Embracing a Healthy Body Image

self-imageYou’ve gone from a size 24 down to a size 6, everyone comments about how great you look and how much weight you’ve lost, but when you look in the mirror you see the same person you’ve always seen (that size 24 person!). You pick out clothes that are too large, you worry you won’t be able to fit in that movie theater seat and you feel like you’re still too big to fit in the booth at a restaurant.  It’s clear to everyone that you’re losing weight and you know you are losing it, but when you look at your reflection you just can’t see it. Why does this happen?

We’re going to summarize the information below, but if you want the full story, you can read about it at http://www.nbcnews.com/id/31489881/ns/health-womens_health/t/phantom-fat-can-linger-after-weight-loss/.  It seems that this happens to a lot of people after significant weight loss. It’s an interesting phenomenon where your brain basically has not caught up with the new, leaner body. Body image is much more difficult to change than physical body size. There may also be an underlying fear of gaining the weight back, so it can be more difficult to embrace a new body image if you feel like it won’t last long.

The studies discussed showed that women who experience significant weight loss may experience improvements in body image, but not necessarily as much as someone who was never overweight. In general, those that have lost a significant amount of weight are more preoccupied with weight and appearance after weight loss than those of the same size that never struggled with being overweight. It’s a fear of getting back to that former larger size that causes the preoccupation.

It’s also not uncommon to experience somewhat of a letdown because even after having lost the weight, you realize that you’re still not perfect. You may have some excess skin or you didn’t lose the weight in the exact places you had hoped to. Many people have a very “all or nothing” mindset when it comes to weight and size. This means you either look like a perfect swimsuit model when you reach your ideal weight or it’s just not good enough. This is unrealistic, though. The good news is that nobody is perfect, so you’re not alone! Even those swimsuit models have their pictures airbrushed to make them look better!

Some people will adjust to the weight loss more quickly than others. If you’re struggling to see yourself as the size you really are and it causes you any significant stress or depression, the best thing might be to seek out counseling to help re-train your brain to see your new body the way it really is. And remember, it’s not all about how your body looks. Be sure to constantly remind yourself how much healthier you are now and how much better you feel today compared to before you had your surgery.