Beauty and the Beast: Two Side Effects of Bariatric Surgery


courtesy of flickr user Lafayette (creative commons)

From the annual scientific meeting of the Obesity Society, Washington, DC–

Like it or not, bariatric surgery is becoming more common as a treatment for morbid (and even not so morbid) obesity, especially in adolescents and young adults.

Bariatric surgery sounds like a quick and easy fix–have surgery, lose weight, feel great. But, of course, it’s not that simple. A bariatric surgery symposium at this year’s annual scientific meeting of the Obesity Society included not only talks about pre- and post-op patient care, but also a talk and discussion about psychology and body image.

On one hand, many bariatric surgery patients struggle with body image after the procedure–their “love handles” are replaced by saggy skin, and they are still unhappy with their appearance. A new subset of plastic surgery is evolving to do body contouring on bariatric surgery patients, and some surgeons have been sued by dissatisfied patients, noted David Sarwer, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. 

On the other hand, some bariatric surgery patients (perhaps adolescents and young adults in particular) are so thrilled with their results that they want to make up for lost time by being promiscuous and engaging in other high-risk behaviors. “They’ve got a new sports car and they are taking it out for a ride,” Dr. Sarwer said. These young adults may go from “never been kissed” to dating three or four people at once, he said. Some clinicians have raised the issue of whether bariatric surgery patients who were addicted to food are likely to replace that addicition with something else, such as sex, drugs, or alcohol.

The bottom line for clinicians: Be aware of the range of possible psychological issues faced by patients who have had bariatric surgery, whether it brings out the beauty, the beast, or both.

–Heidi Splete (on twitter @hsplete)

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1 Comment

Filed under Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, Family Medicine, Uncategorized

One response to “Beauty and the Beast: Two Side Effects of Bariatric Surgery

  1. This is so true. Check out this blog:

    A married couple Bob and Betty Peterson are chronicling their weight-loss surgery journey with video and informative written entries. Both in their early fifties they did it together, because they both are insulin-dependent Type 2 diabetics and both have cardiovascular disease. After the surgery (they’re now about 12 weeks out), yes, they’ve lost weight, but most important to them: they’re both off the insulin and their cardiovascular tests have been terrific. Bob was on 16 pills a day, he’s now down to one. They are completely satisfied, because they’re goal going in was their health.

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