When you hear about someone who lost a lot of weight, it’s usually regarding how amazing they feel or how much healthier their lifestyle is now. But what about the not-so-glamorous parts, like living with loose skin or debilitating pain? That’s what happened to 27-year-old Lexi Reed from Indiana, and she’s speaking up about it.
Reed’s weight-loss journey began with a New Year’s resolution. On January 1, 2016, when she weighed about 485 pounds, she and her husband decided it was time to make some lifestyle changes. It was out with Netflix and junk food and in with exercise and healthy eating, Reed tells Health.
Fast forward two years, and, thanks to a lot of hard work and dedication, Reed had lost 312 pounds. Talk about a whole new you. She was finally free of the weight that had kept her “prisoner,” she says, but no one told her she was about to face an entirely new obstacle: loose skin.
In February of this year, Reed started experiencing severe neck pain. She went to multiple doctors and was put on various medications, but nothing was helping. No doctor could figure out exactly what was wrong, she says, and they started looking at her like it was all in her head. “There were times when I didn’t know if I would wake up the next day because I was in so much pain.”
Then she had an aha moment. “One day we were in the bathroom, and my husband stood behind me and lifted my stomach so for the first time I could see what I would look like if my stomach wasn’t covering my hips and everything else,” she says. “That was the first time that I didn’t feel the neck pain and all of the pain I had been feeling for months.”
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Reed says couldn’t believe she hadn’t thought of that before, but she had never heard anyone talk about the pain that comes with loose skin. People typically focus on the vanity of losing weight, she explains, not the complications that can come with it.
Her struggle with her skin didn’t stop there. Sometimes it felt so heavy that her arms would go numb from holding it up, she says.
Another thing no one told her about: Loose skin would also take away from her ability to show off her new body.
The day was finally here. Reed was going to an amusement park with her husband, and she was ready to rock a bathing suit for the first time. Needless to say, she was pretty excited.
“I wore this swimsuit that had a skirt, so I was still a little bit covered, but everybody was staring at my legs because the loose skin would flap as I would walk,” she says. “I felt so insecure by the end of it. You think, ‘I lost 312 pounds, I want to rock bathing suits,’ but I couldn’t.”
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Regardless of what others thought, Reed knew she had every right to be proud of her body. “I would rather have 10 times more skin than I have now than be 485 pounds back on my deathbed where I wasn’t able to do anything, such as even go to that theme park,” she says.
In September, Reed decided she couldn’t live her life in pain any longer. She scheduled a surgery to have some of her loose skin removed. She was terrified of surgery, she says, but she was even more terrified of what the long-term effects of carrying that much skin around could be. “I don’t know the long-term effects because there’s not a lot of research on that,” she says.
On Halloween, Reed endured a nine-hour surgery performed by board-certified plastic surgeon Joseph Michaels, MD, who removed some of the excess skin from her stomach and contoured her butt to match her new curves.
Now, just a week post-surgery, Reed says she knows she made the best decision of her life. “I can already tell how different my life is going to be,” she says.
Reed’s goal going forward: to help as many people as she can. She plans to write a book about her experience and hopes to inspire others who want to lose weight or are trying to navigate living with loose skin.
“It’s not about the weight that you lose, but the life that you gain,” Reed says. “Yeah, I have loose skin, but it doesn’t stop me from being able to do things like ride roller coasters, travel on airplanes, go canoeing—all things that at 485 pounds I couldn’t do.”
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