Body image and sexual satisfaction in post-bariatric surgery and obese women: a qualitative study

Obesity is a serious public health problem in American society and is associated with harmful diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer. Psychological challenges of living obese can include shame, avoidance of interpersonal relationships, and lower self-esteem. Bariatric surgery has had a significant impact on obesity rates and related medical illnesses, however, not all women are satisfied with body changes after significant weight loss. This primarily qualitative study utilized face-to-face interviews with women who had undergone weight loss surgery at least one year prior and a comparison group of women who were obese and currently losing weight. Two subscales of the Derogotis DSFI (1980), sexual satisfaction and body image, were administered along with the Body Esteem Scale (Franzoi & Shields, 1984). A content analysis was performed after themes were identified separately by the author and her thesis chair. Examples of similar content include body image/ weight loss for the bariatric group and body image/appearance for the non-bariatric comparison group, for both groups satisfaction with body changes, sexual attractiveness and sexual interactions was included in the content analysis. In both groups, concerns about body flaps after weight loss were mentioned. No significant differences were found on the quantitative measures, but both groups fell below the expected range on body image, indicating dissatisfaction with their bodies despite significant weight loss. Weight loss alone, regardless of method, can yield positive comments about self, body image, and sexual attractiveness, but body image concerns remain.