Body Image as a Potential Motivator for Bariatric Surgery: a Case-Control Study



Not every eligible person opts for bariatric surgery. Body image concerns might be a reason to choose surgery. This case-control study evaluated differences in body image between a pre-bariatric surgery population and a weight-matched control group from the general population. We hypothesized that the pre-bariatric group would show less satisfaction with appearance, defined as a discrepancy between evaluating one’s appearance as less attractive while attaching more importance to appearance.


Data from 125 pre-bariatric patients were compared with 125 body weight-matched controls from the general population. The Multidimensional Body-Self Relations Questionnaire-Appearance Scales was used to assess appearance evaluation (AE), appearance orientation (AO), and their discrepancy score. Both groups were compared with norms from the non-body weight-matched general population.


The pre-bariatric group had lower AE scores (mean 2.23 ± 0.65 vs. mean 2.54 ± 1.06) and higher AO scores (mean 3.33 ± 0.69 vs. mean 3.04 ± 0.90) than the control group. The discrepancy between AE and AO was larger in the pre-bariatric group (p < 0.001). Compared with the general population, both groups showed lower AE scores (d = − 1.43 and d = − 1.12, p < 0.001) and lower AO scores (d = − 0.23 and d = − 0.58, p < 0.001).


People with morbid obesity have on average less body image satisfaction. The results indicate that part of the motivation of people that choose bariatric surgery may be due to relatively low global appearance evaluation combined with considering appearance more important. Knowledge about motivations can be used to communicate realistic expectations regarding treatment outcome.

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We would like to thank Brigitte Bliemer, Marije Verhagen, and Martina Visscher for their help in data collection.

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Correspondence to D. J. S. Makarawung.

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Makarawung, D.J.S., Monpellier, V.M., van den Brink, F. et al. Body Image as a Potential Motivator for Bariatric Surgery: a Case-Control Study. OBES SURG 30, 3768–3775 (2020).

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  • Bariatric surgery
  • (Morbid) obesity
  • Body image
  • Appearance evaluation
  • Appearance orientation
  • Body image dissatisfaction