Q: Hi Erika, desperately in need of your help. Am now 30. I lost about 50 to 60 pounds when I was 18/19 and kept it off. Am 130 plus pounds now and severely depressed. I have extremely saggy breast as a result, think 70 yrs old lady breasts, they’re b cup, prior to weight lost they were near D cup. I have cellulites n stretch marks on all areas of my legs n stretch marks on my calves as well as flabby calves, I can’t visit the beach nor go without panty hose when wearing skirts. I have bat wings and stretch marks on that area as well. I look good enough in lots of clothes. I have to double up on undies to give my saggy butt a little lift or make it appear normal, wear leggings under trousers so that my legs do not wobble when I walk. Am miserable. I am considering just strength training for the gym I’ve never been to the gym nor exercise. I don’t have any children. Wearing that many clothes esp in summer makes one miserable and hot. My legs and butt are horrible. Soft, flabby, stretch marks and cellulites. If I stand and fake firm them like squeeze everything together with my muscles or what’s left of them, they look great, so I don’t believe I need surgery plus I can’t afford it, but how do I achieve that look in reality? And my breasts, don’t know what to do, can’t afford a breast lift either. I don’t have an ugly face, but I will never be able to get any man to appreciate a body like this, its ridiculous. I know many will say, if he loves your soul and blah, but these people don’t have so many things wrong with them at the same time, so how could they even understand. I don’t have low self esteem independently, its as a result of these awful flaws at such a young age, I’ve had to deal with it for the better part of my life ( the 20s) when everyone was being sexy and beautiful. Please help Erika.
So, I can understand this feeling. We all set out on our respective weight loss journeys, thinking that all we need to do is reach “X” number on the scale, and everything will be okay. But, with all due respect, this is precisely why I say this is the wrong way to go about it.
First and foremost, I think it’s okay to worry about partnership, but we need to worry about it at the right time and for the right reasons. If you are unhappy with you, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, nor should it. If your hypothetical partner was happy with your body and you weren’t, that still wouldn’t be something to care about more than your own opinion on your appearance. Your body belongs to you. Period.
When I read this question, I can immediately tell a few things about your weight loss journey. You did your work solely through “cardio,” you lived on a very low-calorie diet likely consuming very little in the form of diverse fresh produce, your body fat percentage is likely still pretty high, and you’ve likely spent the rest of your time post-weight loss subsisting on a very small amount of calories in order to maintain that.
This is all, literally, the reason why I don’t advocate for the turn-and-burn mentality of just cut as many calories as possible and cardio your way to weight loss. It’s not sustainable and, to be painfully honest, many folks simply won’t like the way this looks once they reach the number they’re after… nor would they like what this looks like or how this feels as they age.
It’s admirable to set out to achieve a goal and get it done, but—and this cannot be stressed enough—the how matters. The how impacts how you keep it off, and you want that to be sustainable for a lifetime. Not just long enough to lose the weight. (That’s why this is called a “lifestyle change.”) So many people look at photos of their favorite celebrity, look up on the web how much that celebrity weighs, and then decide they want to weigh that number because that’s what their favorite celebrity body weighs, but here’s the problem: it’s not weight that determines how you will look as much as body fat percentage, and that’s what so many people miss.
This is also why it makes so little sense to obsess over achieving a number on the scale instead of developing an ability to look in the mirror and trust what you see. (It’s also important to love what you see, and appreciate it, but it’s okay to go step by step, here.) Reaching your goal and realizing that it isn’t what you thought it’d look like can be demoralizing.
The “wobbly” body parts comes from reduced muscle mass. It’s that simple. When your weight loss regimes solely consists of nothing but cardio and low calorie diets, you create an environment that is deleterious to muscle mass, and therefore begin to lose that muscle mass. If you have very little calf muscle, small bicep and tricep muscles, small gluteal muscles, the skin will just hang there and, ultimately, take on a sagging appearance. If you do this all while not actually consuming fresh produce and quality sources of protein, you get the added bonus of your skin taking on an unhealthy appearance, hence the sagging and appearance of veins.
You’ll need to start a strength training program. Pick up some weights and get to work. Infuse your daily eating with fresh produce, strength train 3 or 4 days a week, and eat just a little bit more protein each day than what you’re used to eating.
Do no cardio. You need to focus exclusively on trying to put on muscle. Be advised, that this will result in an increase in the number on the scale, but this isn’t the terror that it might seem to be – it will require that you put on some pounds if you want to fill out in a healthy fashion. Anywhere from 5-10lbs of pure muscle can do a world of difference.
This is not permanent, and there’s no reason to feel so bad or sad about it. You are a work in progress, as are we all, and that’s okay. This won’t be easy, and it will take time, but it will be okay. You will be okay.
Lastly, I have to nitpick you a tad bit, here. “Think 70 year old lady breasts” troubles me – there are countless “70 year old ladies” whose breasts are all kinds of shapes, but we don’t recognize that because they don’t look the way we think “70 year olds” look. You talk about missing your 20s when “everyone was being sexy and beautiful.” This is one of the main problems I have with the fitness industry. So much of it is centered around “looking young,” that we think “youth” is where the magic happens, like crossing the threshold into your 30s is where everyone wears pajamas and mombuns with a couple of cats and a pint of ice cream.
This is partly contributing to your depression—you think you’ve missed your opportunity to enjoy your life and benefit from the weight loss you achieved, so you spend an excessive amount of time lamenting and fixating on what’s getting in your way. Let me tell you something – your 20s might be the time for the fun and wild ride, but listen: in your 20s you’re also broke, nowhere near as smart as you are in your 30s, and still cared wayyyyy too much about unnecessary and unimportant stuff. Each decade has its ups and downs, and all we can do is move through those decades with a desire to learn, grow, and hopefully see that next decade. I sometimes wish I hadn’t had my first child so early, but I can see the bright side of that, too—if I hadn’t had her, I wouldn’t be here with you right now. : )
Let that hurt and angst and anxiety about your body go. Move forward with a plan, and an optimism about your future. Your body—and your heart—will thank you for it!