7/16/2008

Body Dysmorphia: the other side?

Thanks to those who took the time to share their thoughts and opinions on the last entry. Yet, another reason why I love blogging!

I still stand by my initial thought about the dangers in the message regarding telling folks that you cannot lose weight, or that some people even if they eat a balanced diet and exercise consistently, will never lose weight. There is a layer of denial in the "fat/obese/overweight" community that does exist. And that, well, isn't deniable.

I was talking to someone recently (I hope they don't mind I share this story) who spoke to me about not seeing their weight in the mirror or in their head. It wasn't until they looked at photographs were they genuinly surprised by their weight. I could totally relate to this and wonder why this type of body dysmorphia isn't talked about? We always hear the story of the skinny girl looking in the mirror and seeing someone who is twice her weight. In her head she imagines being overweight and stops eating because of it. How could the opposite of this not be any less dangerous?

How many times have we heard the story of the women who was inspired to lose weight after she saw a photo of herself. I read it all the time "I was looking at pictures of myself during vacation and couldn't believe how much I've let myself go". It seems obvious for most people of average weight to think "how in the world can you not SEE how big you are?". But, I think for a lot of us, our minds play tricks and keep us in this bubble of denial. Being fat is hard, mentally and physically. And when we are in pain, is it not possible that our minds would then try to keep us from feeling the pain by presenting a better picture in our head?

Honestly, when I think about memories or events and I think about myself, in my head, I never see the reality of it. Sometimes when I see a picture someone took and they show it to me I sometimes secretly freak out and think "but, I thought I looked so much thinner, how could I be that big!?" And in reality what else would 260+ look like on a 5'4 frame? I know I can't be the only one that experiences this.

I feel like because I have acknowledge it, I can become more aware of how harmful it is to think this way. The pro-fat message is so tempting sometimes. I don't think weight loss comes out of self-hate and shock over fat pictures, it comes from a deep understanding and appreciation of health. To me, its not about being one size or another, its about regaining confidence and truly seeing how I really am in the mirror.

One thing I've personally noticed, is that when I'm not trying to lose weight, or when things are just sort of willy nilly food wise. Thats when the denial is strongest. I see someone else entirely, it becomes normal to eat junk food, or in my mind "like everyone else". And then as soon as I'm in weight loss mode, the blinders come off and I experience the pain I am trying to hide. Every pound that is lost, a layer of denial is shed, and sometimes that picture is very sad to me. Seeing the truth is painful. And perhaps why I've perpetually kept myself from losing weight in the past.

For me, when I start taking care of myself, I start seeing how much I've neglected and abused my body with food over the years. And that pain, and guilt is intense, and sometimes to make it go away, to make everything feel better I regress back into old habits. I put the denial shades back on, and sometimes the scenery becomes a lot nicer. This isn't a conclusion to anything, simply a personal observation.

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23 Comments:

Anonymous krissie said...

I could not agree more. I think the reason I gained my weight back was because no matter where my weight was between 240 and 175, my reflection in the mirror looked the same. As I've looked at myself in various pictures at different weights, the consistent picture I see in the mirror is me around 200. Always has been. In times of fatness, it serves me well and keeps me in denial. In times of one-derland, I beat myself up because I look the same no matter what I weigh.

I think this post is brilliant. So true. Thanks.

8:23 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

Thanks for your candid blog. It is very inspiring and I read tonights post thinking, "YES, YES, YES!" I never fail to be amazed when I look at pictures of myself and think, "There's no way I look like that." I even find myself justifying it by telling myself that it must just be the photography. Then I notice that everyone else in the picture looks the appropriate real-life size. It's honestly the pictures that make me want to loose weight. But I totally agree with you, it has be more than just the desire to look better in pictures. It has to be a desire to live healthier. I hope and pray that truth will sink deep enough into my heart to make me move in that direction.

9:06 PM  
Blogger Cammy said...

Excellent post! This is something I have a problem with, too. I didn't see my physical self when I was 90 lbs heavier, and I'm having trouble truly seeing myself that much smaller. It just doesn't register in the mirror. I'll figure it out someday, and it's posts like this one that help me work through it, bit by bit. Thank you.

9:58 PM  
Blogger Cookie said...

love your blog, I can't seem to find your subscribe button, can you let me know how to subscribe?

Thanks

7:20 AM  
Anonymous Ryan Allen said...

This is a brilliant post.

There is denial amongst the weigth loss community. Yes it's true that some people are more prone to being overweight, and it is very easy for someone who has been skinny their whole life to say losing weight is easy. But on the other hand, everyone can lose weight if they follow the right guidelines and ideas.

I think a lot of people are put off by crash diets and expensive weight loss products, but in reality you don't need those at all.

9:37 AM  
Anonymous giyen said...

I avoided taking pictures just because I never wanted to face my weight. I also avoided the scale.

This weekend I am gonna takes some pictures and post it on my site along with my weight progress. What you're saying is so true!

10:52 AM  
Anonymous Amy said...

You hit the nail right on the head with this one. I never realized I had gained so much until I got weighed at the doctor once at 197lbs. I was shocked that I was almost 200. Then I started looking in pictures and it was true I was overweight, I had just denied it as a bad angle or a random bad pic. Every morning I looked myself in the mirror and saw my healthy size of 150lbs even though I was almost 50lbs over that. Thank you so much for putting it in a different perspective. That perhaps there's a disorder to overcome as well as the weight loss. It just makes to much sense and is comforting to hear other people experience this as well on their way back to being healthy.

11:02 AM  
Blogger Loosing 36 pounds said...

I cant agree more with krissie. In the past I have dieted my way down to 110 pouns and have still thought i was fat, only to look back at pictures of the time to think wow i really was little.
I just started a blog about my ordeal to loose hat i have always thought to be those few extra pounds but have recently really started to pile on. PLease feel free to read it www.wannabescrawny.blogspot.com

8:16 PM  
Blogger Loosing 36 pounds said...

I cant agree more with krissie. In the past I have dieted my way down to 110 pouns and have still thought i was fat, only to look back at pictures of the time to think wow i really was little.
I just started a blog about my ordeal to loose hat i have always thought to be those few extra pounds but have recently really started to pile on. PLease feel free to read it www.wannabescrawny.blogspot.com

8:16 PM  
Anonymous the moaning blogger said...

Hi there, i agree that people can be like this,theres something about mirrors that are very deceiving, and ive noticed it myself when looking at photos.

10:09 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

It is funny, I was just talking to friends about the whole reverse body dysmorphia thing. We were all laughing about how we thought we looked so much better in our minds. I see pictures of myself at a heavy weight right now, and they always surprise me. I think it comes from having been a much smaller size for a long time and still seeing myself as that person. In my early 20s I was between 110-120 lbs, right now in my early 30s I'm closer to 180, but in my mind I'm not much bigger than I was before. Can't wait till the two match up again.

11:12 PM  
Anonymous MizFit said...

late to the party so Ill just say, AGAIN, great post.
it is amazing how long it can take our BRAINS to catch up with our BODS.

6:18 AM  
Blogger Krissie said...

Glad you liked my mountain pictures! And we'll get to see more mountains in the spring!When we crash the wedding!

5:44 PM  
Blogger Land family said...

When I was in highschool (late 80s) my best friend and I joked about this very thing. We called it reverse anorexia. Now at 35 I still have it both ways-I feel heavier than I am when I'm not so bad, and can't believe I was ever as big as I was until I saw pictures. Our brains are all over the place.

11:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its so absolutely true. I had a reality check two days ago while looking through some old pictures. Wow. Such a great blog by the way..

2:28 PM  
Blogger Anita said...

I totally get this post 100%... and the funny thing is, is that it hadn't occurred to me that I have this body dysmorphia until I looked at pictures of myself in a bikini that was just taken a couple days ago. I can't believe I let all my baggage hang out there like that!

Thank you for sharing it with us and making me feel like I'm not the only one.

4:59 PM  
Anonymous Gail said...

It's funny, but since I refused to have myself photographed (which should have been a sure-fire clue I was in denial about my weight), it took seeing a reflection of myself.

I was used to seeing myself in my home mirror, but that was "waist up". Then I saw myself full length in a reflection in a window and UGH! I had no idea I really looked like that!

Fortunately I've lost weight since then, but cameras aren't the only thing that can force us to see our bodies "as is". ;)

11:19 AM  
Blogger SmushPants said...

You're blog is awesome! I love it!

I have total body dysmorphia. When I get all dressed up to go out and think I "look good" (which is not often since I gained weight) somewhere in my head I see the image of my thinner self (which hasn't been around in like 10 years!). Then when I look at a photograph I am shocked beyond all belief...I just wrote about this the other day in my own blog. It was my motivator to start doing something about it.

My weight is definitely a barrier though. I am afraid of so much and hide both physically and emotionally behind my weight. So I think when I lose weight, even though I feel good...it's very scary on an emotional level and I end up sabotaging myself somehow.

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Stephen said...

As a trainer I see this a lot. There is so much going on psychologically with clients it's often difficult to get a "true" picture of reality.

It's a tough one...

4:17 PM  
Blogger coachingbymichele said...

Wow, I didn't realize others felt this way too. I don't see myself as I am in photo's. So, now I am trying to take lots of photo's and see them, see me.

So, that problem solved...or is it.

My next issue that I don't understand is why I sabbatage my weight loss. I go through a day doing great, then when I realize what a great day I usually give up and eat, just because. Do you find that as well?

2:40 AM  
Blogger Lucy Smallwood said...

This is so spot on! In my head I'm a weight I don't think I've actually ever been. It's my face on some other generic body. And I have much better hair.

Your blog is brilliant - I think all of us who have got a handle on the superficiality of hermogenised thinness are in conflict when we realise that we need to lose weight. It's kind of like we have to give up that intelligent, positive, independent and powerful side of us and momentarily become one of those mindless idiots who buy Now Celebrity Diets (A tragic magazine here in the UK that is simply about celebrites and their diets. I know. I wanted to grow a penis just looking at it.)

Thanks for highlighting the realities of wanting to lose weight when you're also trying to spread the word about postive body image. You rule, Chick!

4:05 PM  
Blogger camdensmommy said...

OMG I feel EXACTLY the same way! I was reading all of the comments and it just amazes me how many other people are going through this, and to think that I thought I was the only one who had this problem. Recently I have looked at pictures and was blown away at how I look. I think that I am in denial as well. It's like I know that I weight 220 lbs. but when I look in the mirror I see the girl that I used to be at 145 lbs. Anyway thank you so much for posting this blog.

12:14 AM  
Blogger Blah*Blog*GirL said...

I have been trying to verbalize this syndrome (?) for some time. I just couldn't find the words.

I still wonder What's the answer? But, maybe the answer is very complex and I'll figure it out along the way.

The denial of not "dealing with it" is so comfortable for a while and then something comes along and rattles the cage: you have to run, like for a bus and realize you can't or you huffing like a steam train.

Or something like what happened to me today: I am actually considering not participating in a Spa Day with the girls because we have to wear a bathing suit. I feel trapped.

Why don't I think about this when I'm snacking on a brownie? Even better, why does this make me want to snack on a brownie?

Thanks for sharing your wisdom. I'm enjoying your blog.

1:55 PM  

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