Perception vs Reality

(Note: this post includes photos of me in a sports bra.  Just giving fair warning.)

Last week, while at dinner with extended family, one family member who hadn’t seen me in awhile remarked on how good I looked. Well, specifically she said, “Are you still trying to lose weight? You need to stop that, you don’t need to lose any more weight.” (Jewish grandmothers for the win.)

At first I convinced myself that she was just trying to be nice, but I also know her well enough to understand that she rarely hides what she’s really thinking. Beyond the Jewish grandmother desire to make sure kids and grandkids (and in my case, the wife of a step-grandson) are eating well, she really thought I looked good and didn’t need to lose any more weight.

Of course, I immediately wrote off her comments in my head and told myself, it’s just the outfit making me look slimmer, ’cause there’s NO WAY I look like someone who doesn’t need to lose weight. I’m still overweight, I’m still huge!

And then the logical part of my brain gave me a swift kick and said I needed a perception check.

It’s no wonder that some people who lose a large amount of weight have trouble with body image. I was obese for so long that when I look in the mirror I still see myself at my largest. I occasionally notice some positive changes, but much of the time I still see myself as large.

Before I started actively trying to lose weight, I looked like this:

Not sure of the weight, but it wasn’t my highest. Few photos exist of my highest weight.

This was me when I started blogging about my weight loss efforts:

I was 212 lbs here.

And this was me this weekend:

This is 163 lbs.

Yes, obviously there are some differences, but when I look at the two photos I don’t see much of a difference. I stare at the new photo and have trouble looking beyond the continuation of flaws. Some parts may be smaller, but they’re still large.

Losing weight is hard enough, but the mental game that goes with it makes it even more difficult. I don’t want to think of myself as fat. I’d rather be proud of all I’ve accomplished. But instead the little voice in my head looks at photos and whispers So much for all that work – you don’t look any different. Your belly still hangs over your waistband, your thighs still rub together, your hips are huge. Why keep going through all that pain?

I hate that little voice. I hate how it tears me down and makes me doubt everything. It strips me of any self-esteem. I wear a medium shirt size now, and still find myself baffled every time I put one on. Why is this fitting me? Are they vanity sizing shirts now? I can’t even believe that this body could possibly wear a medium, when I’m sure I’m still an XL.

I’m five pounds from the goal I set for myself years ago, and now I’m already doubting that it will be enough. How much more will I need to lose to feel fit and healthy? Will I set a new goal and then continue to feel fat if I reach that new goal? I worry that I may never be happy with my weight, but have no idea how to find that happiness.

This post is full of questions with few answers. I know it’s my own mind blocking me from seeing the changes to myself, but I don’t know how to change that. There are diets and exercises to change the body, but now I need to find the right program to change the mind. Otherwise any transformation I make will never be complete, because while I may eventually be seen as fit by those looking from the outside, I will still be fat when looking from the inside.

I never intended this post to be such a downer. It’s a shame that so often we condition ourselves to see only the fat, the wrinkles, the imperfections in ourselves. Photoshop and the worship of the impossibly “perfect” (and too-thin) body probably doesn’t help with this. The media promotes the impossible body, and we are constantly bombarded with the message that the polished, re-touched images we see are what we should strive to be, while advertisers also encourage us to eat high-calorie junk food with abandon.

There are women out there doing fantastic work in the area of body acceptance, and I probably should be paying more attention to them. This isn’t how I feel all the time – just some of the time. I considered not posting this at all, but I also want to be completely honest. Not discussing the mental battle would give only a partial image of what it’s like to lose weight, and I know I’m not the only one who has looked in the mirror and felt like I’ve accomplished so little.

So yeah, here I am. I feel fat. And I know I shouldn’t.

My brain needs new glasses, because the current ones are out of focus.

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Comments

  1. well, first I smile because I am so proud of you…you look amazing!
    Then I smile because I get what you’re saying.A lot of us, I believe, don’t really see what others see when we look in the mirror. I wish I could understand why and then perhaps adjust my own internal vision.
    Lastly I am smiling to see you and Mary together in the first picture. Love her and I love you, friend!

  2. Look specifically at your face and upper body — huge difference! Then look at the abs – you have them! And then you have hips that make you curvy, but not fat. I’ve known you for years, and yet I definitely don’t remember you being as large as in the first photo. You have come a looooong way, and while I understand why it is hard to see, know that those around you see it. GREAT job!

  3. You’re little voice needs bitch slapped & throat punched!! You look FABULOUS!!

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