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The Connection Between Bariatric Surgery and Cosmetic Procedures


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by Dr. Steven Wallach

Although they are very different procedures with very different purposes, there is a strong connection between bariatric surgery and cosmetic surgeries, especially as one often follows the other. Here are the main differences and similarities.

Different in Purpose

The most important difference to note is that these two types of surgery have completely different purposes. Bariatric surgery is a medical procedure. Used when people are dangerously obese or burdened with other weight-related health issues, bariatric surgery manipulates your body into being skinnier by restricting the amount of food your stomach is able to hold and causing your intestine to not absorb nutrients properly. This is prescribed by a doctor as a medical operation that is necessary for your health. While it may cause weight loss and help you “look better,” it’s main purpose is not either one of those goals, but rather to help you be healthy.
In contrast, almost any type of plastic surgery is unnecessary. While a few of them (such as surgery to treat ptosis) might have medical benefits, even then they aren’t a matter of life and death. It is usually a matter of looking good and feeling good emotionally rather than physically. In no way should cosmetic surgeries ever be seen as a weight loss method. That is not what they are. The goals are very different in the two surgeries: where bariatric surgery is to be healthy and feel good in the long run, cosmetic surgery’s goal is simply to look good.

Their Odd Relationship

Even though these two surgery types are very different, one will almost always follow the other. This is because after bariatric surgery, people often don’t recognize themselves anymore. They have lost so much weight that not only do they not feel like themselves, they do not look great either. You would think losing so much weight would be a good thing, and for their health it is. However, if you lose a lot of weight quickly (like through bariatric surgery), or if you’ve had your skin stretched out for too long, your skin will not stretch back. This can leave you with skin that just hangs and droops. In many ways it is less attractive than when it was full of unhealthy fat. Here’s where the partnership between the two surgeries comes into play. After bariatric surgery, many patients will then receive plastic surgery. Tummy tucks, thigh lifts, arm lifts, and essentially any type of plastic surgery is meant to tighten up the skin and muscles, especially after weight loss.

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