Patients of weight loss surgery often experience life-changing transformations. Some of these changes may feel great: weight loss; new friends; new hobbies. Unfortunately, some changes may not be so wonderful: feeling judged; grief; continuing body images concerns. Transitioning to a smaller body has its complications, that’s for sure. Follow these tips for a smoother transition after your surgery.
New Friends, New Hobbies
Embrace the changes that make you feel good by using your new body to try new things. Go biking, hiking, or swimming. Plant a garden or take a class. Research shows that meeting with friends on a monthly basis raises our happiness the same amount as if our salary were doubled! So make new friends that like different things than you, and let them take you out of your comfort zone.
Check Your Baggage
Weight loss following surgery is an exciting time for many, but it comes with many new and different body image concerns. With the possibility of loose skin, cellulite, or thinning hair, many people continue to dislike their appearances despite their weight loss goals being met. Some people may even suffer from Body Dysmorphic Disorder, and continue to see themselves as overweight.
Try doing some reality checking exercises. Put a string (or dental floss, or whatever is available) on the ground. Make it into the shape and size of your natural waistline. Take your time to get it just right. When it looks exact to you, pick it up and wrap it around your waist. As a body image therapist, I have never seen anyone overestimate his or her size. You too may be surprised by what you see versus the reality of the string.
May I Have Your Attention, Please?
After rapidly losing weight, some people find that they are starving for attention. They may find themselves seeking attention, as they believe they are more desirable now. Make sure to keep yourself in safe situations. If you are meeting a new person or people, meet in a neutral, well lit place. Never go to someone’s home or invite someone into your home that you do not know well. If you are in a committed relationship and find yourself being temped to seek another romantic relationship, do not allow yourself to be alone with the opposite sex until that desire passes. Ultimately, keep your personal values in the forefront of your mind, and do your best to make wise decisions.
Be Ready for Questioning Eyes
Many people will be berated with questions after weight loss surgery. Some of these questions may be harmless, and others can feel judgmental. These questions can cause a significant amount of stress if you have not pre-planned what you might say. Don’t be afraid to tell people what your medical reasons were for the surgery. Educate others about why weight loss surgery can be the only option for some people, and that it adds years to your life.
Be Positive, Stay Realistic
Feeling good on the outside is important, but it means little if you are feeling poorly on the inside. After weight loss surgery, some people feel disappointment, and aren’t as happy as they thought they would be. Many patients have unrealistic expectations of weight loss surgery, thinking that after losing the weight, they will somehow be happier. Weight loss does not equal happiness.
After losing a significant amount of weight, plan for your relationships to be affected. Eating and exercise plans will now affect your priorities and how you interact with others. Having a better body image and more self-confidence can also affect your relationships. Expecting your relationships to change will save you from any surprises or unnecessary heartache as you change.
Accepting your new body takes work. Accentuate your positives. If you hate your stomach, but love your legs, show them off in a skirt or shorts. Consider wearing makeup to accentuate the facial features that you like most. Take your vitamins to reduce the amount of hair loss, and go get yourself some fun hair accessories that make your hair feel a little more beautiful. Always remember that beauty radiates from the outside in. With a smile and some cheerfulness, you will feel more beautiful throughout your day.
Seek professional help if you suffer from serious depression or anxiety after surgery. You don’t have to go through it alone.
Last but not least, follow the directions of your doctor, dietitian, and mental health professionals. Keep going to support groups, and keep all of your follow up appointments. The most important thing to remember is your health, so stick to the guidelines and keep yourself healthy.