Body Image After Bariatric Surgery

Mar 08, 2021

Most people believe they will be thrilled when they lose weight after surgery, but not everyone is as happy as they expect. Some people will adjust naturally and more quickly to weight loss after surgery than others. However, it is not uncommon for people to be dissatisfied with their bodies after surgery and continue to see themselves as overweight and unattractive. Some weight loss experts use the term “phantom fat” when describing the experience of still feeling fat after surgery. Body dysmorphia can develop after bariatric surgery if individuals view themselves negatively and do not see an accurate reflection in the mirror. This is especially true for people who were obese for many years and experienced rapid weight loss after surgery. Their mind has not caught up with the changes in their body.

After bariatric surgery, people do experience increase satisfaction in their appearance and self-esteem, but not always as much as they would expect. Many people do not realize they will struggle with compliments and attention about their weight loss. When people hear their family or friends describe them as “skinny” or “thin” it can cause them to feel uncomfortable. Typically this is because people do not see themselves as a smaller person and have to work hard to accept how other people view them. It can take years after bariatric surgery for people to accept their new weight and appearance, as well as adjust to the attention.  This can also cause individuals to feel pressure about maintaining a healthy weight. People worry they will be scrutinized for eating anything that might be viewed as “unhealthy” after surgery.

We often don’t realize how mean we are being to ourselves. It is important to retrain your brain to focus on some of the positive changes in your body after weight loss. The first step to overcome adjustment problems with weight loss after surgery is learning to accept and appreciate your body.  It is important to develop realistic expectations about your body and recognize the aspects of your body you do like. One important aspect of successful weight loss is to practice body acceptance instead of judgment.   

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