Losing a huge amount of weight can often bring on a whole new set of issues. People who shed hundreds of pounds may find themselves champions for the weight loss success, yet still unhappy with the body that’s left behind. The overweight appearance is gone, but, unfortunately, the sagging skin remains.
Board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Ned Snyder IV helps patients recover their self-esteem by finalizing their appearance after massive weight loss.
The Highs and Lows of Massive Weight Loss
Massive weight loss can be an emotional as well as a physical roller coaster. It can be pure joy to shed upwards of 100 pounds from diet and exercise or a surgical procedure like gastric bypass, but then comes a new frustration and disappointment. No matter the amount of diet and exercise, the stretched out skin will never snap back to it’s former, smaller self. The only way to return tautness to the skin is to remove it.
The desire to look better after massive weight loss surgery is fueling an upswing in skin tightening procedures, according to plastic surgeon Dr. Ned Snyder of Austin, Texas. “It is a very common consultation now,” he shares. “We talk to a lot of people who have lost a lot of weight and sometimes that is from diet and weight loss and other times it’s post surgical weight loss.”
Most of the time a patient will need to address several areas of the body where excessive skin remains. “The most common areas are the arms, breasts, abdomen (circumferential, so that goes all the way around the back), and the thighs,” shares Snyder. He says the procedures are usually broken up into more than one operation. “That’s the best way to go, if we are addressing more than one area.”
Arms, Breasts, Abs
The extra skin that’s left behind after massive weight loss can be uncomfortable and look unappealing. Many patients find it hard to ride a bike, walk or bend down without experiencing some level of discomfort. While people are excited about the transformation from being “very overweight’, carrying around the excess skin is nearly as much of a physiological and physical burden.
Snyder says patients are often anxious to work out a game plan for removing the skin, which often begins with the arms. “For some people the arms just bother them the most, or they want to start at the top and move down,” he shares. “When they come in, it’s the number one thing on their list that we talk about.”
He says patients are often tired of wearing long sleeves all the time to cover flabby arms or sagging skin. Snyder points out that the brachioplasty procedure removes excess skin and there may also be liposuction required to remove fat on the arms.
Abdominal surgery will depend on the extent of the weight loss. “It always involves an incision and it could go around to the backside,” explains Snyder. “It may include a component of the thigh or an incision around the waist, so we are able to get good elevation of the buttocks that may improve the thighs and lateral thighs.”
Typically, the breasts are the last consideration. “People feel like they lose a lot of volume out of their breasts with that kind of weight loss. They always feel like they are watching their breasts deflate.” Snyder says there are several ways to restore and rejuvenate the breasts. “Usually we do a breast lift with an implant, but we don’t have to use an implant – sometimes we use a person’s own tissue.”
It’s important to consult with a board certified plastic surgeon early in the process to determine how much downtime will be needed to make a full recovery. Snyder says it often depends on how many procedures are necessary. “Some of the procedures might be combined with others, but not all of them can be done at once. If we are doing most of it, it could take up to six weeks to recover,” Snyder says.
Patients who complete the steps often say that surgery after massive weight loss is their ‘second’ transformation, and an event that is life changing.