By Kate Horney
Lots of moms come to me asking how to get rid of loose skin after they lose their baby weight but still have a “baby belly.”
When it comes to getting rid of loose skin after having a baby, there are many factors to consider. Much of this has to do with how much weight you gained, how much your stomach and skin stretched, and what your genetic make up looks like when it comes to skin elasticity and collagen.
The problem can be extremely frustrating if you’re working so hard to lose weight postpartum but still aren’t getting the stomach “look” that you’re working towards.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to improve the condition of the loose skin. You may not be able to completely get rid of the skin without surgery, but that’s not to say it’s not worth trying.
First, make sure that the issue you’re dealing with is actually loose skin and not simply extra body fat.
While calipers are useful for this type of testing, most moms don’t have access to this type of test, so instead, here’s an at home trick: Pinch the area you’re concerned with and if you can grab more than a few millimeters of skin, there’s more fat in there to lose. Until you lose that fat, your skin has no reason to return to its former size and tightness.
Typically most women need to be at or below 17-18% body fat before addressing the skin issue itself.
In many cases, when you work on lowering your body fat percentage first, you will burn off that stubborn subcutaneous fat on your stomach and the problem of what appears to be loose skin will take care of itself.
If that’s not the case for you, though, and you find yourself still wondering how to get rid of loose skin after weight loss, here are a few tricks that I’ve experienced first hand that work for both me and my clients…
6 Tips to Get Rid of Loose Skin after Pregnancy
1. Lose Weight Slowly: So many women are so excited to lose their baby weight, but remember, even amidst the excitement, to do so in a slow, healthy and sustainable way. Losing weight too quickly will only add to the problem of loose skin. If you lose weight quickly you will lose both fat and muscle. Muscle is a key factor not only in keeping your metabolism working properly, but also in giving you a tight, toned and lean shape that you want. Simply put: Muscle helps your skin to keep it’s shape. Your skin needs time to adjust to it’s new shape when you lose weight. If you loose it too quickly, you may just end up with even more loose skin. Allow your skin time to regain it’s elasticity. A general rule of thumb is to aim for losing around 1-2 pounds per week.
2. Prioritize Protein: If you want to build muscle, protein should be your focus (along with fresh, fibrous produce). Not only is protein it good for muscle growth, but it also contains important nutrients that help your skin stay healthy (we’ll talk about collagen in just a bit). How much protein you need depends on your weight as well as how much physical activity and strength training you do, but a general rule of thumb for most women is to aim for 0.8-1g of protein per pound of body weight.
3. Stay hydrated: Water will help hydrate your skin, making it more elastic. It will help your body to burn calories more effectively. On top of that, it will help reduce water retention in your belly area, which may make the appearance of loose skin less noticeable. If you haven’t been drinking your H20, here’s a good reason to start. In addition to making sure your skin stays hydrated from the inside (aim for 1/2 your body weight in ounces of water daily) some research suggests that lotion and vitamin creams may also help outer layers of your skin stay hydrated and improve appearance. Use a lotion on your skin that contains collagen, as well as vitamins E, A, C, and K to help firm up loose skin. When you apply the lotion, massage it in. Massaging will improve blood flow to the area which helps your skin to appear firmer. Try massaging lotion to any loose skin once or twice a day.
4. Lift Weights: Many moms miss the connection between lifting weights and tightening loose skin. They are afraid to strength train for fear of “bulking up” but what many women don’t understand is that strength training will actually help improve your over all muscle tone and will give you more lean muscle, resulting in a higher metabolism and a tighter, more toned look. Putting muscle on underneath the loose skin can help you tone up and tighten up your stomach area. And as a bonus, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. Lifting weights will improve your body composition (the percentage of lean muscle to body fat) and by improving your body composition, you will reduce fat not just along your waist and underneath loose skin, but all over your body.
5. Improve Skin Elasticity: When skin loses elasticity, it can no longer return to it’s proper size. Skin elasticity naturally decreases as we age, but this is an issue that women of all ages face. In terms of improving elasticity, research shows that this is mostly an inside job, meaning, the foods we eat. If you can’t get all the vitamins and minerals you need from whole foods, the supplements we take, can help….
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is essential for producing collagen and elastin. Aging and exposure to sunlight or pollutants deplete the amount of vitamin C in skin, while consuming vitamin C boosts its levels. Studies show that women should get 75 milligrams daily. You can get about 100 percent of your daily intake by eating 1/2 cup of sweet peppers or a medium orange. Other good sources include broccoli, cabbage, potatoes, strawberries and cantaloupe.
Vitamin E: Vitamin E works inside your skin as an antioxidant. Reactive molecules known as free radicals are produced when skin is exposed to sunlight or other environmental stressors. Vitamin E neutralizes free radicals before they harm skin cells in the skin’s barrier. Since sunlight and free radicals also damage collagen and elastin, antioxidant protection helps maintain skin’s strength. The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin E is 15 milligrams daily. The best dietary sources are sunflower seeds, wheat germ, peanuts, almonds, and hazelnuts.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps regulate the growth of new skin cells. Since new cells form the skin’s protective barrier, they hold in moisture and maintain flexible skin. You also need vitamin B-12, folate and vitamin B-6 for their ability to lower blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine. High levels of homocysteine may block enzymes essential for the normal meshing of collagen and elastin, according to the Medical Biochemistry Researches. Other B vitamins, including biotin and niacin, also contribute to healthy skin. Since these vitamins come from diverse food sources, the best strategy is to eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of low sugar fruits, fibrous vegetables, lean protein.
6. Try Skin Firming Products: As a last resort, you may consider trying some skin firming products. While many products on the market are scams, studies show that there may be benefit to using a lotion on your skin that contains collagen, as well as vitmains E, A, C, and K to help firm up loose skin. Ideas would include something like this firming butter that has Cocoa Butter, Collagen, Elastin and Shea Butter to support skin elasticity and texture. The firming butter has the addition of Ginseng and Vitamin E help soften and rejuvenate skin. You could also look for a lotion like this that has a soothing blend of vitamin K, aloe vera, cocoa butter and essential oils. No matter what you decide to use, when you apply the lotion be sure to massage it in. Massaging will improve blood flow to the area which helps your skin to appear firmer. Try massaging lotion to any loose skin once or twice a day in conjunction with the tips above.
Want to know what to use to avoid stretch marks during pregnancy? Click here!
Two Workouts to Tighten Loose Skin:
1. Weight Training: If you are a cardio queen expecting to tighten and tone, you will be disappointed. You cannot cardio your way to muscle definition or tightened skin. Don’t freak out, ladies, lifting DOES NOT bulk you up. Women have less testosterone than men, so we get leaner and tighter. And, if you just can’t stand the thought of ditching your cardio days, know that weight training actually provides all the cardiovascular benefits you get from your aerobic classes, plus it increases muscle tone and metabolic burning capacity. Hello! Did you hear me? Weight training revs your metabolism! At BeyondFit, we are all about finding and creating hybrid weight training exercises that give you the results you want FAST! Weight training MUST be part of your tightening plan. Period.
2. Sprints & Blitzes: Here’s the truth…tightening up is not about being in the gym for an hour or more each day. Believe me, I’ve tried that. Stop wasting your time, you’ve got better things to do. I am not knocking all long, endurance workouts, but they do very little to give you the metabolic bang for your buck. At BeyondFit, we demand workouts that give you more for less! Numerous studies show that people who do High-Intensity Sprint and metabolic conditioning training (like our BeyondFit Blitzes) actually achieve more fat-burning results than those who focus on endurance training alone. So get off the treadmill, get off the elliptical, stop wasting your time! Focus on efficient high intensity, hybrid weight training circuits to tighten your saggy areas (these are the exact type of workouts we use in the BeyondFit programs), throw in some sprints, and add some metabolic conditioning for the hormonal benefits to SCULPT your arms and you’ll be on the right track to amazing arms all the way around.
Three Hormones that Impact “Jiggle”
Hormones play a HUGE part in fat loss and tightening and toning your body. That’s right ladies, you can train and diet all day long, but you cannot out train your hormones. So many women complain about armpit fat and tricep jiggle or extra loose skin and belly fat. If these are trouble spots for you, you may need to take a closer look at your testosterone level (yes, women have testosterone), your cortisol level, and your thyroid.
Once you understand your unique hormonal makeup, I guarantee you’ll start seeing the results you want in record time. In the BeyondFit Life members portal we have seven simple ways to balance your metabolic hormones, so make sure you check that out. But today we’ll focus on THREE hormones that can impact your loose areas.
1. Testosterone: The wrong type of training and the wrong type of nutrition (either quality or quantity) decreases testosterone, which is a crucial hormone for both men and women in terms of muscle building and maintenance. Remember to tighten up you need to first SHAPE those muscles…then, fat loss and a change in body composition comes into play to SCULPT them and reveal the hard earned shape. Testosterone is one of the key hormones that is responsible for muscle anabolism (also known as muscle building) and is vital to tightening and toning your body. Without testosterone, it’s hard for your body to keep, let alone build, any metabolic boosting muscle tissue.
Implementing high intensity exercise like BFL weight-training, sprints and blitz segments can help lower cortisol over time, as well as increase testosterone, a fat-burning/muscle-building hormone that you need to help tighten up the jiggle.
2. Cortisol: Cortisol is an appetite stimulate. High levels of cortisol make you want to eat and have been shown to increase cravings for carbohydrates. In addition, cortisol is catabolic (causing a breakdown of lean muscle). The breakdown of this muscle leads to decreased metabolic capacity and increased fat storage. Cortisol harms the tightening of the muscles as well as the tone to reveal the muscle shape.
When cortisol levels are high for long periods of time, your body can store food as fat and refuse to burn the fat that you do have. Essentially, your body is saving fuel. And for some women, this fuel ends up being saved right on their belly. What you may think is loose skin might actually be extra body fat stored in your belly.
Get Enough Sleep: A lack of sleep signals your body to release cortisol. The first and most important thing you can do when it comes to balancing cortisol, is to get enough sleep and to make rest and recovery a priority.
Avoid Overtraining: Long duration workouts cause elevated cortisol levels and can stress your body in an unnecessary way. For optimal recovery and hormonal balance, focus on short duration, high intensity workouts.
Include stress reducing activities: When possible, try to lower cortisol by doing restorative activities like leisurely walking and having quiet time to distress (even if it’s just 5 minutes!)
Consider your caffeine: If you believe you have issues with cortisol or suffer from anxiety, pay close attention to your caffeine intake. For people with normal cortisol levels, there is nothing wrong with a couple of cups of coffee. But for people with high levels of cortisol, caffeine needlessly spikes cortisol and may be harmful. 200 mg of caffeine (one 12 oz mug of coffee) can increase blood cortisol levels by 30% in one hour. Remember, the problem is not the initial spike in cortisol, but rather elevated levels over time. Consider limiting caffeine into the morning hours or cutting caffeine all together for a few weeks to see your body’s response.
3. Thyroid: Among other things, the thyroid is responsible for the metabolism of fat, carbohydrate and protein. When you are eating too little for an extended period of time, or not eating the right things (80% of women don’t get enough protein) your body actually slows down thyroid output in order to save energy. Low thyroid function drastically impairs your body’s ability to burn fat and lose weight. Many people with low thyroid function notice fat storage that simply won’t go away and loose, saggy skin. They generally feel as though they’ve hit a plateau and there’s nothing more they can do.
Fixing thyroid hormone balance takes both proper nutrition and proper training. If you think you have low thyroid function, you need to fix your fat fighting hormones. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you’re able to break through that plateau, even after months and months of spinning your wheels.
That’s our goal around here at BeyondFit Life…to help you fix your fat fighting hormones, break through plateaus, and get results you never dreamed possible.
After I had my little guy, Jackson, I felt miserable about my post-baby body at a time when I wanted to feel so happy! Tell me I’m not the only one who has felt this way?
I get it, you want to look good. But the trouble with postpartum fat-loss is that you just don’t have time to be messing around. You can’t sit down long enough to research diet and exercise plans, you have just a few more pressing things on your mind, right?
I need you to know about Beyond Baby. The Beyond Baby 12 week Postpartum Fat-loss System is based on the single most important thing to moms like you and me: postpartum fat-loss that’s easy and sustainable!