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Body Contouring After Massive Weight Loss Improves Body Image But Some Patients Desire Even Thinner Silhouettes

PITTSBURGH, November 17, 2006 — Some women and men who undergo bariatric surgery and subsequent body contouring find themselves pleased with their significant weight loss but, over time, desire to be even thinner, according to a study published by obesity researchers of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centerin the current issue of the journal Obesity.

The study involved a group of patients who had body contouring following bariatric surgery. Body contouring after massive weight loss can alleviate common weight-loss deformities that tend to cause patients distress regarding their appearances, including excess skin, rash and hygiene problems and difficulties with mobility.

Using a rating scale specifically designed to measure quality of life in the post-bariatric population, researchers asked study participants to rate their body image, their desired silhouette, mood and quality of life at three months and again at six months following body contouring. While overall quality of life scores improved and mood remained stable over the six-month study period, study participants tended to view thinner silhouettes as the “ideal body”.

“While body contouring improves body image, often it also produces dissatisfaction with other parts of the body, suggesting that as patients become closer to their ideals, these ideals may shift,” said study author Madelyn Fernstrom, Ph.D., director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Weight Managment Center and associate professor of psychiatry, epidemiology and surgery at the University of Pittsburgh. “If we understand the issues that affect this unique group and know how to address their specific concerns, then we can help them to achieve lasting satisfaction with their weight loss and body images.”

This information, the authors suggest, may help to answer the debate about whether body contouring is a vanity operation or instead the second step in the surgical treatment of severe obesity.

“In a patient who has undergone a striking transformation from massive weight loss, everything changes – from self-image to quality of life to mood. Body contouring offers added benefits, but it also is possible that those who take this additional step cannot fully reap the psychological rewards of massive weight loss due perhaps to residual feelings of unattractiveness or self-consciousness,” said Angela Song, M.D., resident in plastic surgery, department of surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

For more information on the UPMC Weight Management Center, visit http://weightloss.upmc.com.

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