Who’s That Girl?

My co-worker, Jon, took this picture of me at Saturday’s Public Works Week Touch-A-Truck event. (That’s his baby girl, Savannah, BTW.) He posted it and a few other pics from the event on Facebook. I saw the picture and wondered to myself who that was holding his baby; I didn’t remember seeing her at the event. It really wasn’t until I clicked on the picture and saw that I was tagged until it clicked. Isn’t that bizarre?

Someone at work recently told me that I wasn’t seeing myself how others see me, and now I believe it. After being overweight for so long, I still see myself that way. And often, when I see myself in the mirror, I’m focusing on what’s still wrong, not that I’m 90-something lbs. thinner. Apparently, that’s not uncommon, as I read in ‘Phantom Fat’ Can Linger After Weight Loss, an article on MSNBC.com:

People who expect perfection can “get stuck in dichotomous thinking that you’re fat or you’re perfect, and there’s no gray area in between,” says psychologist Leslie Heinberg, who counsels bariatric patients at the Cleveland Clinic. “So if you’re not perfect, you’re ‘fat.’”

In an article on MSNBC.com, weight know they have a “blind spot” when it comes to their new body, so they really have to work at believing they look the way others see them.

“It can take years…after losing weight, for people to really buy that,” she says.

Think of getting a dramatically different hairdo and then doing a double-take upon seeing your reflection in a store window, Heinberg says. “Losing 80 pounds is much more of a cognitive shift than getting new highlights,” she explains.

Some people will adjust naturally and more quickly to the weight loss than others, experts say.  But it’s time to get help when people are experiencing significant distress, sadness or depression, they say, or their feelings are interfering significantly with their normal activities (such as not going to parties or children’s events, always looking in the mirror or avoiding intimacy with a partner).

Counseling may involve challenging distorted ways of thinking about one’s appearance (by studying before-and-after photos, for instance, or bringing out the “fat pants” and seeing the difference in the mirror), learning how to think about oneself in a more positive manner, and working to engage in activities one’s been avoiding.

“You have to look at retraining your brain and understanding that you have been reinforcing this negative image for probably a long time,” says Adrienne Ressler, a body-image specialist and national training director for the Renfrew Center Foundation, which has several eating disorder-treatment facilities around the country.

“We become numb to how mean we’re being to ourselves,” Ressler says.

“We need to learn to appreciate our bodies,” she says. “If we could all look in the mirror and say, ‘Hello, Gorgeous!’ I just think the world would be a better place for women.”

  1. This post totally resonates with me! I struggled with an eating disorder many years ago, but I still have a really hard time looking at myself in the mirror and seeing what I really look like vs. what I think I look like. I find that I have to make a daily decision to see myself as I truly am vs. the memory of who I was. Thanks for the encouraging post!

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