Losing weight for the objective health benefits, like avoiding diseases and striving to be healthy parents, are the impetus for weight-loss transformations. But for some, the journey isn’t complete until they literally feel comfortable in their own skin, even if it means surgically removing layers of it.
October 1, 2018
PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRIAN FITZSIMMONS
Laura Robichaux, 49, battled weight issues for most of her life, and recalls that she was “always the big girl.”
Her weight loss journey began 15 years ago as a recently divorced mom, weighing 205 and wearing a size 16 or 18, at the time.
“I was not living a healthy lifestyle and my relationship with food was to just eat what you’ve always eaten in your life,” Robichaux says.
As a single, working mom, those food choices were often fast, convenient and highly processed, for her and her 10-year-old son. She knew she had to change her relationship with food, so she began using Weight Watchers and the Body for Life program for inspiration.
“I know this sounds weird, but I also love reading diet books for fun,” Robichaux says. “I started educating myself and listening to my body.”
Rather than adhering to any specific food plan, Robichaux tweaked her diet, becoming more conscious of making healthy choices, and in the process lost close to 50 pounds. She also made working out a habit as regular as brushing her teeth.
“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to understand that this is what I do for me,” Robichaux says. “Physical activity has to become part your of life. It’s not an option.”
Her go-to activity became Pilates at Lifetime Fitness South, along with cardio and a twice-weekly session with a personal trainer.
Though she was able to lose the weight and sustain it, stretch marks and rolls of loose skin still lingered.
Health is both objective and subjective. There are unbiased and established biological markers that predict health; blood pressure, BMI, cholesterol, weight and the like. Then, there are intangible markers of health, like confidence, self-esteem, fulfillment and empowerment. Is one more important or are they equal?
“Quite honestly, I didn’t like the way [the skin] looked,” Robichaux says. “You could reach down there and pull out skin. It wasn’t pretty and I never felt like I had accomplished my goal. Having that skin was very demotivating and there’s nothing more I could do. There’s not a cream or massage technique that could get rid of it.”
In 2015, Robichaux turned to cosmetic surgery and Dr. Scott Haydon, an MD from Austin Plastic Surgery Institute, in order to successfully complete her physical transformation.
“Austin is such a fit town and so many of my patients are active people that like to be outdoors,” Haydon says. “They want to get back to their activities as quickly as possible.”
According to Haydon, the majority of his patients are already in good shape, but have reached an end point to what they can do. They want to look and feel natural and not overdone.
“They’ve either got skin excess, fullness in the abdomen or they may just have stubborn fat areas and they’re frustrated because they really can’t exercise any more than they already do,” he says. “No amount of crunches will get their tummy flat again because the muscles have been stretched.”
Cosmetic surgery such as tummy tucks, breast work, mommy makeovers and similar elective procedures are no longer taboo and reserved for those with disposable income.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the number of tummy tuck procedures increased 87 percent from 2000 to 2014, a significant increase considering cosmetic surgery is rarely covered by insurance.
Similar to Robichaux, Lisa Golden, 46, battled weight issues her entire life and was considered obese even in kindergarten. She endured years of comments like, “You’d be so pretty, if only…”
In 2001 she underwent gastric bypass surgery, which at the time was new and controversial. She lost a total of 125 pounds within a year.
“I also joined a gym, but I didn’t really know what that meant,”Golden recalls. “I would walk on the treadmill, but my skin just hung from my waist down to my knees.”
In September 2017, over 15 years after her gastric bypass and after raising her son, Golden reignited her fitness journey and joined the Camp Transformation Center in Round Rock. In one month, she lost 25 pounds, igniting a desire for further self-improvement.
“If I want to continue working out, I have to get rid of this skin,” Golden thought. “It was literally hindering me, slapping around and making noise, and it didn’t matter how tight my pants were or how tight I wore my bra.”
Stretch marks and loose skin are inevitable for anyone who has ever lost a considerable amount of weight or had a baby. It’s skin that can serve as a reminder of the past, but can also be a health risk; inhibiting movement, adversely affecting posture and, in some cases, hinder breathing.
After consulting with four surgeons last June, Golden also sought out Dr. Haydon for a full-body makeover, including a tummy tuck, body lift, liposuction in her thighs and arms, breast augmentation and more.
“I will finally be able to do what I want to do physically,” Golden says of her results. “I get to go to the gym and not feel restricted by my own skin. Now, I want to run at least one marathon!”
Golden echoes those sentiments now that her fears have been alleviated.
“This is now a conscious choice I make for myself every day,” she says. “I can choose what food I put in my mouth and I can control whether or not I’m on the couch or at the gym.”
While both these women elected for surgery to complete a journey that wasn’t quite finished for them personally, the most profound results have been those intangible and subjective health benefits of confidence and newfound self-esteem. By peeling back the layers of skin, they were able to shed years of self-doubt and self-consciousness.
“It has made me a better mom and inspires me to put my best foot forward in everything I do,” Robichaux says. “People have told me I’m like a fine wine — I really am getting better with age.”
At long last, these two women are finally comfortable in their own skin and loving it.