The Hidden Struggle: Body Dysmorphia after WLS
Article By: Whittany Gibson, RDN
Whittany is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who specializes in bariatric nutrition counseling, providing education and support prior to and following weight loss surgery.
Are you struggling with your body image after weight loss surgery? You are not alone. Many people who have undergone drastic changes to their appearance through surgery struggle with body dysmorphia. If you're feeling down about your new body, there are things you can do to help improve your self image. Keep reading to learn more.
1) What is body dysmorphia? Body dysmorphia is a mental health condition that causes the sufferer to have an unrealistic perception of their body shape and size. This can occur even after weight loss surgery when a person idealizes their image and becomes excessively concerned with remaining slim and continuing to lose weight. Symptoms can include heavy criticism of one's body shape, always striving for perfection, and avoiding social situations due to fear of judgment. Other signs include engaging in unhealthy behaviors such as excessive or compulsive exercise or dieting in an attempt to achieve a perfect body. It's important for those struggling with body dysmorphia to access professional help to work on their mental health before it becomes an even bigger issue.
2) The impact of social media on body image. Social media has become a part of everyday life for many people. With the rise of platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok, scrolling through peoples' "perfectly curated" lives can be overwhelming. The constant stream of unrealistic images of other people’s bodies is often catastrophic for our own self-confidence and body image. Studies show that teenagers, and especially young women, are most affected by these images, constantly feeling inadequate or "not good enough" if they don’t have the same toned abs or thigh gap as someone else does. The truth is: we should be celebrating different forms of beauty instead of recognizing just one kind as desirable or attractive. We need to shift our focus away from any kind of comparison game and start seeing ourselves with more love and acceptance.
3) How to deal with negative thoughts and feelings about your body. Negative thoughts and feelings about our bodies can be hard to cope with, but it is possible to manage them and move towards self-acceptance. One of the best ways to do this is to develop a positive body image by maintaining healthy habits that make you feel good about yourself, such as exercise and eating wholesome foods. Additionally, try to be mindful of the media messages you consume; an overload of airbrushed images or physical ideals can have damaging effects on body image. It's also helpful not to compare yourself with others, especially those on social media, as we all have our own unique beauty. Lastly, remind yourself that everyone is beautifully imperfect; we all have something that makes us special, and there's no one better than you!
4) Building self-confidence and accepting your new body. It's normal to feel uncertain and a little self-conscious after major lifestyle or body changes because it often takes a while to get used to something new. That said, it's important to remember that self-confidence is built over time, and you can use some simple strategies on your own to speed things up. Try activities that bring you joy and practice positive self-talk; by engaging in activities you like and encouraging yourself, you can raise your level of comfort with your new identity. Lastly, cultivating meaningful relationships with people who lift you up and make you feel good will help build your confidence even more.
5) How to deal with triggers to avoid flareups of body dysmorphia symptoms. Body dysmorphia can feel overwhelming and debilitating, but there are some tips that you can use to take your power back. One approach is to pay attention to your thoughts and feelings... For example, identify when it's happening by becoming more aware of when these triggers occur. Additionally, try distracting yourself from the thoughts with activities such as painting or playing a game. Lastly, if feasible in your situation, seek out additional support, such as a therapist or a support group. With the right resources, it is possible to manage symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder so it does not consume you.
Body dysmorphia is a complicated issue that can develop after weight loss surgery. While it's important to be aware of the triggers and warning signs, it's also essential to focus on building self-confidence and accepting your new body. The tips in this blog post should help you start to deal with negative thoughts and feelings about your body. However, if you feel you are struggling with body dysmorphia, seek help from a qualified mental health professional so they can provide individualized counseling and resources.
BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.
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