The growing popularity of weight-loss surgery is changing many obese individuals' lives for the better, but the procedure also comes with some significant downsides — particularly for women, according to new research by Norwegian obesity specialists.
The study, reported by Medical News Today
, found many women who undergo bariatric surgery experience a boost in self-esteem and quality of life, but not everyone "lives happily ever after" following such procedures.
Many struggle with food disorders, body image problems, and lack of energy, according to Karen Synne Groven, of the University of Oslo in Norway, who interviewed 22 women who underwent gastric bypass surgery — one of the most common weight-loss procedures, in which a surgeon reroutes a part of the small intestine past the stomach in order to reduce food intake and suppress hunger.
Groven found many of the women felt embarrassment after the surgery; some told others they had been on a diet to lose the weight because they were ashamed to say they had undergone bariatric surgery. Some reported a lower quality of life afterward, compared with their quality of life before, mostly due to chronic stomach and intestine problems tied to the procedures.
Others said they felt lower energy levels following weight loss surgery that they had a more negative relationship with food after the procedure — fretting about eating too much or too little or the wrong types of food.
A number of the women interviewed also reported mixed feelings about their bodies after surgery, tied to loose skin — a common consequence of rapid weight loss.
"It is given little focus before the operation. Patients are often told that this is something that can be fixed afterwards. But it is not so easily fixed, and the women are not prepared for the challenge of having to live with the loose skin," said Groven.
Some were also troubled by the fact that people tended to be friendlier to them after the surgery — something she said caused many of the women distress because they realized they had to undergo the procedure to improve their social standing.
"Becoming slimmer and lighter is mostly perceived of as positive," she noted. "At the same time it is ambivalent, since people start to behave differently towards the women after they've had surgery."
According to the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, the number of weight-loss surgeries in the U.S. increased from 13,000 in 1998 to more than 200,000 in 2008.
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