Body Image After Weight Loss Surgery

by Dr Sharon Robertson.

When we talk about body image we are referring to how we think, feel and perceive our own bodies. This includes our views on shape, size and appearance in general, as well as the emotions and attitudes associated with that view. Body image can be very subjective and is often influenced by our culture, self-esteem, social media and personal experiences.

How we view and feel about our body can impact our self-confidence and sense of identity overall. For example, someone with a negative body image may experience low self-esteem and struggle with accepting themselves fully. However, a positive body image can contribute to a healthier sense of self and a greater level of confidence and well-being.

We know that significant weight loss can lead to changes in body shape and appearance, which may take time to adjust to. It is not uncommon for our post-op patients to not recognise how much weight they have lost because they are still adjusting to their ‘lower weight selves’.

Body image dissatisfaction may increase post-op due to loose skin, or previously held expectations about surgery outcomes. This is why the pre- assessment is so important as it helps us to identify and treat these aspects of psychological health to improve your weight loss outcomes and reduce dissatisfaction.

We recognise and understand that adjusting to a new body image and sense of identity can be quite challenging for some. Here are a few tips to help promote a positive body image you can try for yourself:

Practice Self-Compassion:

Treat yourself with kindness and compassion. Remind yourself that your worth is not solely determined by your physical appearance. Focus on accepting and appreciating your body for its strength, resilience, and the positive changes you have achieved through the surgery.

Challenge Negative Thoughts:

Challenge negative thoughts or critical self-talk about your body. Replace them with more realistic and positive affirmations. Practice self-acceptance and focus on your accomplishments, personal growth, and the improvements in your overall health.

Surround Yourself with Supportive People:

Seek out a support network of friends, family, or support groups who can understand and empathise with your experiences. Engage in conversations that foster body positivity and self-acceptance.

Focus on Health and Wellness:

Shift your focus from solely appearance to your overall health and well-being. Engage in activities that promote physical fitness, mental well-being, and self-care. Emphasise the positive changes in your lifestyle and the benefits to your long-term health.

Dress in a Way That Makes You Feel Good:

Choose clothing that fits well and makes you feel comfortable and confident. Finding clothing that flatters your new body shape can contribute to improved body image.

Set Realistic Expectations:

Recognise that the outcomes of bariatric surgery are not solely about appearance but also includes overall health improvement. Set realistic expectations for your body and understand that your body will continue to change over time. Focus on the progress you have made rather than striving for perfection.

Celebrate Non-Physical Achievements:

Shift your focus from physical appearance to celebrating non-physical achievements. Recognise and appreciate your personal growth, improved self-esteem, increased energy levels, and other positive changes that have occurred because of the surgery.

Remember, improving body image takes time and patience. It’s essential to prioritise self-care, self-acceptance, and a holistic approach to well-being. If you find it challenging to manage body image concerns on your own, seeking professional help is always a valuable option.

Dr Sharon Robertson is a clinical psychologist and a much appreciated team member of Dr George Balalis. Read more about Dr Robertson’s qualifications and interests here.

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