Background

Spirituality, or the emotional experience of awe, wonder, peace, or connection to a higher power, may be contrasted with religiousness, or participation in practices specific to a faith tradition. While research on the impact of spirituality and religiousness on health outcomes has been increasing, little is known about their role in weight management. To our knowledge, no study has examined spirituality in the context of bariatric surgery.

Methods

Forty bariatric surgery patients who had surgery at the St. Vincent Bariatric Center 1-2 years ago completed a questionnaire examining weight, physical activity, eating behavior, and spiritual practices and experiences related to bariatric surgery.

Results

Participants were primarily married (67.5%), Caucasian (87.5%) females (85.0%) who had undergone Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (70.0%) or sleeve gastrectomy (27.5%) 17.6 months previously. Current mean age was 47.9 years. Mean weight at surgery was 309.8 lbs and 204.8 lbs currently (35.2% total weight loss). 47.5% of participants believed that their spirituality had a positive impact on their weight loss process, with service to others (90.5%), experiencing a personal relationship with a higher power (85.7%), and prayer (85.0%) most frequently cited as supporting weight loss. Greater frequency attending both services (.445, p<.05) and other activities (.481, p<.05) at their place of worship was significantly correlated with weight loss.

Conclusions

This study provides preliminary evidence that spiritual practices may be beneficial to bariatric patients making lifestyle changes after surgery.