Monday, January 22, 2007

Letting It All Hang Out On Loose Skin Debate

My blog post about continuing to deal with loose skin following my 190-pound low-carb weight loss has certainly lit a fire in many of you who have shared your heart about this subject in e-mails to me today. I appreciate the well wishes and messages of support for me as I contemplate having the skin removal surgery.

Many of the naysayers have made their point already, so let's see some reaction from others from my e-mail box today:

Dear Jimmy,

I've been reading and listening to your podcasts for a little while now, and the first thing that I wanted to say is, "Thanks!" It's so refreshing to hear some inspirational, educational, and edifying conversation about eating low-carb.

My main reason for writing is the issue of your loose skin, and particularly that rather rude email that you received about how everything would basically be cured if you just lost more weight. I've seen with my own eyes that weight-loss is not a cure-all for loose skin, no matter how skinny a person gets.

A few years ago, my mama had a gastric bypass. She became terribly ill, to the point where it was nearly fatal. She lost so much weight that she began to look downright skeletal, and her skin began breaking down to feed her body. My poor mama erupted in rashes all over, as her body was starving to death. It's hard to get much skinnier that she was, while still being alive.

Thankfully, my mama was able to get enough emergency treatment that she recovered...mostly. It's ironic that she began feeling depressed about not losing weight, and is now struggling to keep enough weight on to LIVE. Through all of that though, even getting down to such a dramatically unhealthy weight- she still has loose skin. While the skin on her legs was able to pull tight, she is still left with a lot of loose skin on her belly.

Truly, there is just so far that the elastic nature of skin will go before it looses it's ability to spring back. Some people have more elastin in their skin, and maybe that is why some people have more "luck" with loose skin than other people do.

Still, there isn't much that a person can do about this, and that is why I just felt compelled to write. Please don't let it get to you too much when folks focus so much on the remaining 20 lbs like it is a magic cure-all, instead of simply being supportive of the great things you have done in taking care of your body.

You HAVE done a great good for yourself, and in encouraging other people. Please try to always remember that- whether dressed in a suit, or with your shirt off. *grins*

Nah, people don't bother me when they share their opinions. I politely nod my head, thank them for sharing, and then move on with my life as I have already planned. That's not to say I can't be swayed, but I'm pretty firm in most of my beliefs and getting this loose skin issue resolved is one of them.

Here's another one addressing the obese question:


You published an e-mail you got from a doctor's wife, who said that according to your BMI you are still obese, and in danger of terrible disease due to that.

While I agree that being overweight can contribute to many diseases, and is the cause of many diseases, I'm convinced that those of us who are living a low carb lifestyle, even though we have much weight to lose, are less likely to get those dire diseases and complications (i.e. diabetes and heart disease) because we are eating healthful foods, we have eliminated the junk that causes the health problems.

Doesn't it make more sense that it's the food we are currently eating that affects our health much more than the fat on our body? I'm not saying that being overweight is good; I'm just thinking that we don't need to be so afraid of these diseases as long as we stick to our way of eating, regardless of what we weigh at the moment.

The 300-pound man who is eating good quality protein, fresh vegetables, drinking lots of water is surely much healthier than his counterpart who weighs the same, but is eating fast food every day, skipping breakfast, drinking sugary sodas instead of water, etc.

Even though you have more to lose, you've taken control of your diet, you eat wholesome foods, you've gotten rid of the junk in your diet - so, you are bound to be much healthier than the person who is at his perfect weight eating doughnuts and Big Macs, wouldn't you say?

People are so bad about judging our health based on our weight, rather than looking at the entire picture. They assume that, because we are overweight, we are prediabetic, on the verge of a heart attack, and have clogged arteries, when, in fact, many of us are the healthiest that we have been in years. We've cleared up our acne, have fewer arthritis problems, our nails and hair are healthy, we have more energy! All thanks to our low carb eating habits.

Thanks for you blog. You are providing a great service for many who are new to this lifestyle, and helped those of us who have been committed to it for a long while to stick with it.

EXCELLENT points to ponder in this debate over how obesity is measured. Getting back to the loose skin issue, a reader named Kevin left a comment on my blog stating:

Jimmy, my personal (admittedly unprofessional) take on this is that you need to have the skin removed, and you should stop beating your body up by tring to lose more weight. You know that the extra weight is all that skin, don't make more of a mystery out of it than it is. For whatever reason, the fat under the skin won't come off by dietary means, so don't try to make it.

Meanwhile, your body cannot reach a proper metabolic balance with all that "mass" still hanging around - the body's "metabolic balance guage" is confused by it. That is my intuitive guess. It scares me to hear you talk about pushing your body to more weight loss, when you know that that's not really the problem. Just my humble opinion.

Your thoughts mirror mine exactly, Kevin. I appreciate your concern which is why I'm doing what I can to attain my dream of having it removed. Another reader had a similar sentiment to share with me on this touchy subject of loose skin:

Hey Jimmy!

I have been a low carber for about 8 years and, of course, am lovin' it! During each of my pregnancies, I gained 45 lbs., keeping in mind that I am 5 feet nothing, short waisted and started each pregnancy at about 105 lbs. My first son weighed 11 lbs and subsequently left me with a lot of loose skin.

Even when I lost all my pregnancy weight and got back down to 105 lbs, I still had loose skin. There was no way in this world that my skin would have ever shrunk back, even at my ideal weight. At one point I tried to get down to 95 lbs. and STILL had the loose skin. So no one can tell me that it will shrink back, because it just won't.

It might have gotten a little better, but it was still there. It has bothered me so much over the years that I saved my money and just recently had a tummy tuck. It has been a rough recovery, but I now have a nice flat tummy like before I got pregnant. I am so happy with the results. I would do it over in a heartbeat. Hang in there Jimmy and save your pennies!

I have heard many similar stories from people who have had a tummy tuck to deal with their loose skin. I WILL do it and try to keep at my weight loss attempts, too. All of this discussion would be for naught if I gained the weight back, so staying committed to my weight will insure that I'll be ready when the time comes to have the skin removed at last. I CAN'T WAIT!

THANKS to everyone for letting it all hang out on this loose skin after weight loss debate. Feel free to chime in with your comments by leaving them here at my blog or e-mailing me at

1-23-07 UDPATE: Here's an extremely well-written response to the loose skin issue from someone who had gone through it personally.

I was killing some time at work today and I stumbled across your blog. I used to weigh approximately 250 pounds when I was in college. A year after I graduated, I had dropped to 135. It was a hell of an accomplishment, but I had the same exact problem you're facing. Loose skin.

I went to see the doctor about it, and I didn't really get a lot of answers. The simple truth is that the phenomenon of people losing this much weight is relatively new (because the phenomenon of people getting as ungodly fat as a lot of us still do is relatively new too). I got the standard "it may repair itself, it may not" answer that you can find all over the internet, and he suggested weight training as a way of improving my body image.

I bought myself a body fat monitoring scale and decided to get to work. The first weighing showed I was still in the high 20s body fat percentage wise. I have to admit, I was pretty shocked it was still that high, but apparently a lot of my weight loss had come from lean mass.

My workout regimen started with weight lifting -- I thought the quickest and easiest way to fill out the loose skin would be to bulk up. It was actually incredibly difficult to do psychologically. I taught myself that gaining weight was bad, when that was exactly what I had to do to improve my situation.

I started with a ten pound set of dumbells I bought at Walmart, and did a lot of research on the "right" exercises. It was pretty surprising how soon I started noticing results -- it was barely a month later that I had to buy a heavier set.

In the meantime, I had bought my first house (at age 23 -- not bad). The property quickly started appreciating in value, and once I qualified for a home equity loan, I started considering the "body lift" procedure. I had gone in for consultations, gotten a quote, and an assurance that at my young age, I'd look phenomenal after healing from the surgery.

Still, I'm very nervous about surgery of any type. I have a rather extreme phobia of needles, so I made a bargain with myself that I'd first make an all-out attempt to get rid of as much loose skin as possible through exercise, and only after I stopped seeing any kind of measurable result would I consider spending the $10,000 for the surgery.

I took the challenge seriously. I bought and assembled a home gym, got a weight bench, a diverse set of weights, started reading exercise machines and doing research. My weight went back up to 150, but my body fat percentage actually decreased into the low twenties, and eventually the high teens. The loose skin didn't disappear, but it had gotten noticably tighter. Seeing the results were just as addicting as the initial weight loss was.

Just last year, I moved north to Boston. When I got here, I joined a gym and stepped things up. My weight is now up to 160, and my bodyfat has slipped even further down. The thickness of the loose skin has decreased significantly. The most noticable change has been in my arms -- I once had that disgusting "old lady arm flap" problem, but now the skin has tightened there to the point where I can actually see the shape of the muscle underneath. They look phenomenal when I'm working out (which is when your fat starts dissolving into the bloodstream and muscle size is its biggest), which just makes me want to push harder. I'm far stronger than I ever was, which is terrific. And I can actually start seeing the outline of my abdominal muscles, which is incredibly thrilling.

I don't look perfect, but I still have hope. Three years after making that first visit to the plastic surgeon, my skin is still tightening by the day. My goal by the summer is to gain another 10 pounds of mass, finally hit that 10% body fat mark, and to reassess my progress then. I log in over an hour at the gym about five or six times a week.

My eating habits are getting pretty crazy now -- where I once had to limit what I ate, now I have to eat almost as much food as I did when I was fat. I haven't eliminated carbs completely from my diet, but I'm a lot more conscious about how badly some foods will spike my blood sugar levels. Mostly, it's high protein foods -- I can't gain muscle mass unless I have an uncomfortably agressive intake of protein (just one of the things I've learned about myself over the past few years).

I doubt I'll ever be able to completely rid myself of as much excess skin as I want, but I refuse to give up until I've proven to myself that I can't.

Good luck to you on whatever route you choose. I'll let you know how mine turns out.

Eenie meanie miney moe! Which way will I go? Workout like a fiend or go under the knife? Hmmm...

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Blogger Lowcarb_dave said...

Loose skin is still better than obesity!

No matter what happens to it!

1/22/2007 11:43 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Amen to that, Dave! :D

1/22/2007 11:58 PM  
Blogger TESS said...

I know the surgery is expensive, but how expensive? Has anyone been to a Dr and got an estimate? After all it is "body work" pun intended! I would like to do it but it takes a while to save the money. I may have to finance it like I would a car or a house. I have to agree tho, loose skin beats the alternative to death(obesity). have you looked into burn hospitals to see if they would cut a break on the surgery in order to have the skin for grafts?

1/23/2007 6:49 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

GREAT QUESTIONS, Tess! When I priced JUST the tummy tuck about a year ago, it was going to cost $12,000 just for the surgery PLUS time off from work for recovery.

Adro Sarnelli who won "The Biggest Loser Australia" last year has spent $20,000 on various parts of his body to get the skin removed.

You don't know how close I have come to finance my surgery like a car payment, but I'm trying to resist the urge to do that. I'm still believing that an opportunity will open up for me to be able to pay for it without having to resort to more debt.

As for donating the loose skin to burn hospitals for skin grafts, that's an urban legend. I looked into it myself and it's just not true. I'd do it in a heartbeat if it were, but it's not.

THANKS again for your comments, Tess!

1/23/2007 9:42 AM  

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