Why Body Positivity and Sustained Weight Loss Go Hand in Hand

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Posted: June 27th, 2019

Bariatric surgery is most effective when accompanied by self-compassion, acceptance, and a positive body image.

Diabetes, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea are some of the common concerns associated with obesity, but the stress caused by social stigma and a negative body image can also take a toll on a person’s physical and psychological health. These factors may cause an increase in cortisol, often called the “stress hormone,” which can make it even harder to stick to healthy habits.

Conversely, patients who accept and even embrace their bodies are more likely to be happier and healthier. In fact, body positivity — rejecting the idea of the “perfect” body in favor of celebrating diverse shapes and sizes — can actually help people develop healthy eating and exercise habits.

In combination with self-compassion and acceptance, bariatric surgery enables patients to achieve substantial weight loss and lower their risks of weight-related health problems. But this treatment is most effective in the long term if patients focus on embracing their bodies both before and after surgery.

Counteracting the Obesity Stigma

Studies show that the social stigma obese people often face can cause an increase in blood pressure and raised levels of cortisol and HbA1c (a hemoglobin used to measure blood sugar). It can also lead to unhealthy eating and exercise behaviors, including avoiding exercise altogether. Further, stress and discrimination may contribute to insulin resistance, diabetes, and heart disease, conditions that are often blamed on weight alone.

Internalized weight bias, or accepting negative perceptions of obesity, can make it harder for patients to maintain weight loss after surgery. What’s more, a negative body image is associated with poor psychological health, while body positivity can lead to a better quality of life after treatment.

The Importance of Body Positivity

While some might argue that weight loss surgery runs counter to the tenets of body positivity, the two are actually quite compatible. In fact, a person who is body-positive accepts their body the way it is at any given point — both before and after weight loss.

Bariatric surgery addresses the health risks of obesity, while body positivity ensures that patients and their support networks remain non-judgemental and compassionate throughout the process. Without the shame and sense of futility that often accompany a negative body image, patients are more likely to keep making healthy choices after their procedure. Further, studies show that a positive body image is associated with a decrease in compulsive eating, greater weight loss, and a reduced BMI.

In a practical sense, this means patients should first focus on loving their bodies with all their faults and imperfections. They then will be in an ideal place to make changes that will improve their health — including undergoing bariatric surgery. For many patients, it is helpful to create weight loss goals that are focused on body functionality — i.e. what the body is able to accomplish — as opposed to meeting beauty standards.

After weight loss surgery, it’s important for patients to shift away from the fad dieting mentality. Instead, body positivity can help people embrace their bodies’ imperfections and practice healthy behaviors. This approach will enable patients to make sustainable lifestyle changes and build a new relationship with food that is based on listening to what their bodies need.

If you’re considering bariatric surgery, contact Long Island Laparoscopic Doctors today. Drs. Hesham Atwa, Charles Thompson and Jon Leung will discuss the procedure’s many benefits — including freeing yourself from obesity-related conditions like diabetes, sleep apnea and high blood pressure. You can begin your journey with a free 10-minute call or schedule an in-office visit to discuss your weight loss options.