You know how Facebook will occasionally show you memories of this day from years past? I’m always a little shocked when I see old photos of myself now. I almost don’t recognize myself sometimes. (above picture 2015 vs 2018. I wasn’t even at my heaviest there)
When I was big I never felt that big, not really. I knew I was in reality, but I just didn’t feel that way. I don’t know if you can chalk it up to denial or that I just didn’t have any health issues yet aside from the general lack of fitness, but the fact remains that I never felt as big as I look/looked in photos.
Fast forward to now and I have fallen into a funk. I have long stretches of time where I actively feel fat. I know I’ve lost 100 lbs and am significantly smaller than I once was. I’m stronger, fitter, and more athletic than I’ve ever been. I’m enjoying what my body can do now. I’m told by multiple people/coworkers/family/friends time and time again how good I look, how thin I look, how proud they are of me, etc. But it’s still there in the back of my brain. It’s a mind-fuck. It might be related to the loose skin, or that I thought that my rolls would disappear vs just shrink and stay roll-like. I don’t know. I fantasize about plastic surgery while playing with my rolls of loose skin in the mirror, shaping them to how I think I’d like to look.
Body image issues are very common in the weight loss surgery community. Distorted body image involves a preoccupation with overall body mass. Body dysmorphic disorder involves obsession focusing on a specific part or feature of ones body. Both are common. In the WLS community distorted body image happens more often than BDD however. It can stem from being “invisible” before and then suddenly thrust into the limelight, so to speak, after the weight loss. Feelings of not being happy with our bodies before just continue and just evolve after.
Weight loss is not a magic pill that fixes everything. It definitely helps the overall physical health, but mental health is important too. The mindset that “everything was easier when I was fat” is a common thread and is a precursor for self-sabotage. Recognizing that one is experiencing these kinds of thoughts and feelings is an important first step. I will admit here that I’ve found myself letting old bad eating habits sneak back in. I don’t want to gain weight. I don’t feel that “everything was easier when I was fat”, but I’m still self-sabotaging, either consciously or unconsciously, and it needs to stop.
There can be a disconnect between the brain and body when it comes to self-perception. Seeing and believing aren’t always automatic. It takes time. Here are some recommendations I found from an expert on the psychological adjustments associated with weight loss surgery:
- It is important for anyone struggling with body image issues to seek help as soon as they can. Whether it’s BDD, body image distortion, or body image adjustment, getting help will allow the sufferer to not feel alone in their struggle.
- See a professional to assess where you are on the body image spectrum. Don’t self-diagnose.
- Seeking professional help to minimize self-sabotage behavior is a must. A clinician with experience in bariatrics and cognitive-behavioral therapy can be a tremendous ally.
- Be aware of conditional value; “As long as I look a certain way, I am worthy of other people’s love and acceptance.”
- In therapy, work on learning to accept compliments and handling comments from others.
- Anyone who has a history of weight-related mistreatment and abuse are more likely to have body image concerns.
- Monitor your own tendency to obsess or be preoccupied with anything related to your body image. You need to be kind to your body.
- Monitor any self-critical behavior. The best anti-bully campaign you can be a part of is giving yourself positive words that are like nutrition for your soul.
- Attaining and maintaining self-acceptance at all stages of the weight loss journey is key. Without self-acceptance, sabotage will result.
- If you don’t reinforce you’re worth it, you’re not going to sustain it (your health).
I’m slowly working on my brain, now that my body is pretty much at status quo. It needs to play catch-up. I’m not beating myself up too badly but at the same time I think I need to be snapped back to reality a bit. A bit of tough love maybe? I don’t know. But then I get defensive and shut down typically. Just ask the husband. Oh well. Work in progess…
“Knowing there’s a trap is the first step in evading it” -Frank Herbert