Article By: Gianna Soussan
Gianna is a seasoned Bariatric Patient & Peer Coach who has lost and maintained 120+ lbs on her journey to better health. She is an advocate within the bariatric community and has made it her life’s mission to share what she’s learned to be successful along the way! Follow her journey on Instagram (@vsgianna_).
The truth is, the journey on the road to better health via Weight Loss Surgery can often times be misunderstood as one that will be accompanied by linear progress from start to finish. However, for many who undergo WLS (and as a result, experience extreme weight loss) the aftermath can present a new and difficult reality: loose skin. This physical reminder of one’s achievements often comes as a surprise and can pose emotional challenges, altering the perception of success. But within this journey lies a powerful narrative of perseverance, self-acceptance, and the importance of appreciating progress at every stage.
My name is Gianna (@vsgianna_ on Instagram) and after losing and maintaining 120+ lbs on my own WLS journey over the last 3+ years, my loose skin has served as both my badge of honor and one of my biggest mental battles along the way. The majority of my loose skin existed in my lower belly area — a relic of what used to be my obese stomach — and kept me feeling like the “fat girl” I had been my entire life, even though I mentally knew that I had overcome obesity and would consider myself as a fit and healthy person. I’m consistent with my nutrition, I spend 5-6 days a week working tirelessly in the gym, I do all of the right things... And over time, I started to become truly discouraged with my lack of progress as it related to my skin. The part that I struggled with the most was the helpless feeling that, no matter what I’d do, how hard I’d workout, the nutrients I fed my body, the numerous “tightening creams” I’d put on the loose skin, etc, the skin would just never budge.
This led me to the tough decision that it was time for the next chapter of my story. After 3+ years of battling my own mental struggle with my loose skin, and after being denied coverage attempts three times by my health insurance, on September 22nd of 2023, I finally had a panniculectomy and paid out-of-pocket to have my loose abdominal skin surgically removed for the sake of my mental health and mobility. This decision did not come easily to me and definitely posed its own set of considerations. But regardless of what we decide to do or don’t do about our loose skin when it comes to facing the harsh reality of extreme weight loss and shaping our mindset around our new body, it is important that we keep a positive and gracious perspective along the way. Here’s what I learned on my journey.
1) Embracing reality. As mentioned above, extreme weight loss, while a tremendous accomplishment, can lead to excess skin due to the inability of the skin to conform to the reduced body size. The presence of loose skin is not a sign of failure but rather a testament to your body's remarkable ability to adapt and change. It is your badge of honor! Embracing this new reality involves understanding that loose skin is a common and natural part of the weight loss journey for many individuals and that it DOES NOT take away from your progress and your “why” that you’ve worked so hard to commit to.
2) Mental & emotional struggles. The psychological impact of loose skin post-weight loss surgery can be profound. It can create a complex array of emotions, including disappointment, self-consciousness, and even a sense of body image distortion (body dysmorphia) — making it difficult to appreciate how far you’ve come. You might find yourself feeling conflicted, having worked so hard to achieve your goals but feeling discouraged by the physical aftermath. Staying connected with a mental health professional can help you to work through some of these negative emotions and reframe your mindset around your loose skin.
3) Celebrating non-scale victories. Shifting the focus from the number on the scale to non-scale victories can significantly impact your perspective. Celebrating the ability to run faster, lift heavier weights, fit on a ride at the amusement park, buckle your seatbelt on an airplane, or simply feeling more energetic and healthier can help you to appreciate the incredible progress you’ve made beyond just the numbers and the loose skin.
4) Support & community. Building a support network and finding a community of individuals who share similar experiences can be immensely helpful. These connections foster understanding, empathy, and shared coping strategies, making your journey more manageable and less isolating. The WLS Instagram community was and is such a HUGE resource for me when it comes to feeling supported and truly understood throughout both my weight loss and loose skin journeys.
5) Self-acceptance & gratitude. Learning to accept and appreciate your body, loose skin and all, and all that it does to serve you on a daily basis is a profound aspect of your journey. Practicing self-compassion and gratitude for your body's resilience and the progress you’ve made can be a transformative experience. Gratitude helps shift the focus from what your body lacks to what it has achieved.
6) Surgical options & considerations. For some individuals, surgical options might be considered to remove excess skin. However, this choice is deeply personal and not the only measure of success. It's crucial to make an informed decision and consider the physical, emotional, and financial implications of such procedures. It can be helpful to thoroughly weigh out the pros and cons (both mentally, physically, and financially) of exploring options to have your loose skin potentially removed with your bariatric provider, a plastic surgeon specializing in bariatric panniculectomy, and/or a mental health professional OR by discussing how to accept and overcome the mental battles that come as a result of keeping it intact.
7) Redefining success. Redefining success beyond physical appearance is crucial. It’s about feeling healthy, strong, and happy in your body and mind. That was the primary goal of all of this, wasn’t it? Success lies in the journey itself, the dedication, the lifestyle changes, and the newfound confidence and strength. Focus on your “why” and keep reminding yourself of its significance in your life.
8) Moving forward. The loose skin component of your journey signifies a chapter in the larger story of extreme weight loss. It’s a story of resilience, transformation, and the remarkable ability of the human body to adapt to change and positive progress. Each part of your individualized weight loss journey is a reminder to appreciate progress, regardless of the hurdles faced.
In the end, the way we approach our mentality when it comes to our loose skin is based in one major takeaway: that the ultimate success is not just about reaching a particular body shape but about our health, longevity, our personal growth, resilience, and self-acceptance cultivated along the way. It’s a journey of self-discovery and an opportunity to appreciate the incredible changes, inside and out. As we turn the pages of our own story, may we remember that each step — loose skin and all — is a testament to our strength, determination, and the beauty of progress.
Stay gracious, weight loss warrior. ♡
BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.