Question for the Expert: I'm nervous about how I will look if I lose weight, my skin won't fit and then what?

Asked by Ginny

Answer:

First of all, please don't be frightened about getting healthy. Feeling healthier and better about yourself is definitely something to embrace in my book. And if you're losing weight at a healthy 2-3kg each week, your skin will most likely adapt to your new shape.

Sagging skin tends to be a problem especially when weight loss is rapid. This is because the elastic components of your skin lose the layers of fat that keep them stretched out over your body. In addition, age, poor nutrition, dehydration, excessive sun exposure and smoking can all affect skin's elasticity, and may give you the elephant-like appearance you're probably frightened of.

But don’t panic! Because it is a living organ, your skin will slowly return to a shape that fits your new body. This process can take up to two years, but there are steps you can take to make your skin tighten more quickly:

• Two necessary ingredients that keep skin plump and elastic are collagen and elastin. Protein-rich foods such as cottage cheese, milk, legumes, tofu, beans, seeds, nuts and fish all contain collagen and elastin forming components, as well as oils to help maintain healthy skin. Make sure you only use good quality fats (coconut, extra virgin olive, flaxseed, organic butter and avocado oils) in your diet;
• Daily exfoliation with a sisal brush will help to eliminate any dead skin cells, which would otherwise clog pores, as well as increase circulation. Brush from the extremities towards the heart in small, circular motions;
• Stay hydrated. Water is a crucial component in maintaining the skin's elasticity. You should be drinking 2 litres a day, adding 500ml for every half hour of extra activity you do (that breaks a sweat).

You should also be aware that skin elasticity decreases naturally with age. Although you can address issues such as not losing weight too quickly, staying hydrated, eating right and caring for your skin, you have no control over ageing. But rather than letting that stress you out, focus on the things over which you do have control — like exercising and eating purposefully. I'm almost 48, and after losing more than six stone, I have some loose skin. I didn't like it at first, but now proudly accept my 'battle scars' as achievement in overcoming the decades of abuse I subjected my body to. Embrace your new healthy lifestyle and be proud of what you have achieved!

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