Body Image Considerations after Weight Loss Surgery
Many post-bariatric patients suffer from a distorted view of their body, which can, in turn, cause serious difficulties after surgery. Body image issues cannot be corrected immediately. After all, obesity didn’t occur overnight and the effects of obesity will not disappear quickly either. However, it is important that patients begin to address their body image and expectations immediately after surgery – and ideally, well before.
The psychological effects of obesity are deep and can be hard to overcome. Many of these problems developed in childhood and continue throughout adolescence and adulthood. The result is there is no “easy” way to break free, even with your body changing. Most commonly, bariatric surgery patients who lose a significant amount of weight will not believe that they are in fact skinny, or skinnier. Further, they may not let themselves enjoy the compliments they are given by those around them. Rather, they will continue to believe that they are obese, brush off and undermine positive comments, and even avoid the mirror and scale.
In more severe cases, patients may develop eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia, which can cause severe adverse health effects.
What Can Be Done?
Despite the fact that this body image misperception is a significant hurdle to weight loss after surgery, it is also normal. It is important to address the issue head on and enlist those around you to help fight the idea that you haven’t made progress. Further, seeing a psychologist, either at your surgeon’s office or independently, may help conquer the body image problem more quickly.
We are all hard on ourselves, and there is no doubt that it takes a while to get over the psychological effects of obesity. Just remember that the journey you have taken is difficult, but ultimately very rewarding. Celebrating the small victories – every five pounds lost, or every couple inches eliminated – will help both quantify and celebrate your progress. And don’t discount the value of those before-and-after pictures. Seeing your progress in picture form is truly worth a thousand words.
As with any of life’s big decisions, don’t be afraid to enlist those around you – that includes our office and staff. We are all here to help you in overcoming the challenges of your post-bariatric life.