It’s no secret that when we lose weight after age 40, our skin doesn’t always snap back the way it used to. Do we reach a point when it’s no longer possible to slim down without sagging? “Absolutely not,” insists weight-loss expert Eric Berg, DC, whose popular YouTube videos on topics like reigniting metabolism and sag-proofing skin have racked up over 100 million views. “When you make the right dietary choices, your body and skin get healthier. So your skin will adapt to your weight loss — and you can even tighten up areas that were loose to begin with, like the back of your arms or under your chin.” Just ask Lisa Brounstein, who was in the process of shedding 150 pounds as she hit menopause. “I thought I’d have a belly down to my knees, but my belly never fell!” Read on to learn how women have lost 150 lbs with no loose skin — and how to sag-proof your own skin as you get slim.
Why skin can sag after weight loss
Skin sagging after significant weight loss is a common concern — as we shrink, our skin might not always shrink along with us. That’s because it may have lost some elasticity, so it can’t stretch and contract like it used to. And the problem gets worse the longer we’re overweight. And if you’re older, there’s another wrench: As we age and our bodies naturally produce less collagen and elastin, two proteins that provide structure and flexibility to the skin. Think of them as the glue that holds together our tissues, organs, muscles and bones — and keeps skin from becoming loose.
The best way to lose weight without loose skin
To melt fat while firming skin, Dr. Berg recommends starting with the keto diet. If you’re not familiar with the famous low-carb plan, here’s how it works: You reduce carb intake to about 20 grams per day, so your body stops making enough blood sugar to fuel itself. This helps prompt your system to make an alternate fuel, which it does by turning fat (both the kind you eat and the stuff in your fat cells) into compounds called ketones. When your body is running on ketones instead of sugar, studies show it can increase fat burn up to 900%. As you cut carbs, you naturally begin eating more protein — Dr. Berg says that protein is full of amino acids that are the building blocks of skin. It’s a key reason keto dieters have less sag than folks using other plans.
Another way keto helps prevent sagging
Keto also helps prevent what Baylor College of Medicine researcher Rajani Katta, MD, calls “sugar sag.” Turns out, excess sugar molecules can attach themselves to protein in our skin and organs. This literally weakens the collagen that holds us together, leading to problems typically blamed on aging — everything from wrinkles and sagging to cataracts, memory problems and arterial stiffening. “A keto diet is a very effective way to stop this from happening, helping protect overall health while keeping skin firm and elastic,” says Dr. Berg.
How to make keto even better at preventing loose skin
Dr. Berg strongly recommends that keto dieters incorporate intermittent fasting into their regimens. “That just means going longer between your last meal one day and your first meal the next day — and since hunger diminishes on the keto diet, most people find it easy,” says the doc. He suggests gradually shrinking the window of time during which you eat each day to six hours, such as 1 pm to 7 pm; outside of that window, stick to plain water, seltzer, coffee and tea. Why? “Fasting has been shown to stimulate a 1,300% surge in human growth hormone in women, which is the hormone that forces your body to burn fat,” he notes.
And University of Southern California research shows that intermittent fasting can trigger a self-cleaning mode in our cells call autophagy. Autophagy destroys sugar-damaged cells and triggers you body to generate brand-new ones in their place. “You’re literally replacing cells that drive sagging and disease with optimally functioning cells,” Dr. Berg explains. (Click through to learn more about intermittent fasting after age 50)
150 lb weight loss before and after: Lisa Brounstein, 55
After enduring diets from childhood until her 30s, Lisa Brounstein had gradually made peace with her size. But at 52 and 325 pounds (down from an all-time high of 387 pounds), that peace was giving way to pain and fear for her health. Her diabetes had gotten so bad, she needed seven pills a day to control her blood sugar. She was in constant pain and struggled to get around. “I just wanted to feel better,” she recalls.
By that point, Lisa had dabbled in low-carb eating with some success. But she needed more structure, so she decided to try keto. She watched videos on YouTube to learn what to do, and before she knew it, she was eating meals like eggs with cheese, deli turkey and veggies, and chicken and broccoli with lots of butter.
As weeks passed, Lisa was stunned by how well keto was working. She was shrinking quickly and finding recipes she could be happy eating forever: pizza with chicken crust, almond-flour bagels, even zero-carb ice cream. She began to listen to her body and found she wasn’t hungry in the mornings. She’d sip coffee and have her first meal around 1 pm.
“My skin looks better than ever”
Lisa was worried about her skin, so she searched the internet and even began adding collagen supplements because women swore that getting more of the protein keeps skin firm. Over time, her skin seemed smoother and her hair thicker.
As Lisa shed weight, her body was completely transformed. She lost 150 pounds. Once a size 38, she found herself sliding into size 12 jeans. She no longer needs a CPAP machine for sleep apnea or an inhaler for asthma. “My triglycerides went from 208 to 60,” she shares. Her blood sugar, barely controlled by meds, dropped from 250 to 80. Considering how much she lost — and that her weight loss and menopause happened at about the same time — she’s impressed by how much her skin snapped back. “I can live with this, no tummy tuck necessary,” she shares. “I still think if you feel good, size doesn’t matter. But for me, keto lets me live a more amazing life. My mood is great, my energy is high, I sleep better and I feel strong. And I do think my skin looks better than ever.”
No loose skin weight loss success: Jennifer Christmas, 46
“I was pre-diabetic, my hips hurt, my knees hurt and the doctor said I’d be on blood pressure medication for life,” recalls Florida cosmetologist Jennifer Christmas, 46. “Then I found Dr. Berg, and within eight weeks none of those things were true anymore.”
As she lost more than 150 lbs, she did worry how she’d do it with no loose skin. “I have yo-yo dieted my whole life, so I thought my skin was stretched beyond hope. But it’s now much firmer than I thought was possible. I’m smaller than I was in high school, and my energy is unlimited. This is the best plan in the world!”
Easy meal ideas to get you started
To follow Dr. Berg’s guidelines without diet math, go for a palm-sized serving protein, 2-3 cups veggies and 2-3 servings fat per sitting. Start out eating three meals a day, then gradually switch to brunch at midday and an early dinner, eating all your food in the same 4- to 8-hour window each day. Drink plenty of water; tea and coffee with a little stevia are also fine.
Avocado Egg Bake
Crack 2 eggs into the pitted halves of an avocado; bake at 425°F to desired doneness, about 20 minutes. Enjoy with seasonings and a little nitrate-free ham or bacon, if desired.
Curry Salmon Cakes
Mix 1 can salmon, 1 egg, ¼ cup almond flour, 2 diced scallions and 1 tsp. curry powder; form patties and cook over medium heat in olive oil, 3 minutes per side. Add a side salad with 2 Tbs. zero-carb dressing.
Dr. Berg’s Green Smoothie
In blender, blitz 3 cups frozen kale, 1 cup berries and 2 cups filtered water for 4 minutes. Add 3 tsp. lemon juice, 1 tsp. wheat grass powder, 1 Tbs. coconut oil and stevia to taste; blitz quickly. Enjoy as your veggie servings at any meal.
Brush a boneless rib-eye with olive oil. Mix 2 Tbs. finely chopped rosemary, 1 Tbs. salt, 1 tsp. pepper, dash garlic powder; sprinkle on meat. Grill or broil to taste. Enjoy with 1 ½ cups steamed cauliflower mashed with 1 Tbs. heavy cream, 1 Tbs. butter and salt.
Bonus recipe: Slow-cooker pork
This easy-make protein is packed with skin-bolstering amino acids — plus, it’s tender and versatile. Serve taco-style in lettuce wraps or with a simple cauliflower mash.
- 3 lbs. boneless pork shoulder
- 3 Tbs. your favorite spices
- 2 tsp. salt
- ½ cup broth
- Add the pork shoulder to a large slow cooker and rub well with spices and salt, coating all sides.
- Add broth. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.
- Shred with two forks, stirring meat into juices. Make 6-8 servings.
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This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.