Body image is a tricky thing. It is very easy to develop a negative body image when what we see in the mirror doesn’t match the onslaught of media images that supposedly depict the “ideal” body. Most times it’s the smallest imperfections we notice that causes our dissatisfaction.
When I started to lose weight, as most anyone who is improving their fitness and/or losing weight, I imagined that my body image would change along with me in a positive way.
As you shrink and get fit, will your body image improve along with it?
Not the case for a lot of people, according to this MSNBC article. This is most common with those with a significant weight loss or who have a history of losing and regaining weight. Most who lose weight have more satisfaction with their bodies and what they can do in their everyday lives, but that satisfaction does not always translate into an improvement in body image.
Occasionally their “new” body never feels real, almost like the weight loss and fitness improvements will go away overnight. For others, they literally can not see their bodies as they are now. They still see “phantom fat” from the weight that is now long gone. The article provides details about why this may happen to some, but I think there’s a more important question to ask.
What can you do when you find yourself feeling uncomfortable in your own skin after weight loss.
Body image, like most visual input is all about perception. When I was heavier, I didn’t feel comfortable but I wasn’t aware of how uncomfortable I had been until it stopped. My back hurt less, I was not as tired, and walking up stairs didn’t annoy me anymore. That doesn’t mean that my body image is always in line with my current health and clothing size.
I’ve noticed a correlation between my body image and what I have been doing most recently. If I’ve kept up with my vegetables and smart food choices, made it to all my workouts, there is definitely a comfort level in what I wear and how much time I’m willing to put into my hair and makeup every morning.
If I’ve had an off week – otherwise known as eating sugar and flour in some delicious form daily – I will tend to be more conscious of my body. Less likely to grab that new form fitting shirt. I start to think I’ve slipped entirely, seeing my body the way it used to be 80 pounds ago.
Losing the weight did not magically fix my body image issues
The times when those old feelings return are less often than they used to be, and it’s easier to bounce back into a realistic and positive mind-set. Doing something positive about my health typically turns around these bouts of negative thinking. I’ve found that reminding myself of all that I have accomplished, and how much I have dedicated to improving my fitness, is a great way to keep rebuilding a positive body image.
Do you suffer from the same problem? Is your opinion of your own body affected by your weight or clothing size? If you’ve lost weight, do you still struggle to really see yourself as you are now?
What do you do to keep a positive body image?
Keep a healthy body image this week – Heather
P.S. No matter what size I was, I always acted as stand in for my husbands photo studio. Of course most of the shots he has of me like the one above are not meant to be seen, but when he ran across this one the other night I had to share this story.
Heather Montgomery is a fitness writer, triathlete, and blogger who is devoted to sharing what she has learned about becoming a triathlete after age 40. She uses her Metabolic Training Certification to help other women struggling to get fit in mid-life. She lives and trains in Santa Rosa, California, the new home of the Ironman triathlon. You can find her biking the Sonoma County wine trails.
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