I have been thinking a lot lately about writing something that would highlight a common post-weight loss problem; dysmorphia. I have shied away from it for a couple of reasons, but mostly because sharing an area of my life that leaves me vulnerable to criticism makes me a little uncomfortable.
But the truth is, it has to be talked about. It is so common and impacts so many men and women, it’s important that we address it and share our methods to overcome it.
Body dysmorphic disorder happens to both genders and it occurs in small, medium, large and generally all sized people. You don’t necessarily have to have gone through a dramatic change in your body to now be faced with this disorder. You can simply find fault in your appearance, your stature, and yourself just through a series of poorly developed habits that have gained ground over time.
I mention the post-weight loss dysmorphia issue specifically because that’s my burden of suffering.
When I was obese I was tired and uninspired. I was not active, I was worn out, and unhealthy in a variety of ways. But interestingly, aside from the odd burst of insecurity in a dressing room from time to time, I never had an issue being ‘body confident’. In fact, I’ve always thought I was pretty cute! I didn’t develop dysmorphia until I started losing weight.
If you think about it for a little while, developing this disorder along a path to weight loss actually makes a lot of sense. If you’ve spent the majority of your life a certain size and shape, and then suddenly and drastically change that composition, you are far more likely to be keeping a keen eye on your progress and your changes. The problem with this is you become a little obsessed with tracking your success and your brain goes into analytical overdrive.
I’ll tell you a secret.
I am obsessed with my stomach. And not in a good way.
I hate it. I despise it. I am trying so hard to learn to love it, but I still hate it.
After a lifetime of obesity and two children, it’s lacking in any elasticity and no matter how hard I work at the gym or how careful I am with my diet, I will never attain the result I’ve convinced myself I need to have. And even though my imagination has cooked up an ideal that I can logically identify as unrealistic, there is also validation in the fact that I have embraced fitness and have found happiness in this lifestyle, and yet the work I perform so tirelessly will never reflect physically for me to admire. It is discouraging.
Most days I am perfectly happy and content in my skin. Generally speaking I feel strong and proud of my accomplishments so far, but I’ve noticed there’s a very fine and fragile line between my good days and my bad days, and what triggers the bad days is often how I feel about my midsection – if I’m bloated, or just seem to be poking out more than usual. If I don’t wake up flat and lean the pounding of self-loathing insults start hitting from all sides. And I need to figure out a way to get past this once and for all.
Easier said than done, right?
So what can we do to pull ourselves out of this fixation on negativity? We know that allowing this to permeate in the mind is a one-way ride to having a shitty day, so we need to stop it on the front end.
Although my mind does tend to fixate on an area of my body that I find to be inadequate, particularly considering the amount of work I put in to improve it, I know that when a ‘disorder’ day comes about, I need to pivot; fast. I have to find parts of myself, both internally and externally, that encourage me to feel pride, and adoration, and strength. Sometimes this is as simple as recognizing the areas of your being that you’re happy with and those things don’t have to be physical in nature to give an impact.
We talk about giving kids positive reinforcement in their lives to help them grow into well-adjusted adults right? But at some point we become adults and we forget to keep reinforcing ourselves. The responsibility to keep yourself happy and healthy falls solely on your shoulders now that you’re a grown up, and you have to remember that especially on a rough day. How many times have you de-prioritized yourself for the sake of something or someone else? I can’t even tell you a number
Be kind to yourself. Be gentle with your feelings.
Remind yourself of the variety of ways you’ve succeeded lately. Make a note of the way your body is strong and resilient. Maybe you’ve had children reside in your womb; maybe you’ve ran a marathon; maybe you’re one of those women who take a trunk full of groceries from car to kitchen in one double-armed load. Maybe you’re more of a badass than you give yourself credit for.
You can change your body in a hundred different ways, but you’ve got to get your mind right, too. It’s not always going to be as easy and straight forward as that, but if you can remember to simply be as kind to yourself as you would to a dear friend, you’ll be okay.