Have you lost weight recently? Good for you!
Between completely changing your diet and diligently stepping up your exercise routine, the past few months have been a real challenge. It was all worth the effort, though; you’re leaner, trimmer and more energetic than you’ve ever been before. Life is good, right?
Yes, for the most part. There is one quibble, though—the saggy, poorly toned skin you see in the mirror after having lost all those excess pounds.
You know you should really be happy about the new numbers on the bathroom scale. But what’s the point of weight loss if you end up looking older?
Fortunately, you can help preserve a sleek, youthful appearance while you shed the pounds...especially if you think about how your skin will look prior to beginning a serious weight loss effort.
Fat Loss: Droops and Wrinkles
Body fat occurs in two forms.
Visceral fat gathers in the body’s core (the abdomen and around the vital organs) and is the type most commonly associated with health risk. Losing visceral fat, especially more moderate fat loss, does not tend to affect one's appearance.
Subcutaneous fat is the type found just underneath the skin—and losing it can have a noticeable effect on how your skin looks.
“When you’re heavier, you have a heavier cushion that fills out lines and wrinkles, and helps give the skin a youthful, plump look,” explains Melissa Piliang, MD, a dermatologist with the Cleveland Clinic.
“If you lose weight, especially if you lose weight quickly, you lose the fat under the skin, too," Piliang says. "And the skin doesn’t stretch back as quickly as the fat is lost beneath it, so it hangs and has more wrinkles. Large pores may appear deeper and more prominent. It’s frustrating for people.”
Additionally, “more skin is built to accommodate the size of the fat cells,” says nutritionist and herbalist Tim Mount, CN, CCNH. “When fat is lost, the excess skin pulls in, resulting in a wrinkled surface.”
These changes tend to be most noticeable on the lower half of the face, leading to prominent jowls and a “turkey-neck” appearance. But Mount says skin changes can occur elsewhere and include the arms, knees and waist.
Consider Your Skin Before Losing Weight
The best way to avoid the skin problems associated with weight loss is to address this issue before you start reshaping your body.
“You want to lose slowly, one to two pounds a week,” recommends Piliang. “This aging effect is most noticeable when weight loss is very rapid and people go on a restrictive diet, such as a liquid diet or cutting out whole food groups.”
You want to follow a sensible weight loss plan:
- Lean protein
- Healthy fats
- Whole grains
- Limiting sugars
- Limiting processed carbs
Noting that extreme diets can lead to “nutritional deficiencies that can make the skin appear dull or dry,” Piliang suggests eating healthy fats and leafy greens, and to “take a multivitamin to make sure they’re not missing any key nutrients.”
Collagen and Skin Support
Keep in mind that keeping skin supple during weight loss means maintaining the health of collagen. This key structural protein forms a matrix in the deeper layers of the skin, accounting for nearly 80% of the skin’s dry weight.
“After weight loss, the loose collagen matrix in the skin that hangs from the body needs additional support,” says Mount.
Healthy collagen (which is found not only in the skin but throughout the body and includes the joints and blood vessels) requires eating properly. Piliang says, “It’s important to get the building blocks of collagen in your diet: protein, vitamin C.”*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Ingesting collagen directly doesn’t help the skin. “Since the role of collagen in the body is to be strong and tough, collagen in its natural form is not easily digested and absorbed,” according to Mount.
Mount goes on to explain that collagen becomes more useful within the body when it is broken down through a process called hydrolyzation.
“Hydrolyzing collagen dramatically increases the bioavailability and bioactivity of collagen when taken as a supplement,” he says. “Collagen in the diet doesn’t have nearly the same benefit.”
Mount adds that aging also affects collagen production. “Collagen declines for all people after the age of 25,” he says.
Looking to drop some weight? Just remember to support your skin throughout the process so that you end up looking as good as you feel.
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**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.