Do stretch marks go away when you lose weight?

Do stretch marks go away when you lose weight? When? – a question I get all the time. I don’t really know but I know how to get rid of them and I think I have some good tips that you can try.

What is a stretch mark?

Stretch marks are small raised scar-like areas in the skin. Usually, they form when the skin is trying to stretch while the muscles are tight. They usually appear on the abdomen, hips, breasts and thighs and also on the buttocks. They may be the result of a variety of different factors.

Do stretch marks go away when you lose weight?
Do stretch marks go away when you lose weight?

The most common cause is rapid weight gain during pregnancy (which is also the fastest cause of the appearance of stretch marks). Stretch marks may also happen in people who have a rapid weight loss after pregnancy, in people who have been gaining weight quickly, in athletes, and those who use steroids and/or have any kind of muscle injury.

It is very common that a person who has lost weight will experience stretch marks. Even if you lose weight slowly and steadily, it is normal to get stretch marks. So it’s no big deal.

What causes stretch marks?

There are no specific guidelines regarding what causes stretch marks. There are just a few things that are known for sure:

  • Rapid weight gain, especially during pregnancy
  • Rapid weight loss, especially after pregnancy
  • Gaining weight quickly (either because of lack of exercise, or because of eating too much)
  • Gaining weight during adolescence, for example, in some cases of eating disorders
  • People who are on steroid medication (androgens)
  • People who have ever been or are currently using testosterone
  • Anyone who has had a muscle injury or surgery (this can happen to all kinds of people, but it happens to athletes, bodybuilders and people who have just had a muscle injury, and especially if it was big.)
  • Excessive exercise (and/or poor diet)
  • People with any kind of skin disorder, skin disease, such as acne, rosacea, dermatitis or psoriasis

In these cases, there is nothing to worry about. It is normal to have stretch marks. The good news is that they are NOT a disease, and they will disappear.

“It’s normal to not be perfect. It is normal to have stretch marks. It is normal to have imperfections.”

However, even if you are pregnant, have diabetes, have had a baby, have had many babies, or have any kind of skin problem, you can prevent getting stretch marks.

What causes stretch marks? There are a couple of theories about the exact causes of stretch marks:

  1. Skin damage
  2. Excess testosterone
  3. Excess calories
  4. Excess weight
  5. Skin damage

The most likely cause of these marks is the excessive damage that can happen to the skin when it’s stretched beyond its normal limits. The damage that occurs is permanent, the same as the kind of damage that can happen to any of us when we get really tanned. The skin is damaged, and it heals poorly. The stretch marks that can develop are scars.

The good news, again, is that the stretch marks that you get after giving birth are normal. There is nothing wrong with you, and there is nothing you can do about them.

Do stretch marks go away when you lose weight? 

Yes. If you lose weight on a diet where most of the weight is muscle then you'll have a whole lot of stretch marks on your skin that are all concentrated at the same spot. If you lose weight on a diet where most of the weight is fat then all your stretch marks will be mostly spread out over a larger area. The first case is painful. The second case is not.

Losing weight doesn't necessarily have to mean stretching out your skin. Losing weight can mean a lot of things:

  • Burning more calories by running than you did before.
  • Not eating as much food and instead getting the nutrition you need from other sources.
  • Living healthier, and not just dieting. This includes not drinking and smoking.
  • In very rare cases, dieting can be a symptom of a medical issue.
  • Having a particular muscle group that is weak and lacking (this happens in rare cases, but it can happen).
  • Losing weight too quickly and then eating/living an unhealthy lifestyle when your metabolism isn't used to that speed yet.

Dieting has only one goal -- calories burned -- and no others. The entire exercise discipline, stretching, cardio, weightlifting, is to achieve a net gain in muscle mass.

Losing weight doesn't necessarily have to mean stretching out your skin. True, but weight loss is in part a consequence of muscular building, while muscular building is no part of weight loss. Exercise can be used to build and to burn fat, but the building and burning both have nothing to do with stretching.

The answer is that dieting has only one goal -- calories burned. Actually, when someone says "eating is the problem" (an odd phrase to use, as eating is the entire purpose of the human species), what they really mean is the problem is overeating. But the actual problem, in my opinion, is the calorie. If the calorie didn't exist, no one would overeat. There's always a place to start and a place to stop, but this place is zero.

In that situation, the correct approach is to count calories. And if we can solve the problem of counting calories, it will solve the weight-loss problem.

If eating was the problem, then we'd all be eating 10 pounds of food each day while sitting on top of a mountain of feces. That would be pretty terrible.

Counting calories is kind of like telling the blind man there is a colorless ball in front of him. What's the point if the blind man can't make anything out of it?

Well, there's a difference between someone looking for a way to eat healthily and a person who is eating healthily and then wants to lose weight. Someone who is exercising to gain muscle for their sport, for example, should be counting their calories. Someone who is doing it so they don't put on fat is likely to be concerned with how few calories they eat at any given point. If someone ate the same number of calories as they did before but it was completely healthy, they wouldn't have any reason to count them again.

Your point about calories is a little unclear. If you eat 3000 calories a day, you do not have to worry about the calories after the day ends. Anecdotally, I notice that in my life I have had a couple people who say they eat much more than that (1000 or 5000 calories?) and have no trouble keeping up with those and still weight loss happens. If someone eats that much, there's no question about calories, but if someone eats 1500 but says they've been doing so for years without weight loss, they're either lying or something else is wrong.

A couple more thoughts here

One, calories are definitely a useful indicator when trying to lose weight. If you're aiming to drop 10-15kgs, that's about 2500 calories a day (3 days a week), then yes, that means you need to maintain that diet. However, you usually lose weight when you can cut your calorie consumption significantly while maintaining the same activity level. That happens naturally for many people as they get fitter. 

So, for example, some people are naturally hungry before and after exercise, so if your calorie intake decreases due to burning more calories during exercise, then you will naturally lose weight. And for others, they naturally burn more calories during exercise and they lose weight when they are in a calorie deficit.

I think the general consensus is that someone trying to lose weight for any reason should aim to maintain a calorie deficit which corresponds to a "healthy weight loss", for their body and gender. 

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