Thought For Thursday – When Changing Body Shape, Make Sure You Have a ‘Body Image Partner’

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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’?

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10 thoughts on “Thought For Thursday – When Changing Body Shape, Make Sure You Have a ‘Body Image Partner’

  1. I so understand where you’re coming from… I was a size 14/16, and I am now a regular 4, even in lululemon running crops/tights. Still, when I see a picture of myself, especially from the waist down and from the front, I cringe! Curiously, pictures from the back “look” much better – maybe because I can’t immediately see that it’s myself in them and thus activate the evil body image? I feel I have the biggest thighs a size 4 person can have… and they are not even muscular “thunder thighs”, they are 50% fat (ok, randomly generated percentage here)… I keep waiting for my “runner legs” to show up, after almost 2 years of running at least 6 times/week… I actually have visible lower abs (the V or Apollo’s belt) but fatty fatty thighs 😦 I met my husband in high school, when I was about a size 10. He always loved me, at any size, and he openly says he loves a bit of “muffin top”… so I don’t know if I can trust him as an unbiased body image buddy 🙂 I keep hoping that with more running (after 8 halfs, I have finally registered for a full Marathon in May) and weight lifting my leg muscles will beat some of the fat 🙂

    • Thanks Raluca! I love all of that – made me laugh! I agree on the ‘seeing pictures from behind’ – and think it probably IS because you don’t see it as you and so the body image police can’t step in!

  2. I love this post! I have the worst body image conscience! I look in the mirror and at photos and all I can see is fat… Even though everyone tells me how well I’m doing and how toned I look I can never see it! I obviously need a better body image partner!! 🙂

    • Thanks! Being a body image partner … is NOT easy! I mean, who wants to say what needs to be said … and who wants to hear it? Because partnering sometimes means delivering bad news as well as also delivering praise.

  3. I’ve always struggled with this. My husband has always built me up and tried to help me but at some point it is up to you. I have a distorted body image and have always been hard on myself. I am thankful for a husband too who always builds me up!

    • Build-up is important … but it is also important to ‘keep it real’. That is tough also, as you know. You are very lucky to have a partner to work through everything with you, good or bad!

  4. A body image partner is a great idea, as long as we can find someone who would be actually honest (not as easy to find as it sounds).
    We definitely have a tendency to see the things we don’t like in ourselves, our eyes go straight to that ‘problem’ areas.

    • Very, very true – we need honesty, which is not always the same as praise. We need someone to ‘keep it real’ for us, which can mean saying ‘no, I really don’t think that ALL of your jeans shrunk in the wash …’ 🙂

  5. I think I need a body image partner! I still see the “fat” body parts even though I’ve not been an unhealthy size for five years. It doesn’t help that I’m gaining weight so clothes don’t fit like they should, but I definitely need someone to put things in perspective!

    • It is SO hard to be objective looking at ourselves. I did a check-in this week, because while I worry about gaining, I also know it is important that I don’t lose, and sometimes it is hard to tell!

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