So you’ve finally lost the weight?
Congratulations! It’s a huge accomplishment, indeed. However, many people are surprised to discover that as they lose weight, their skin may start to appear saggy and loose. While weight loss is a huge achievement, you may be disheartened by the way your body appears afterward. It’s hard to fully enjoy that thinner figure when you have excess, hanging skin, isn’t it?
Excess skin after weight loss can range from mild sagginess to significant folds of extra tissue that literally hang off the body. This can interfere with not only your self-image, but also with your ability to find clothes that fit in your new size. Another downfall? The loose skin can also cause rashes or other skin problems, making it difficult to exercise and remain active.
Body contouring procedures are surgical interventions that are designed to address this extra skin that remains after people lose weight. How do you know if you’re a good candidate for one of these procedures? If you’ve lost weight and maintained it through a proper diet and active lifestyle, you can expect to be medically eligible for a body-contouring procedure.
While loose skin can occur in nearly every area of the body after weight loss, some of the most common areas addressed by surgery include belly, arms, and breasts. Here are some of the procedures used to correct these problems:
The skin of the abdomen is usually affected by weight loss. Not only does skin not “bounce back” after losing weight, but many people are left with unsightly stretch marks on the belly. An abdominoplasty, or “tummy tuck,” is a procedure that removes the excess skin and fat as well as stretch marks of the lower abdomen. The abdominal muscles are often tightened to help narrow the waistline. Liposuction is added when appropriate to further sculpt the abdomen and flanks. All of these procedures can help restore the contours to your midsection after weight loss. An abdominoplasty takes 2-3 hours, and the resulting scar lies low on the abdomen near the pubic area, where it can be easily concealed by underwear or your bathing suit. Contouring the abdomen allows people to see their true figures by removing the extra hanging skin.
Loose arm skin is another frequent issue for people after losing weight. Many patients notice that although they’re able to tone their muscles with exercise, they’re unable to tighten the skin that hangs from the arms. Some people have likened the excess, hanging skin to “bat wings.” This skin can be difficult to conceal when wearing short sleeves and can cause people to feel self-conscious. An arm lift, or brachioplasty, is a procedure that removes excess skin and some fat in order to create a toned appearance in the arm. The incision is made along the upper, inner arm. The procedure takes approximately 2 hours, and is done in an outpatient setting. As an alternative to an arm lift, liposuction may be considered if the skin quality of the arms is good but fat remains after weight loss.
Mastopexy (“breast lift”)
Breasts are another area commonly affected by weight loss. A breast lift reshapes the breasts to a more youthful, rounded shape and also repositions the breast and nipple to a more natural position. There are several different ways to perform a breast lift, depending on the extent that the breast droops. A subtle breast elevation can be done simply with an incision around the nipple/areola, while a more extensive lift requires a vertical incision and possibly an “anchor” type incision.
In addition to the breasts sagging, weight loss often causes women to lose fullness in their breasts, particularly in the upper portion. In these situations, a breast lift can be combined with an augmentation. Breast implants can help bring fullness to the upper portions of the breasts and shape them, restoring their youthful appearance. Breast lift surgery is typically done in an outpatient setting, and many women describe an increase in their confidence and self-image after these procedures.
Losing weight is a huge accomplishment, and should be a significant source of pride. But loose skin does not have to be a permanent impediment to feeling comfortable in your new body! As a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, my goal is to help patients complete their weight loss process through body contouring procedures and increase their confidence. These procedures can be done safely, and can often represent the final step in a person’s weight loss journey.