Body Image Considerations after Bariatric Surgery

Many post-bariatric surgery patients suffer from a distorted view of their body, which can, in turn, cause serious psychological difficulties after surgery. Body image issues cannot be corrected immediately, to be sure. After all, obesity didn’t occur overnight, and the effects of obesity will not disappear quickly either. However, it is important patients begin to address their body image and expectations immediately after surgery – ideally even before surgery.

The psychological effects of obesity can run deep and are hard to overcome. Many of these problems will have developed in childhood and continue through adolescence and adulthood. The result is there is no easy way to break free. Most commonly, bariatric surgery patients who have lost a significant amount of weight will not believe that they are thin enough. Further, they may not enjoy the compliments they are given by those around them. Rather, they will continue to believe they are too fat, brush off and rationalize positive comments and avoid the mirror and scale.

Even though this body image misperception is a significant hurdle to weight loss, it is normal. Many patients have to fight the same feelings every day. However, the issue must be addressed head on, in part by:

  • Enlisting friends, family and clinicians to help conquer the idea that progress hasn’t been made. Being surrounded by a group of supportive individuals can do wonders towards realizing how far they have come
  • Regularly attending support group when other patients will have experienced many of the same challenges and may have tips and tricks to overcome them
  • Seeing a psychologist, which may help with perceptional issues
  • Keeping a detailed diary of weight loss progress and feelings
  • Participating in new and exciting activities that may once have been unthinkable
  • Keeping a photo of the “old you” handy to visualize progress

We are all hard on ourselves, and there is no doubt it takes a while to get over the psychological effects of obesity. Just remember the journey you have taken is a difficult but, ultimately, a very rewarding one. Celebrate the small victories – every 5 pounds lost, or every inch eliminated. This will help you see your progress on a regular basis. And as with any of life’s big decisions, don’t be afraid to enlist those around you. They are here to help with all the challenges of your post-bariatric surgery life.

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Springhill Medical Center

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Mobile, AL 36608