Weight Loss and Body Image

Am I this size?Although I often discuss body image and my eating habits with you, I’ve been reluctant to share my actual weight, not because I’ve ever been ashamed of it, but because I know that it is easy to be discouraged by comparison.

Listening to someone talk about needing to lose 10 pounds is annoying when you are trying to lose 40.  Listening to someone talk about being 40 pounds overweight can be disheartening to someone trying to lose 100.

I don’t want to be a source of discouragement.

I want all of you to recognize the beauty in who you are, and to know that your appearance is merely a reflection of that beauty.

Happiness, confidence, kindness, love – these are reflected in our faces and in our body language, and these are what make a person beautiful.  Beauty and self worth cannot be measured in pounds and ounces.

Having said that, I know that most women have an idealized vision of beauty for themselves.  A body type, a weight, a form to which they aspire.  I also know that many of us do not have an accurate body image.

I know I don’t.  My perception changes with my moods and hormones.  Some days, I’d describe myself as heavier than I am; other days, I think I am considerably thinner.  My husband pointed this out to me earlier this year, when he saw this post.Some days I feel bigger than I am.

That day, I had trouble believing him, but when I’m shopping it is noticeable even to me.  Depending on the day, I’ll grab clothes that are sizes too big or too small.  I don’t recognize my own size when I see it.

My self perception has never been accurate or stable, unless you count it as stable because it does not matter what size or age I am, my body image remains skewed.

Despite that, I feel content with my appearance.  I was content before I starting losing weight, too.  I did not enjoy the feeling of being overweight, but I did not feel ugly because of it.

I began tracking calories in order to assess the healthiness of my diet.  My perception of that was delusional, too.  It turned out I grossly underestimated my sugar intake and overestimated the rest of my calorie consumption.  Healthier eating was my goal.  Weight loss was incidental.

Incidental, but significant.  I’ve now lost over twenty five pounds.  I’m within ten pounds of “ideal weight” for my height.

So has anything changed?

I am a size smaller, but I don’t feel more attractive, prettier, sexier, or any of that.  My proportions haven’t really changed, just their dimensions.  There are parts of me that look better now, and others that looked better then.

My legs are trimmSome days I feel thin.er.  They’re still dimply with cellulite, but I think they look great below the knee and fine above it.  Lumpy, but fine.

More importantly, no more chub rub.  My thighs are not sticking together with sweat this summer.  Since I wear skirts almost daily, this is significant.

On the top side, I miss my chubby girl breasts.  I knew I’d lose a cup size or two when I lost weight, but I was hoping the skin would firm up so they wouldn’t look empty.  No such luck.  My breasts now look way too National Geographic, and I have not yet found bras that fit exactly right.

My neck is still waddlesome and crepe papery, a genetic gift from which there is no escape.  The former double chin is, while not quite a single, perhaps more like a chin and a half.  My face is more slender, and I think that is what people have noticed when they say, “Have you lost weight?  You look great!”

Since dissatisfaction with my body was not the reason I began calorie tracking, I find it disconcerting when people compliment me on losing weight.  I know they mean well, but I dislike the notion that thinner is always better, always prettier, always healthier, always happier.

Model Me in purpleLast summer, I was more physically fit, riding my bike several miles daily.  This summer, I’ve been a slug and have barely taken my bicycle out of the garage.  I usually take a stroll in the evening with my husband, but I don’t sweat or raise my heart rate.  I just walk and talk.  Sometimes I don’t even talk.

I’m also not happier, which is another thing people say.  “You must be so happy with…”  No, losing weight hasn’t impacted my happiness.  In fact, I don’t think I would have lost weight if I’d started out unhappy.

I think it is hard to lose weight when you’re unhappy with your appearance.  It’s a lot easier to lose weight when there is no emotional baggage to lose along with it.  When calories are just calories, and eating is just eating, not an indication of your value as a person or an indicator of your character, it’s easier to make healthy choices and not be bothered by the occasions when you don’t.

14 thoughts on “Weight Loss and Body Image

  1. I LOVE your take on this! I wish I had written it – it so closely resembles how I feel – and the beauty of your article is I couldn’t articulate it…but you did. I’m glad I read this in the morning…I feel better.

  2. I’ve had to radically change my diet for health reasons, and have lost 10 pounds in just over a month. I feel much better and my clothes fit better too.

    I hear you on the boobs thing. Where did they go??? Part of it is, unfortunately, just getting older.

  3. Good for you! I lost 1/2 inch and already being short I am concerned about maintaining my height as well as losing weight for my new height. I am the perfect weight for a tall woman which in my mind I am!

  4. Boobs are the last place to lose for me. Agreeing on the weight loss and emotional state, I’ve left any ideas of anything other than maintaining and hopefully making healthy choices until the excitement in my life tails off.

  5. I agree with so much of what you’re saying. Thinner isn’t always better, when people say that I wonder if they even realize they’re doing it. I’ve always been happier when losing weight was a side effect of exercising more, etc., instead of some goal I didn’t really care about deep down. Thanks for writing this.

  6. After I had my daughter I lost the baby weight. My breasts were like half inflated balloons. Now I have gained some weight and my breasts are looking more normal, but none of my pants fit! I find I care less about my weight than about being healthy and I’d much rather have energy than be tired from not eating enough. I just don’t think about being thin as an ideal as much as I used to. I am more about function. Although, I do have my moments. What you said about grabbing the right size really resonated with me. I can no longer eyeball the size I wear anymore. I used to have an idea about what would look good on my body (styles), but I have no idea anymore. I still gravitate towards clothing I used to wear. It’s like my mind hasn’t quite caught up with my new body shape!

    • I checked out the What Not to Wear book (by the English ladies, not Stacey and Clinton) when I was around 40, because I (finally!) realized that what I’d been wearing for the past 20 years really wasn’t working on my current body.

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