Unrealistic weight loss expectations in candidates for bariatric surgery

Surg Obes Relat Dis. 2008 Jan-Feb;4(1):6-10. doi: 10.1016/j.soard.2007.10.012.


Background: Unrealistic expectations of weight loss are prevalent in obese patients and can negatively affect their adherence to dietary and health goals. We sought to examine the expectations and perceived notions about weight loss in candidates for bariatric surgery.

Methods: A total of 284 consecutive and prospective bariatric patients were surveyed using a validated Goals and Relative Weights questionnaire before an educational seminar. The participants categorized their weight loss expectations as "dream," "happy," "acceptable," and "disappointed" and rated the effect of surgically-induced weight loss on 21 indicators of health, quality of life, social functioning, and self-image on a 1-10 scale. The data are presented as the mean +/- standard deviation.

Results: Of the 284 patients, 230 were women and 54 were men (age 45 +/- 10 years; body mass index 50 +/- 8 kg/m(2)). These patients stated that their "dream" weight would be 89% +/- 8% excess body weight loss and that 77% +/- 9%, 67% +/- 10%, 49% +/- 14% excess body weight loss would be their "happy," "acceptable," and "disappointed" weight, respectively. Participants ranked health, fitness, body image, work performance, and self-confidence as the most important benefits of bariatric surgery. Women had greater "happy" and "acceptable" weight loss expectations and put more emphasis on physical presence (r = .17-.33, P <.01). Younger patients put more emphasis on attractiveness and improvements in social and sex life after bariatric surgery (r = .15-.19, P <.01).

Conclusion: The results of our study have shown that although the candidates for bariatric surgery understand its benefits, they have unrealistic expectations of weight loss. In our study, the patients' most modest weight loss expectation, the "disappointed" weight, was equivalent to what providers would consider a successful weight loss outcome after bariatric surgery. Setting realistic expectations is an important aspect of the preoperative evaluation and education, especially for younger women.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Bariatric Surgery*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Female
  • Goals*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Obesity / surgery
  • Self Efficacy
  • Sex Factors
  • Weight Loss*