Body Image and Weight Acceptance

Woman looking at herself in mirror

May’s MUSC Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery support group welcomed Dr. Brown, a Behavioral Medicine fellow, who gave a presentation on "Body Image and Weight Acceptance Following Weight Loss Surgery.” Body image and weight acceptance concerns following weight loss surgery can stem from body dysmorphia. Body dysmorphia is simply an inaccurate perception of one’s body. For example, you may perceive yourself differently than others do, or you might notice that you feel you look different when you see yourself in the mirror versus when you see yourself in photos. With body dysmorphia, one can spend a lot of time worrying about or focusing on perceived flaws in appearance, which can lead to avoidance of social situations and feelings of depression and anxiety. It's important to remember that it is common to experience negative body image and/or body dysmorphia after weight-loss surgery.

What fuels negative body image?

  • Body avoidance
    • For example: Avoiding looking in the mirror
    • Oftentimes, if we approach and stop avoiding the thing that causes us fear and/or distress, it turns out to not be as bad as we thought it would be!
  • Body checking
    • Consistently checking parts of the body that are negatively perceived.
  • Misinterpreting
    • Things that we might think are “bad” (ex: stomach folds, cellulite) are actually just normal!
  • Negative thoughts
    • The thoughts we have influence how we feel and behave, and sometimes our minds can steer us in the wrong direction with overly negative and/or unrealistic thoughts.
      • For example: sometimes we think in all-or-nothing terms or black-and-white thinking. For instance, you might think to yourself that if you don’t do something perfectly, it isn’t good enough or you might as well not even try.
      • We are our own worst critics!
    • Be gentle with yourself and talk to yourself the way you would to a loved one.
  • Negative beliefs
    • For example: I have to lose all the weight to be happy and/or enjoy my life