Losing a large amount of bodyweight – whether through diet and exercise or bariatric surgery – is a huge undertaking. It can therefore be very distressing to find you still do not look or feel how you imagined because of excess skin.
Loose, hanging skin is an unfortunate side effect of dramatic, rapid weight loss – the skin simply hasn’t had time to shrink and tighten. Other factors that influence how loose your skin gets after losing weight include your age (we all know that skin elasticity decreases with age), skin type, and how much your weight has fluctuated in the past.
Unfortunately, there is no other way to deal with this excess skin than surgically, because once skin is stretched no amount of exercise can restore it. How much of an issue is excess skin for patients who undergo weight loss surgery? A number of studies have been undertaken to ascertain the scale of the problem for post-bariatric patients. One such study, undertaken in 2013 included 57 patients who had previously had a body mass index (BMI) of 50 or more (18.5–24.9 is a normal BMI). One year after their surgery, the patients were asked about the amount of excess skin they had and how much discomfort it caused.
The majority of the patients reported that they had “a lot of” or “very much” excess skin, however women reported that they experienced more excess skin and discomfort than men.
Further research by Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Sweden, conducted with patients who had been operated on between 1999 and 2008, also found both men and women were unhappy about excess skin.
More than 90% of women who responded to the survey said they felt their body was unattractive, while 67% of men also felt unattractive.
The most frequently reported sites of excess skin were the upper arms in women (91%) and the abdomen in men (78%). In both women and men, excess skin on the abdomen was reported to cause the most discomfort.