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What Should Your Body Look like After Bariatric Surgery?

Woman looking at herself in mirror with hands on hips and smiling

What should your body look like after bariatric surgery? Wow! This question is tricky because we all have different body shapes and sizes…and expectations. Further, our unique psychological, genetic, and physical traits affect our body’s appearance after bariatric surgery. One constant that we can virtually guarantee is that if you follow the appropriate post-operative diet and exercise programs that our office prescribes, you will almost certainly lose a significant amount of excess body weight, making you look and feel much better.

The difficulty, however, is in predicting how the body will react to rapid and extreme weight loss. For most, there will be some excess or hanging skin. This depends on several factors, including how quickly you lose weight, overall weight loss, your skin’s natural elasticity, and your age. The shape of your body will also be primarily determined by how much strength training you do and how much you work out. If all you do is cardiovascular exercise, as important as it is, the likelihood is that you will not develop a shapelier body. Instead, strength training or weightlifting can make a big difference in body shape. Building muscle can also fill in some of that loose skin.

Quick tip: The average person will not work out enough to “bulk up,” so don’t be afraid of the gym. Using reasonable weights is the best way to ensure proportional musculature, feel good, and set yourself up for long-term weight loss even at rest.

We would be remiss if we didn’t talk about the psychological component of losing weight. Of course, everybody will tell you that you look fantastic, and you’ll see the numbers on the scale that prove that. However, there is a possible psychological phenomenon, sometimes mild and sometimes severe, known as body dysmorphia. This is where a patient looks at their body, but rather than seeing all the progress they have made, they still see an obese person staring back at them. This is rooted in the fact that most patients have lived with that excess weight for so long that they don’t believe themselves to be anything other than defined by their weight. Body dysmorphia can lead to several significant problems. First is the possibility of becoming frustrated and ultimately slowing down or stopping what would otherwise be considered excellent gains.

In its worst cases, body dysmorphia can lead to severe mental health conditions, including anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating. The best way to prevent this is to understand that it may happen and have a trusted friend or a family member stay on the lookout with you. If the signs of an eating disorder manifest, they can alert you to it, and you’ll have a plan for psychological care. Remember, eating disorders can be deadly and should not be taken lightly or left untreated.

An Effective Tactic to Love Your Body More

It’s important to develop ways to look at your body more positively from day 1; an early tactic to help is looking in the mirror periodically and pointing out what you like about your body. You may not have a long list at first, but you will grow that list over time. There is no body part too small or insignificant to love, and even if you start with admiring your shoulders or eyebrows, for example, that’s a great start. Performing this activity reminds you that you’re progressing and helps you avoid being overly critical.

Be Open With Your Concerns

While you may be embarrassed to bring up these concerns during one of your follow-up conversations with Dr. Higa or our dietitian Anali, don’t be. These are legitimate questions and concerns that many patients have had before you. We can work together to address these and any other challenges you may have after your procedure. We look forward to seeing the amazing results in store.