It’s been obvious to me by viewing the scale that I have lost weight recently, but it’s not so apparent when I consider how I look, or when I go to buy new clothes. In fact, when I had my husband take a picture of me on our recent concert outing night, I was stunned to see how I looked.
Similarly, I recently shared this blog with some coworkers, showing them some before and after pictures. These coworkers were in disbelief that I, standing before them, was the same person depicted in the before pictures on my site. (One asked if they were pictures of a sibling.) I didn’t understand the surprise. I guess I still have some fragment of my before looks in my memory banks.
Going to get new clothes is even worse. When I started out on Weight Watchers, I was wearing size 18/20 jeans from Lane Bryant. Recently, I bought a pair of size 12 Gloria Vanderbilt skinny jeans from Sears that fit in a terrible, mom jeans, un-skinny way now. Yet, in other stores, I’m a 12 or 14, and I’d suspect I might just be out of a 16 at the GAP. I don’t even want to get started on bras–I know it’s time to get a smaller size, but I’m at a loss for what it would be. I will have to get a fitting to see where I stand. Whenever I go to buy new clothes, I have to take about 3 sizes into the fitting room with me, because I don’t have confidence in the clothes–and myself–as to where my body will shake out. But often I’m pleasantly surprised.
Sometimes it feels like I’m trying to grab and hold on to a pile of hot sand when it comes to taking stock of where I am physically and emotionally these days. Just when I think I have a firm grasp, I am unable to hold on, as my weight changes, or I consider my emotional baggage from a new angle, in an effort to untangle my eating from my emotions. But I realize that I need to get into the habit of considering myself in the present, to give myself the best chance of maintaining my weight loss. My thought is that if I don’t let how far I’ve come fully sink in, I won’t appreciate what I’ve done and will have less value placed on holding onto the strides I’ve made.
Here are some things I can tell myself about my self-perception to ensure I’m not short-changing myself:
The differences are here to stay. If I look in the mirror, it’s obvious that I’m not the same person who wore the 18/20 jeans. I can hold the 18/20 jeans up to my body (I’ve kept them as a reminder) and see that there’s no way I can wear them now. I need to congratulate myself on what I’ve done, and I need to remind myself that barring some sort of three-month binge or something, the old me is gone and my weight will stay in this new range (or a lighter range, even), because I know how to maintain my new weight, by using my new habits.
The clothing companies don’t know what they’re doing. Companies geared toward young women seem to cut everything smaller. Many brands for older women tend to run bigger. Some brands have absolutely no size consistency among garments–even garments of the same kind sometimes. As a result, me not having a universal, definitive size is not my fault. I do not need to conform myself to the clothes being presented to me in the stores; I just have to learn to understand the dimensions of my body at whatever size I end up at, and which brands (and fits of clothing) flatter it the most.
My perceptions of myself are flawed. I’ll need to work to perceive myself more accurately. In addition to emotional eating work, I have been embarking on work to open myself up to others more. As far as my non-food emotions go, I’ve learned that what I perceive when I rehash the past or fear the future is based on defensive survival stances I’ve taken, and may not be in line with what’s going on. Working to be mindful and stay in the present is bringing a new perspective into my life, one that makes it less likely that I’ll bury challenging emotions in overeating, because I come to understand that things aren’t as bad as I think they are.
I’ll have to make the same kind of thinking when it comes to my appearance, to learn to gradually not think of myself in terms of the past, the 200+ lbs. person that I was for nearly 20 years, but rather to remind myself of what I look like today, and respect that this is my reality.
I don’t mean to get abstract or esoteric with this, but in some ways, being a thinner person mentally is harder for me than becoming a thinner person physically. I don’t think I’m the only person out there having this struggle. If you’re with me, how do you increase awareness of who you are and maintain that new perception of yourself?