Weight Loss Support - Stretch Mark Question...

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07-15-2003, 06:41 PM
not sure where to post this , so here will do :)

I have had 2 children, and I was very small before the first one, and I pretty much tripled in size. So, as a result of that, plus the 2nd one wasn't very nice to me either, I have a stretched out skin, and stretch mark issue.

My stomach (basically the entire area from 2 inches above my bellybutton, all the way out to my hipbones, and down into my hair line) is covered in stretch marks. And that wouldn't be SO bad except that it's also a lot of loose skin. I am not talking about being able to take a 2 inch chunk of skin and pull it away from my body, it's like a very thin, just fragile (I can't even think of how to describe it) skin, I can pull it literally inches away from my body, but it's not thick at all, it's paper thin... if that makes sense. I have it on the insides of my thighs, and on my breasts too, but not nearly as bad as my tummy.

So my questions is is there anything I can do ? I know I could get a tummy tuck.. but I am scared of surgery, and I also don't have that kind of money. I just wonder if building a lot of muscle would even benefit me at all. I have been working on it, and once last year I had a lot of muscle there, but it was just covered up by this skin... :(

When I stand up, it's perfectly flat, thank goodness, but when I sit down or bend over, it wrinkles up and I notice it a lot. I don't think other people do, because I keep it covered, and absolutely NO bikinis hehe! But It bothers me.. it's my sore spot.

07-15-2003, 07:08 PM
I just happened to be browsing and saw your post...

At General Diet Plans, we had a pretty interesting thread on the topic of loose skin last year - it keeps coming back up out of interest I think.

One of our most diligent posters at the Ladies who Lift forum is Meg - she had a lower body lift earlier this year after losing (and maintaining) a 120+ pound loss. You might be interested in reading what she has to say - I'll have to find that link.

As far as lifting weights - I TOTALLY advocate doing that - couldn't hurt one bit - might help with the loose skin as well. Basically it's a crapshoot though, how well your skin tightens up - I have the same 'tummy problem' myself actually :( only much more than 2 inches of skin!

As far as the plastic surgery route - you might want to have a consultation with a plastic surgeon - just to see what he/she says and for peace of mind. Ya never know - you might be able to get surgery some day (and trust me, it's not nearly as scary as you think it is...I felt the same way myself!)...

Take care...

07-15-2003, 07:14 PM
My Experiences With Skin And Plastic Surgery
OK. Paula, I’m back! The issue of excess skin is one that never even occurred to me when I started to lose weight — it only became an issue when I got close to my goal weight and things weren’t looking the way that I had imagined. I’m glad you are aware of it now because you will save yourself some anguish later if you are knowledgeable about what may (or may not) happen to your skin as you lose a large amount of weight.

First off, let me give you a quote from a doctor, Joseph F. Capella, MD, discussing:

“ … changes that occur in the body following massive weight loss. With few exceptions, individuals following significant weight loss develop generalized or focal areas of excess skin.

The primary cause of excess skin following weight loss is relatively simple. Similar to pregnancy where the muscles, skin and other tissues of the abdominal wall expand to accommodate the fetus, a similar process occurs with the accumulation of fat in the body. There are important differences however. The process of fat accumulation in morbidly obese individuals often begins during childhood or adolescence, prolonging the period of tension on the skin. In addition, the area of tissue expansion in obesity is generalized rather than limited for the most part to the abdomen.

With weight loss and following the delivery of a baby, the affected tissues tend to retract. When the tissues do not return to their previous state it is because they have been permanently damaged. In the case of skin, the elastic fibers have been broken. This can give the appearance of striae, a condition often seen on the breasts and abdomen following pregnancy. How closely the skin and other tissues of the body resemble their appearance prior to pregnancy or obesity depends on similar factors.

Probably the most important determinant of how much loose skin an individual will have following weight loss is age. Younger patients tend to have less loose skin. The next most important factor is the amount of weight loss. An individual who loses 250 lbs. is likely to have more excess skin than somebody losing 80 lbs. Other less important variables include complexion, amount of sun exposure received over a lifetime, heredity and whether somebody is a smoker. Fair skinned people in general tend to develop more loose skin than darker individuals. Sun worshippers tend to sustain more tissue damage over the years and consequently more loose skin following weight loss. Some people tend to have " better" skin than others of similar complexion and lifestyle. This may be the result of hereditary factors that are not readily apparent. Finally, smoking breaks down collagen, a major component of skin and other structural components of the body. Smokers develop more loose skin than their non-smoking counterparts.

Exercise that includes increasing muscle tone can tighten connective tissue between muscles and overlying skin. A regular exercise regimen is helpful to maintain ones weight following bariatric procedures and can serve to tighten loose skin to some degree.”

I think that is a pretty accurate summary of what I experienced. As I posted a few months ago,

“The consensus seems to be that the degree to which skin will tighten up after massive weight loss (that's what they call us) depends on 1. your age, 2. your genes 3. how much you have lost, and 4. how long you were overweight (recent obesity vs. lifelong). It is an individual thing and time will tell for you.”

My personal experience was that I carried the majority of my weight below my waist, around my hips and butt and thighs. Of course, every part of me was super-sized, but these were the worst. I noticed that, as I got close to my goal weight, my legs were actually looking worse (wrinkly and cellulite-y), rather than lean and tight. And my knees looked so fat — yet my BF readings were low. Puzzled and disappointed, I made an appointment with a plastic surgeon just to find out what was going on (fat, skin, celluite, a combination of all of these?), and when he looked at me, he told that it was skin, all skin, “an enormous quantity of skin” that, if spread out, would cover “yards.” To my relief, he said that there was very little fat left on my body. But, he then said that the skin was not going to improve or tighten up. The reason that it was looking worse as I lost most of the fat was because, when the fat disappears, you are left with muscle (yea!) and all that skin, but it is no longer anchored to anything, so it flaps and wobbles and looks like celluite or like a wrinkled-up, deflated balloon (it floated in the bathtub).

He recommended a lower body lift, which I think of as a “tummy tuck plus” because it is a basic tummy tuck that extends all the way around your body and “lifts” and eliminates the excess skin on your butt also. He also recommended facial surgery to get rid of the "turkey wattle” and jowls that I developed in my face from losing fat there and a breast lift combined with some upper arm work to take care of the triceps flap (which is not too bad but bothers me).

I did the lower body lift and the face lift in mid-January (he wouldn’t combine the three procedures, only two). Total surgery time was 7.5 hours. Total cost — about $18,000. Total covered by insurance — zero, zip, nada. My surgeon told me that the lower body lift would have been covered only if I had previous weight loss surgery. He was outraged and even wrote an impassioned letter on my behalf, talking about my weight loss and motivation and all, but it had no effect.

I spent two nights in the hospital (planned on one) because I ended up needing blood transfusions because of the amount of blood that I lost (very rare, but it happens). This is major surgery, but really not very painful surgery, because they are not cutting into organs or joints, just skin. The recovery went better than both he and I anticipated. I took my last prescription pain killer on the fifth day after surgery, took Tylenol for two days after that, and then didn’t need anything. I shoveled snow (bad me) on the tenth day and snuck back to the gym after two weeks (bad me again — well, the doctor made the mistake of telling me to listen to my body and it was saying “go go go!”) I can’t say that I was ever in pain — I would call it “uncomfortable” and “tight” and “pressured”. I was back doing squats and leg press and all by the fifth week post-surgery, though not at my previous strength.

I have to add that my doctor says that I am not typical and that I had a much better and faster recovery than most. He attributes it to me being in such good physical shape and my healthy eating habits.

Finally, I am 100% satisfied with the results. It came down to a question of whether I wanted to live with the skin or have the surgery and scars. I opted for the latter and have no regrets. I didn’t lost pounds but have lost inches (my hips are 35 1/2 inches now, down from 57 inches!) and I am tight and flat across the stomach. I am planning on Part Two later this summer, which will be the inner thighs and knees and the breast lift (with the little bit of the upper arms).

Two last thoughts: don’t be deterred from losing weight because of skin issues (you can cover up with clothing if you don’t choose a surgical option) and weightlifting while you are losing really does help, but won’t eliminate the problem.

Good luck!


07-16-2003, 12:32 PM
Sweet, thanks a lot for the info :)

I pretty much knew that, mine is all from pregnancy weight, I have only lost about 50 pounds since the birth of my last child. I can easily cover up with clothes and I look like I have a very flat stomach, it's just what I see when I am not clothed.. hehe :)

I think I will try a good while of excercises and see if it helps at all, maybe someday I will have the $$ for surgery for my breasts and tummy ... thanks again.

07-16-2003, 05:14 PM
Mrs. Jim, thanks for posting that info here. I sort of agree with your one point that it's a crapshoot, as far as looseness from weight loss goes. I've been able to tighten considerably with exercise and now that I'm lifting weights with a trainer and more consistently focusing on that, the looser areas are sort of getting springier, if that makes sense. It's as if not only are muscles filling the space, but are actually pulling the skin into shape, maybe also the increased circulation is helping. Dunno. Very unscientific, but it helps a lot.

Surgery is the last thing I would ever want to do (too cowardly), but in many cases it is the only answer and I applaud Meg for have the courage and realism to take this step.

07-16-2003, 06:20 PM
Hi Tonya,

My $0.02 worth: Most women have stretch marks after child-birth, but a lot of other women have them and men too, so don't feel like a freak. My ex-husband, current husband and my son all have some stretch marks and none of them has ever been heavy. It's just that men don't obsess over them!

As far as the loose skin goes, I have faith that exercise, lots of water, a healthy diet, moisturizer and some time will take care of it!

07-16-2003, 06:48 PM
I hope so! Thanks again. :)

mine aren't your normal every day few here and there stretchmarks.. I am not exaggerating when I say I am COVERED. That's the only reason I think about this stuff , hehe :)