier than you are today, and
- Address self-sabotage once and for all so you can break yo-yo dieting cycle.
What to do About Loose Skin After Weight Loss
Now you know how to keep loose skin to a minimum, but what can you do about the skin you’re left with post-weight-loss? Here’s a list of ten things that I did, and that I suggest my weight loss clients do, to help them feel good about the skin they’re in:
- Play in your skin. We’re often uncomfortable being active when we’re heavy. If that sounds like you, once the weight is gone, it’s time to play! Join a local rec team. Roughhouse with the kids. Run down the driveway because you can. After I lost my weight, I got into softball. My team was The Thundercats. Thunder. Thunder. Thunder. Thundercats. HO!!!!!!!
- Clothe your skin. You can’t force a round peg in a square hole, so don’t force yourself into clothes that were made for someone else’s body. Instead, ignore what’s trendy and invest in clothes that feel and look good on you.
- Socialize in your skin. If you hesitated to put yourself out there when you were heavier, after weight loss is prime time to connect with more peeps. Waiting in line? Start a conversation! Return a smile. Let the eye contact linger. Show that you’re open to having conversations and see who the universe drops in your path.
- Bring your skin to cool places. If, like me, you found your life getting smaller the bigger your body got, now that you’re a more comfortable weight, it’s high time you see and do all the cool shit you’ve been putting off. G’head, visit the Cliffs of Moher with your sister! Go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras and party like it’s 1998! YOLO
- Press your body against someone you love. It’s hotter if you wing it, so I’ll skip the instruction on this one.
- Give your skin something strong and gorgeous to lie on top of: MUSCLE. Lift heavy weights. Lift them lots. The muscle you build will fill out your skin a bit, and with that solid, sexy foundation, don’t be surprised if you suddenly feel proud to show off your guns.
- Be proud of the skin you’re in. Don’t hesitate to tell people about your body now – specifically, about how good it feels, how much more energy and stamina you have, and how grateful you are to be healthy and alive. Giving self-love and gratitude a voice has helped me and hundreds of my clients maintain weight loss long-term.
- Do what you need to do to feel good in – and about – your skin. For some of us, that means repeating positive affirmations. For others, it means having skin removal surgery. 2 No matter your approach, it’s all good so long as you’re making informed, caring choices that enable you to be healthy physically AND mentally.
- Feel all the feels. The period after weight loss can be a busy time full of new challenges – especially if you’re getting more active. Don’t forget to slow things down and enjoy some low-key sensuality, like massage, gentle yoga, or more of #5.
- Appreciate that your body tells a story – YOUR story. Your skin and your scars are a record of your past, and your past is what makes your story powerful and inspirational. Listen to your body. Learn from it. Take care of it. Treat it well and you’ll have the power and the energy to write yourself a kickass future.
I’m all grown-up now. When I cross paths with old classmates I’m always walking tall, smiling, and feeling good about my body. I don’t give a shit if anyone notices my batwings. My body is my story, and the longer I treat my body well, the better the story gets.
- Of course, it’s not gross. It’s a normal, natural thing that happens to the skin of most women at one point or another. This kid was being cruel, and I was ill-equipped to feel anything but ashamed, because I was a kid. ↩
- I had abdominoplasty several years after my weight loss, once my weight had been stable for one full year. It was no walk in the park, and it’s not a surgery to be considered lightly. ↩