“I only have one requirement - no double chins!” - that’s what I told the photographer on the phone while booking a session for my first wedding in 2011. I weighed 224 lbs (I’m about 5’11”) and tried to act like I didn’t care. I was finishing college with four specializations and honors in three years, working several jobs, and planning a wedding. Sleep happened, but not often. Chips and energy drinks were my constant friends. Up until then, I always thought I was overweight, but I was never that heavy. But pictures don’t lie, and I so desperately wanted to at least not have more than one chin.
In the next 7 years, I bought a house, got a Master’s degree and a “grown up” job, had a kid, a divorce, another wedding and now a baby on the way. For the first time in my entire life, I am ok with how much I weigh (a whole 60 lbs lighter than I did 7 years ago, even while growing a baby). The total change was from size 18 to a size 6 in pants, using the US sizing system.
Before anyone asks, I didn't get any sort of cosmetic procedures done. My lips and eyes look bigger because the fat in my face has decreased.
I have tried and failed numerous diets (healthy and not) and exercise plans before finally finding what works for me. And what works is remarkably simple - eating lots of plant-based, home-cooked meals (I eat meat but I also eat A LOT of vegetables and fruit), working out at home between my couch and TV while my daughter plays next to me, and tracking nutrients and calories in a free app on my phone. That’s it. Sounds simple, but it took some time to get in the groove and make it a habit. Even now, pregnant with my second baby, I work out at least 5 times a week (which is OK with my doctor, no worries).
I keep seeing a specific concern people (but mostly women) have with losing weight - “won’t it ruin my face?”. So, let’s talk about that. It’s January, which means we are all full of hopes and plans for the new year, and for many weight loss figures somewhere into those plans.
The short answer to the face-ruining question is “it depends”. I know, not helpful, right? Let me explain. It is absolutely possible to shed unwanted and unhealthy pounds without having saggy skin with ashen coloring, but it needs to be done correctly.
Disclaimer: I am by no means a doctor (I have several different finance and business degrees), but these are my best tips for losing weight without compromising your face.
Tip 1 - Do Not Rush
Remember that old Aesop’s fable about the turtle and the hare? If you don’t, spoiler alert - the turtle wins the race by being slow and persistent. Don’t expect or attempt to lose weight quickly. And remember that pounds, pure pounds on the scale, are not always the best indicator of progress. I had a year when I went UP one pound, but DOWN a pant size. Yes, muscle weighs more than fat (as in, the same volume of muscle will be heavier than the same volume of fat), plus working out and eating well can redistribute the pounds in a more flattering way. The main idea - losing weight too fast is not healthy and might not allow the skin sufficient time to adjust and shrink, causing unwanted sagging. If you are like me and need to see some kind of progress, then try taking measurements (waist, hips, thighs, etc) or using a fat % monitor like this one.
Tip 2 - Do Not Eliminate Food Groups
Sad news - “candy” is not a food group. But fats are. I’m not a fan of extreme measures like going incredibly low carb or low fat, yet there are diets that attempt those things. Our skin needs healthy fats such as avocados and healthy carbs like those in fruit to thrive and look its best. Beware of programs that promise results by going to extremes and completely cutting out food groups (again, “junk food” is not a food group, so cut that out if you can). Aside from being not ideal for your skin, crash and very restrictive diets are more likely to make you feel deprived and cause stress, eventually leading to relapse and weight gain.
Tip 3 - Move
To be honest, I have actually lost 60 pounds twice. Yup, twice. The first time I did it strictly with “dieting”. I went to a center that specializes in weight loss, met with consultants, followed their incredibly strict eating rules and bought their pricey weight loss drinks and snacks. It worked - I lost the weight without doing a single workout. And I was miserable and deprived. Things were smaller but still flabby.
As soon as I got pregnant the first time, I felt like I had a license to eat, Twix came back into my life and I gained everything back. EVERYTHING. 45 lbs during pregnancy and another 20 afterwards. I could try and blame hormones, but I don’t think extra large banana milkshakes almost daily helped either.
The bump can make workouts extra challenging, but exercising wisely is good for mom and baby.
A couple of years ago I thought enough was enough and started tracking what I ate, by myself (no centers this time). For a year I lost steadily. And then it stopped completely. The scale and my pants wouldn’t budge. I finally realized that maybe I would have to exercise at least a little bit. In November 2017, I started working out. Not only did I lose 20 lbs since then and gained lots of muscle tone and definition, but my face actually looks better, too! Having a healthy, fit “frame” does wonders for the way the skin looks. I think about skin almost like I do about clothes - it simply drapes over the existing frame. Exercise helps with posture, oxygen levels, circulation, and releases endorphins - all great things. You don’t have to sweat like crazy or lift heavy things like I do. Just go for a walk. Do something. Get fresh air and see what happens.
Tip 4 - Massage
Facial massage has been used for centuries in different cultures to promote circulation, tone and lift the skin. It can help your beauty products penetrate deeper and work better. There is a myriad of options from jade rollers to battery powered tools. I like this one by Secret Key.
Tip 5 - Skincare!
This is my favorite part, hands down! While I’m a strong believer in health and beauty starting from the inside, there are still topical things we can do to help out the skin through the weight loss and aging processes. As an unexpected bonus, spending time at night to use peeling gels, sheet masks, and other beauty treatments completely distracts me from candy and other unhealthy evening cravings. Look for hydrating products and those with collagen (reviews here) for optimal results. I keep a category of the things I consider must haves here.
Final thoughts - your weight and your face do not define you or your worth. Extra pounds and extra wrinkles do not make you less of a human being, less lovable, or less valuable to the world. And while I fully support everyone’s efforts to be their best selves, it’s also incredibly important to simply enjoy being alive and appreciate your skin and body just the way they are at every stage.