The emotional and mental effects of body contouring surgery

Plastic Surgeon & Medical Spa Serving Oklahoma City, Edmond,Lawton & Nearby Central Oklahoma

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Posted: August 28, 2014

We’ve given you our two cents on how bariatric and body contouring work together, what body contouring is, and how body contouring surgery affects long-term weight loss.  And now we’ve got to address a final issue: how body contouring surgery affects people mentally and emotionally.

As we’ve mentioned before, some physicians think that body contouring surgery is such an integral part of bariatric procedures that it should be classified as reconstructive surgery – not cosmetic surgery. That changes the tone a bit: something once considered vanity-driven surgery is actually being looked at as a measurable way of ensuring weight loss success.

Why does the psychology matter?

You’ve probably read and heard plenty about how obesity is often connected to emotional eating, problems socializing, and anxiety and self-esteem issues. When a person has bariatric surgery, they lose weight – but unsightly folds of skin remain, reminding them that the procedure isn’t magic and that they’re not completely “out” of their former bodies.

Body contouring allows people to look and feel like the healthy, changed people they are inside. That said, patients with unrealistic expectations going into either surgery are likely to be unsatisfied even after they’ve lost weight and are no longer dealing with excess skin.

What does the research say?

Results so far have been mixed. While many studies find quality of life improvements in patients who opt to also undergo body contouring surgery, others find that patients still have lingering, body-related doubts and anxieties.

  • One team of researchers found a “sustained quality-of-life improvement in post-bariatric surgery patients after body contouring surgery.”
  • Another team, though, actually found that patients who underwent bariatric surgery and then body contouring surgery still felt a strong sense of dissatisfaction. The team posited that their results spoke to “the importance of appropriate education and management of expectations prior to surgery” and “the importance of counseling and education prior to plastic surgery to ensure appropriate expectations for the patient in regard to scarring and the realistic scope that can be accomplished by surgery.”

These studies show what we try to practice with every patient at Genesis: expectations strongly affect your satisfaction with your results. Bariatric surgery is a great tool for people who aren’t achieving weight loss with recommended diet and exercise, and body contouring surgery lets bariatric patients live in bodies that feel brand-new. As we move toward making body contouring an integrated part of massive weight loss surgery, we expect that doctors and patients alike will have more realistic expectations – and will readily embrace the advantages of both procedures.

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