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What Skydiving reminded me about Extreme Fat-Loss
aka How NOT to Lose Fat
Some of us, it seems, have a death wish.
Why else would anyone jump off a plane?
Especially when they’re the kinds who, even after taking a gazzillion flights, still make nervous banter to cope with turbulence. And heave a secret sigh of relief on every successful landing.
Why would such a person jump? (Or, as Trump would say , ‘Why wouldn’t’)
Well, I wouldn’t know. Because in my case, my wife had a death wish for me. And I happily obliged.
In the plane, I had the express privilege of sitting next to the open door and watching six others jump before me. Some voluntarily, some otherwise.
And throughout that 10 minute climb to 14000ft, I had many fundamental questions, from physics to life, running through my head.
Starting with that open door.
Aren’t things (and people) supposed to get sucked out the minute you open an airplane door? Why does that flight attendant always waste my time if this shit is kosher?
And ending at more existential ones.
Why am I doing this? Is mid-life crisis supposed to hit at 33? Is it over-confidence to be at the edge of an open airplane door and still term it mid-life?
Thankfully, I was sitting tight in the lap of my tandem skydiving instructor, Don – who did this for a living and who’d jumped, for no good reason, off a plane, more than 10000 times! So tight, I could feel his balls on my ass. And that, in a strange way, gave me assurance. Since mine had retreated long back.
Don’s got this. He better have.
And before I knew it, we were at the edge, I was shouting into the camera (which is stupid), and we’d submitted to gravity.
As soon as we jumped though, all those doubts from the plane left me. All to be replaced by just one question.
Why the hell is my mouth flapping so much?
We were in free-fall for about a minute. And all I remember from those 55 seconds is not the views, or the feeling of weightlessness, but how uncomfortable this mouth-flapping, which had soon turned positively violent, was.
The best I can describe it is as if someone’s continuously slapping you from inside your mouth. Relentlessly. At what feels like 100 slaps per second.
Ok this isn’t stopping
People ask me how the free-fall was. Frankly, I don’t remember.
I just remember my mouth and cheeks hurting until, finally, the parachute opened. That’s when the fun part of the dive began.
The next 3 minutes, just hanging in the air, no wind bitch-slapping my face, looking at the beautiful South African landscape, were truly heaven. So good, that by the time we landed, I’d almost forgotten about the initial ordeal.
Untill I got these pictures in my mailbox a week later.
Why did my face flap?
Everyone’s does. I checked. But not so violently or so visually. I checked that too.
The minute I saw the pictures I knew what was happening here. The layers of loose skin forming ripples on my cheeks, fluttering like a thin sheet of plastic caught in a tornado. How could I not recognise this?
I’ve spent my entire post weight-loss life, standing in front of mirrors, pinching and pulling skin off different parts of my body, wondering what went wrong!
Where are the abs I was promised? Why do I still have a tyre when I sit? And where does it disappear when I’m standing?
If you’ve been through extreme weight-loss, you’d be familiar with this phenomenon.
Our skin is like an elastic. And like any elastic, it has an elastic limit. Keep it stretched beyond that limit, for too long, and it loses its elasticity. Never resumes its original, tight shape.
Ask any woman post child-birth.
And that’s exactly what fast, extreme weight loss does too. The fat under your skin stretches it beyond limit. And then you lose it all through a crash diet in 6 months. But the skin doesn’t shrink like your fat cells did. It just retains its original stretch. And hangs there, like a loose pile of flesh.
It’s this loose skin that made my mouth-flapping so pronounced and painful. And gave me another reason to be disappointed with my post weight-loss body.
Can loose skin be remedied
No. Not without surgery.
Skin tightening creams are a sham. And body-wraps just dehydrate the skin and make it tight for a short while.
Building muscle can ‘fill-up’ the gaps that fat left in some places — like arms and shoulders. So definitely do that.
But there’s no way you’re building abs as big as the tummy you lost. And no amount of laughter will build muscle around your cheekbones. So the skin around the lower abdomen, hips, lower back, cheeks etc ain’t getting refilled.
There are some non-invasive surgical methods like RF and Ultrasound that I hear can semi-solve this. Or there is the sure shot way of going under the knife and getting an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) done. Though I’d advise neither, for obvious reasons.
Even the thought of such surgery is disgusting to me. And yet I can’t deny that it’s crossed my mind many a times. Such is the disappointment of putting in so much effort into weight-loss, only to find that you’ll never look like them magazine covers.
Finally, I find that there’s only one, natural way of curing this.
You heard it. Don’t let it happen in the first place. That’s the easiest, safest, cheapest and only sure-shot way to avoid this utter unfairness. Here’s how:
When I started losing weight the first time, I went bat-shit crazy. I just stopped eating and started running (250 meters on Day 1, in case you’re wondering).
And boy did I lose some weight! 33 kgs in 9 months, to be precise!! You think I’d have stopped to ponder on the long-term skin-elasticity ramifications of this madness?!
I should’ve. But I didn’t know.
I didn’t know that weight training is an equally important second-half of weight-loss. Not only does building muscle increase your metabolism, hence making fat loss even faster, it does so while ’toning’ you up.
The more resistance training you mix into your weight-loss routine, lower the chances of ending up with loose skin are.
Don’t do endurance sports
Sigh. This is a tough one to admit, since I love running. But I shouldn’t have gotten into Marathons right after losing weight.
I thought the more I ran, the more I’d lose weight (which is absolutely the wrong reason to do marathons). And the mental toughness that marathoning required for someone who weighed 105kg just a few years ago, was a high that I couldn’t resist attaining.
I should’ve resisted. Because any endurance sport, when practiced without enough nutrient-packed food to re-fuel energy stores, will make you lose muscle. And make your remaining muscles soft. And make your loose skin looser.
And imagine! I kept running, thinking that this is what will remove this last bit of fat that’s been left behind. *facepalm*
Don’t go extreme
Because not only are extreme diets un-sustainable (I regained and re-lost 20 kgs, twice, after my first loss), the speed with which you lose fat from under your skin also determines how much elasticity your skin loses.
Just like any elastic — if from beyond max-stretch you suddenly snap it back, it’ll definitely lose shape.
Don’t regain what you lost
Like I did. Twice. And that just stretched and contracted my already war-ravaged skin-elastic twice more. #Gameover
There. That’s what skydiving reminded me to tell you about extreme weight-loss.
I’m still trying to lose that saggy stuff around my belly. I’ll let you know once I do. Or maybe, someday, I’ll become comfortable enough with my body to show you how it looks. But for now, as a step towards me not taking myself too seriously, you may laugh at this.
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