Body Image Confusion after Bariatric Surgery

By Dr. Ayotunde Adeyeri


Why do I still feel like that large person I was before surgery?”


Most of you have also experienced these types of thoughts: “That shirt would never fit me,” or “I’m too big–she would never go out with me.”

Logically, you look in the mirror and see a big change. But it often takes time for the brain to catch up to your new appearance and lifestyle.

During this adjustment phase, your body image perception in your own mind may be distorted or clinging to the previous version of you.

Mental health professions refer to this normal phase the weight loss as “double vision.”

Transitioning to an improved body image is part of your life-changing bariatric journey.

Because the previous perception of yourself is deeply ingrained in your mind, it’s going to take some adjustment to reconcile the significant physical change, especially after bariatric surgery when weight reduction is more rapid.

How other people handle your weight loss

The people in your life – spouse, parents, extended family, friends, colleagues and classmates – also need to adjust to the ‘new you.’

Most of us are a little uncomfortable with change, even when it doesn’t happen to us directly. So be prepared for people to say and do the wrong thing, maybe more than once, when recognizing your appearance.

Over time, they will get used to the difference and be more comfortable (and appropriate) when speaking about it.

How to manage the adjustment period


First and foremost, understand that this phase is temporary.

While you transition to a healthier body, find ways to celebrate why this change is positive and life-changing, such as:

•           It’s so much easier to tie your shoes.

•           Those clothes shoved in the back of your closet fit beautifully.

•           It’s easier to slip into a booth at a restaurant.

•           Getting in/out of the car is a breeze.

•           You find yourself more open to going out and being social.

Taking time to privately acknowledge each of these changes is called self-talk, which helps your brain accept the changes that are happening and adopt them as the new normal.

Your weight loss is a major life change

Make no mistake–major weight loss is a life change on par with getting a new job, moving to a new home or even getting married. Give yourself a little time to settle into this new life and before you know it, you’ll be trying on those smaller size pants, only to discover they are too big.

Transitioning to an improved body image is part of your life-changing bariatric journey.

And journeys don’t happen overnight.

Just being aware of this temporary confusion can help speed you to the actualization of your hard-earned success.