The millions of dieters who struggle with weight loss are trying to improve their health, but there’s no question that for many (if not most of us), we also hope to look good when we’ve shed the excess pounds.
For extremely overweight people who lose large amounts of weight, though, not everything is pretty at the end of the diet rainbow. In particular, patients who have bariatric surgery and then lose fifty to hundreds of pounds within a year or two often find that their skin can’t keep up the pace, and they are left with unattractive (and sometimes uncomfortable or unhealthy) loose skin.
One solution is a tummy tuck (the popular name for the reconstructive plastic surgery abdominoplasty). You might think that a tummy tuck is all about vanity, but a group of French surgeons and a psychologist theorized that a post-weight-loss abdominoplasty might have an important psychological impact on patients who had lost significant weight following bariatric surgery.
These doctors studied 41 patients who had abdominoplasties after losing an average of 88.6 pounds. They studied the patients’ medical files, conducted psychological examinations, and asked the participants to complete questionnaires both before and after their tummy tucks. The results, reported recently in the medical journal Obesity Surgery, suggests that abdominoplasty can be an important component of the physical and psychological recovery from obesity.
Improved Quality of Life
The results of the French study suggest that even after serious weight loss, reconstructive abdominal surgery can make a significant difference in a person’s quality of life. The majority of the patients in the study had positive results in a whole range of indicators of quality of life.
• 86.5% of participants had improved psychological status
• 74% had better sexual relations
• 53.9% said they like their bodies
• 76.9% were satisfied with the results of their plastic surgery
• 96.1% said if they had the decision to make again, they would decide to have the abdominoplasty
• 84.6% said their quality of life was improved after their plastic surgery
Since improved psychological status and improved quality of life are among the goals of just about everyone who seeks to lose large amounts of weight, these results suggest a strong correlation between abdominoplasty and the final achievement of the psychological and life-style goals that are part of most people’s motivations for weight loss.
A Few Grains of Salt
One unexpected result in this study was that over half the patients in the study had regained weight. Without more study, the reasons for this high incidence of regaining are difficult to determine. The researchers speculate that the psychological state of the patients who chose plastic surgery or their motives for seeking the surgery might have been related to the reasons they regained weight.
In addition, some patients were unhappy with the results of their tummy tucks: 26.9% of the subjects had negative opinions about their surgery, and 38.5% of them felt that the results of the plastic surgery did not meet their expectations. The researchers say this underscores the importance of patients receiving complete information before plastic surgery, so that their expectations won’t be far beyond what the surgeons can achieve.
Unlike most other plastic surgeries, the psychological effects of abdominoplasty have not been studied much. So the results of this study aren’t necessarily the last word on the subject, but because the effects on quality of life seem so strongly positive, they do suggest that patients who lose large amounts of weight and experience saggy, loose skin should seriously consider reconstructive surgery.