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What Will My Body Look Like After Bariatric Surgery

Woman who underwent bariatric surgery looking at her body in the mirror

This is a tricky question for any bariatric surgeon to answer. Why? Everybody is different; everyone has different expectations for their bariatric procedure, and what is considered an incredible success for one person may feel like a disappointment for someone else. So, in answering this question, we must understand bariatric surgery’s psychological and mental wellness components.

After a successful procedure and proper postoperative care, you will likely lose significant weight in the weeks and months after your procedure. This weight loss can continue for a year or more…even up to two years. The pounds seem to melt off. The number on the scale offers an exciting representation of how well you’re doing, and, especially in the first year, you may even wonder if you’re losing too much weight.

However, as that weight loss starts to slow, a bit of reality will settle in. You’ve undoubtedly heard that you will experience excess skin after your weight loss procedure, which results from several issues and will be worse for some. So, what factors into your weight loss excess skin during your weight loss phase?

  1. For years, and maybe even decades, you have stretched your skin, possibly beyond its elastic limit. If you’re over 30 or so, your skin is also naturally losing collagen and elastin production, which would otherwise keep it supple and tight. As such, as you transition from the weight loss to the weight maintenance phase, there will be a point where the excess skin will no longer bounce back.
  2. The procedure you undergo and how quickly you lose weight will partly determine how much excess skin you will have after surgery. Bypass and duodenal switch patients who lose weight more rapidly tend to have more excess skin than gastric sleeve patients, for example. It’s tough, but slow and steady weight loss is always better than rapid weight loss, especially in the early days after surgery.
  3. Your beginning weight will make a difference. The more you have to lose, and ultimately the more weight you do lose, the more excess skin you will likely develop.
  4. Your genetics also go a long way in determining how much excess skin will form after surgery. Some patients’ bodies naturally produce more collagen and elastin versus others. This elasticity, or lack thereof, will make a big difference.

This can be one of the most challenging parts of the weight loss process for most patients to accept. How do we come to terms with excess skin and not looking how we expected, even if we’ve lost an unbelievable amount of weight? It’s easy to say but hard to believe, so let’s discuss it.

  1. It’s vital that you measure your success through multiple lenses. It’s great to see so much weight loss on the scale. And yes, seeing your body shrink right before your eyes is amazing. But bariatric surgery is so much more than weight loss. Think about how much you can walk now versus before, how much you can exercise, what you can fit into, and the activities that are no longer out of reach. Think about your blood work and how your blood sugar, cholesterol, and other inflammation or metabolic disease markers may have improved or resolved. These are the true wins, and a bit of excess skin is, for most, a small price to pay.
  2. Understand that excess skin can be corrected. To be sure, a procedure in which the excess skin around the abdomen is removed is not painless. There will be a good amount of recovery involved. However, motivated patients wishing to eliminate their excess skin can do it safely and with good results. Most importantly, speak to Dr. Tsuda about any cosmetic procedures you are considering to ensure that you are at a point in your weight loss journey where another surgery will not compromise your progress.
  3. Go into surgery with the right expectation. You will have ample opportunity to speak to Dr. Tsuda, Brian, our PA, and various specialists before your procedure. This is even something you can bring up doing your psych evaluation. Ultimately, setting the appropriate expectations before surgery can help you remain motivated and confident afterward. This is also a great time to speak to other patients undergoing the procedure. They can give you great insight into how they felt after surgery, what they look like, and how they dealt with excess skin.

Ultimately, bariatric surgery is not a cosmetic procedure. Obesity is an actual disease, and its resolution or improvement changes people’s lives. The incredible benefit that most bariatric patients derive from their surgery far outweighs the inconvenience of hanging skin. As mentioned above, there is always a way to handle this excess skin, but we suggest focusing on the great benefits of your surgery rather than the few downsides of your achievements.

We look forward to seeing you for a consultation at the office and discussing the best away last option for you, which may or may not include surgery.