During our August Bariatric Support Group, we explored the concept of intimacy after a significant body change like weight loss surgery with MUSC’s Occupational Therapists. While the surgery itself does not typically affect someone’s ability to engage in sexual activity, undergoing a major body change can certainly influence the thoughts or feelings a person has about their own body, also known as body image. These changes in body image can affect relationships and intimacy.
After weight loss surgery, there are many factors that can negatively impact a person’s body image. We discussed many of these struggles during support group and some of the common themes included:
- Feeling insecure because of excess skin
- Can’t “see” the weight loss that others see
- Feeling uncomfortable in your “new” body
There are many different factors that can lead to negative thoughts or feelings about our bodies. In the case of bariatric surgery, a person loses a significant amount of weight within a year and this can cause many emotional and hormonal changes in addition to the physical changes. During our support group discussion this month, we came up with a few tips for creating a healthier body image, which in turn, can help to improve intimacy:
- Surround yourself with supportive and positive people.
- Think of the physical attributes that you appreciate about yourself. For example, “I really like my smile” or “My legs have gotten stronger”.
- Place a picture of yourself now next to an older picture of yourself. You could even place these pictures on your mirror so that you are constantly reminded of how far you have come when you look in a mirror.
- Don’t wear baggy clothing. Wear clothes that fit and show-off positive attributes of your body.
- Remind yourself of everything you are achieving over and beyond the weight loss. Are you more active? Are you taking fewer medications? All of these things are making you a healthier version of yourself and they are more important than the number on the scale.
- Do nice things for your body. Take a warm bubble bath weekly or get a massage from time to time – these things are good for both your body and mind!
- Don’t compare yourself to others. This will cause you to set unrealistic expectations for yourself. Appreciate your body for what it is and this journey of becoming a healthier you!
Whether you have experienced a significant body change like bariatric surgery, or not, it is important to feel comfortable and proud of your body. So, keep those negative thoughts out of your head and celebrate the fact that you are unique and special!
Amanda and Molly are the MUSC Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery Program Registered Dietitians. With 15+ years of experience combined, they facilitate behavior change through nutrition counseling for weight loss and maintenance with children through adults.