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Weight-Loss Confidential: What Happens After You Lose Weight

 

Truth Time

When you lose weight, there are certain things that you are so excited about. Wearing shorts. Finally rocking a bikini. Stocking up on anti-aging creams because your fine lines are suddenly more prominent. Wait—wha...? Whether you drop 10 pounds or 100, you'll encounter some surprising side effects—some of them fun, some challenging. Here, seven who-knew consequences of shedding pounds and how to deal.

Psst ... You're Freezing

Ever since Aimee Wells started eating right and exercising more, she and her husband bicker over the temperature in their San Francisco home. "I recently lost 16 pounds, and now I'm cold all the time," says the 45-year-old marketing communications consultant. "I'm always turning up the thermostat and closing the windows. It drives him crazy!" Shifts in body weight can cause fluctuations in your hormones. "Levels of one of the thyroid hormones can decrease, making you feel colder," explains endocrinologist Judith Korner, MD, PhD, the director of the Weight Control Center at Columbia University Medical Center. "If you lose just 10 percent of your body weight, you'll probably experience hormonal changes." Keep a cute cardi handy and bask in the warm, fuzzy feeling you get from taking care of your bod.

Psst ... You Need a New Beauty Regimen

There's a reason it's called baby fat. "Fat under the skin on your face makes it appear plump and youthful," says dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. When you lose weight—even as little as 10 pounds—the skin sags, creating wrinkles. One study found a correlation between sedentary behavior and accelerated thinning of the dermis. This middle layer of the skin, where the youth-preserving proteins collagen and elastin live, gradually decreases as we get older. Preliminary research presented at the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine's annual meeting suggests that exercise may slow this process, causing changes in the cells that make the skin look younger. Certain over-the-counter ingredients can also bring back that youthful glow. Apply one of the new plumping creams, with intensive hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycerin, to help fill in wrinkles, or a moisturizer with light-reflecting pigments like dimethicone to minimize lines (try L'Oreal RevitaLift Moisture Blur Instant Skin Smoother, $25, lorealparisusa.com).

Psst ... You're a Sex Machine

Slimming down spiced things up for Olivia Ward. "I didn't even realize how self-conscious I was during sex," says the 38-year-old who lost 129 pounds on The Biggest Loser. "Now I'm fully present instead of worrying that my butt is huge or my belly looks gross." The shift that Ward experienced is common; overweight women may hold back during intimacy. "They're stuck in their heads instead of losing themselves in pleasure," says Ann Kearney-Cooke, PhD, a psychologist and the author of Change Your Mind, Change Your Body. Liking how you look can bring out your inner sex kitten, but biology does, too. "When you're overweight, levels of the stress hormone cortisol are very high, which can lead to decreased sexual interest," says Pamela Wartian Smith, MD, the author of Why You Can't Lose Weight. And don't forget that sex is a workout: It takes strength to twist yourself into positions that can feel OMG good. "My husband and I are both in better shape, so there are more things we can do," Ward adds. Shedding just a few pounds can bring sexy back. Take Aimee Wells, who dropped a jeans size. "I feel more confident, and that comes across in the bedroom," she says.

Psst ... Your Skin Doesn't Fit

Heather Martinez had a lot of excess skin after losing 175 pounds. "It just sat there, no matter how much I worked out or how well I ate," says the 42-year-old in Arlington, Texas. After two years at her goal weight, Martinez got a tummy tuck. "As the skin stretches, it isn't always able to snap back to what it was before," Dr. Zeichner says. "Sometimes surgery is the only solution." Extra skin is a fact of life for many people who shed 50 or more pounds, although losing it gradually, eating more protein and exercising can help, Dr. Wartian Smith says.

Age also plays a role. Your skin produces more collagen and elastin when you're younger, giving it elasticity. Youth may have worked in Elisha Villanueva's favor. The 32-year-old San Diego mother of two was 28 when she dropped 82 pounds. "I was lucky—my skin really tightened up with weight training," she says.

If you've lost weight, use a body lotion that contains ammonium lactate, which, research has shown, thickens the dermis (the layer of skin that contains collagen and elastin). "This ingredient, in over-the-counter brands like AmLactin and CeraVe Renewing SA cream, may help skin return to its former state," Dr. Zeichner explains.

Psst ... You Still Have Fat Days

"Some days I still feel chubby," Ward says. "I see a size 6 dress hanging in a store and think, There is just no way, even though I have a closet full of clothes in that size that fit me perfectly." When someone has been overweight for a long time, that self-image is burned into her psyche. "It takes a while for your mind to catch up with the changes in your body," Kearney-Cooke says. Until that happens, it can prevent you from moving forward; you might feel less confident on a date or unwilling to pursue a promotion at the office. Speed up the process with a little body-image boot camp. Once a week, stand in front of the mirror in your undies, Kearney-Cooke suggests. Admire yourself and find things you like, whether it's your strong arms or your powerful legs.

Psst ... You Need to Go Shoe Shopping

After Villanueva lost 82 pounds, she delighted in updating her wardrobe to show off her new svelte figure—and footsies. "I went down a whole shoe size, which I totally didn't expect," she recalls. "I had so much fun buying heels, which I never used to wear because they didn't offer enough support when I was heavy." This happens to many women. "You can lose weight in your feet, just like anywhere else in your body," Dr. Wartian Smith says. Take this news and run with it: Hit the mall for an adorable new pair of strappy sandals, riding boots or sexy heels. What the heck, buy all three! You've earned them.

Psst ... You Find Out Who Your Real Friends Are

When your body changes, relationships do, too. "For the most part, friends were supportive. But a few people became jealous and resentful," says Marie Jones, a 50-year-old in Glasgow, Montana, who shed a whopping 296 pounds. Kearney-Cooke recalls one of her patients, who described her pals as "the fat club." Their bond was built on a blatant disregard for calories and fat grams; they ordered nachos and piña coladas while other women picked at grilled chicken and sipped wine. "That was their identity as a group," Kearney-Cooke explains. "When my patient started eating differently, the rest of the 'club' felt threatened and turned on her." If this happens to you, ask your buddy what's up: "I value your friendship, and you've been acting differently since I lost weight. Can we talk?" If she admits that she's resentful, your relationship is on the right track. If she's nasty, you may be better off without her. That negative attitude will only weigh you down.