Translating weight loss into agency: Men’s experiences 5 years after bariatric surgery
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Fewer men than women with severe obesity undergo bariatric surgery for weight loss, and knowledge about men's situation after surgery, beyond medical status, is lacking. Our aim was to explore men's experiences with life after bariatric surgery from a long-term perspective. We conducted in-depth interviews with 13 men, aged 28–60 years, between 5 and 7 years after surgery. The analysis was inspired by Giorgi's phenomenological method. We found that agency was pivotal for how the men understood themselves and their lives after surgery. Weight loss meant regaining opportunities for living and acting in unrestricted and independent daily lives, yet surgery remained a radical treatment with complex consequences. Turning to surgery had involved conceptualizing their own body size as illness, which the men had resisted doing for years. After surgery, the rapid and major weight loss and the feelings of being exhausted, weak, and helpless were intertwined. The profound intensity of the weight loss process took the men by surprise. Embodying weight loss and change involved an inevitable renegotiating of experiences connected to the large body. Having bariatric surgery was a long-term process that seemed unfinished 5 years after surgery. Restrictions and insecurity connected to health and illness persist, despite successful weight loss and embodied change. Bariatric surgery initiated a complex and long-lasting life-changing process, involving both increased capacity for agency and illness-like experiences.