Why Losing Weight Doesn't Always Lead to Body Confidence

At her highest weight of 263 pounds, Leah K. didn’t think she could be more unhappy with her body. The 33-year-old had been battling her weight her entire adult life. And despite her best efforts to exercise and eat healthfully, the weight wasn’t budging. Not only was she suffering from chronic physical health problems, but the years of dieting had also taken a toll on her mentally. Her self-esteem was rock bottom and she spiraled into an eating disorder. Finally, she made the decision to try bariatric surgery. It wasn’t a choice she made lightly. But it seemed her best chance to regain her health, inside and out.
After the surgery, she quickly lost 100 pounds and at first was delighted with her new body. But she discovered that while she looked different on the outside, she felt the same on the inside. The weight loss didn’t magically cure her self-hate or the eating disorders. “I began to recognize that shaming, blaming, and hating yourself doesn’t work to lose weight, and losing weight doesn’t work to fix those feelings,” she says.
Leah isn’t alone in her post-weight-loss mental struggles. Many people do see an improvement in their self-esteem and body image after losing weight—but some find the opposite is true. (Like this woman who was less happy after reaching her weight-loss resolution.)
“In our current era of ‘reality-based’ cosmetic surgery television and over-the-top air-brushed social media, many weight-loss patients may hold unrealistic expectations of what they will look like and what their life will be like,” says Ryan Neinstein, M.D., a board-certified plastic surgeon at NYC Surgical Associates, who has treated many patients in this situation. If you hold on to that unrealistic ideal—thinking that once you get down to your goal weight that everything will be perfect and you’ll suddenly love your body—you may discover that you still have body image issues even at your “dream” weight, he explains.
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