When you look at the image above, what do you notice after the cool car on the right and mountains in the background? For me, the answer was I didn’t like how the residual fat/skin at my ‘love handles’ showed up … but for my wife her comment was that she couldn’t believe how huge the size 32 pants looked on me.
OK, let me frame the context a bit. The picture was taken in August of 2012 … and I was still in the midst of losing weight, and here is the scene: – I was down about 75 lbs (from 275 to 200) at that point.
In early April I was pushing out of a size 40 waist – worse still, they were the type with the stretchy expander waist. I would have been a tight fit in standard 42s at that point. Between then and when the picture was taken lost 75 pounds and 10 waist sizes, and had yet to run even my first half-marathon, with my marathon still more than a month away. At my physical just before this trip my primary care doctor was thrilled and actually discussed that I needed to fuel properly to keep up with my high running mileage.
Yet when I looked in the mirror I see only the problem areas, and as I say I saw only fat in the picture above. And while I am better now than I was a year or so ago … it remains a struggle/
The problem is that weight and body image don’t always go together. I KNOW I am in the best shape of my life and shouldn’t be losing more weight … but tell that to the evil little body image self-doubt demon inside my head! And it is a common thing, as noted in an old MSNBC article about ‘Phantom Fat’:
Even though Kellylyn Hicks has lost about 85 pounds over the last year and a half, and gone from a size 24 to a tiny size 4, she still worries she won’t fit into chairs.
While out shopping, she fears that she’ll bump her hip into a shelf and break something. A few years ago when she was heavier, she accidentally knocked over and broke a wolf figurine and had to pay $60 for it.
And every morning when she looks in the mirror while getting ready for the day, she sees her former, heavier self. “My brain says, ‘Yep, still fat.’”
“It’s been really hard to change my self-image,” says Hicks, 37, of Chesapeake, Va. “I still feel like I’m this enormous person who takes up tons of space.”
Thank goodness I have a strong body image partner in my wife. We have been married nearly 22 years, and at this point we are honest with each other – if something doesn’t look good on her I will tell her, and when I put on some weight or showed signs my thyroid was out of whack she made sure I knew. Because one of the core principles of our relationship is honesty – not rude and blunt, but caring and tender. We know that sometimes we need someone to look and say that it is time to lose weight or not to buy that piece of clothing or whatever – and know that the person is doing it from a place of love and caring.
Numerous studies, including the one referenced in the MSNBC article, note that success or failure in weight loss is often due to the body image a person has AFTER losing weight – and how their partner deals with it. It the person loses weight through healthy nutrition and exercise and is met with resentment by a partner unable to lose weight, there can be difficulties. Of course, that is a two-way street – if someone who has lost weight suddenly goes around telling everyone to modify their diet to lose weight, that is something will also cause issues.
So if your plans include losing weight, gaining weight, getting in better shape, building muscles, or whatever – make sure you talk about it with your spouse, partner, best friend or whoever you want to provide honest feedback. You want to be sure you can get a reality check at every step of the way, as this is the best way to ensure success – and it has been shown that the better you can accept your body image, the better success you will likely have after making a desired change in your body shape.
So how do YOU address your body image issues (if you have them)? Do you have a ‘body image partner’?