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Body Image and the Mirror

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Every day, when each of us looks in the mirror, we all have this image of ourselves staring back. By now, most of us understand that sometimes our perception of what we look like can be distorted.

Body dysmorphic disorder and anorexia are two extreme examples of what happens when our perceptions are distorted. The late Michael Jackson always thought his nose was too big for his face. No matter how much surgery he had, his perception of what he saw never changed so no surgical procedure ever satisfied him. Karen Carpenter, another talented musician, suffered from anorexia so badly she literally starved herself to death.

Okay, Mike and Karen are extreme examples, but are we all really THAT different? What do YOU see when you look in the mirror?

For me, the image I have of myself never changes. It is the same whether I'm at a normal weight or obese. My image is of a slightly overweight woman. So you can imagine how easy it is to pile on nearly 70 extra pounds when you look in the mirror and see someone who's "not that big." It's a case of complete denial about a growing problem, pun intended! That's why I was so shocked to see the "before" picture I posted on my SP page. I never thought of myself as particularly "big". If my pants got tight, it was because they shrank in the wash. If I had to buy a larger size, it's because the clothing label ran small. The thickening around my middle? Well, that's what happens when you reach middle age.

Now, I'm 44 pounds lighter but the problem is, I don't always see it. So I take pictures, try on clothes in different sizes, weigh, measure body parts---all in an effort to get my brain caught up with my body. Intellectually, I understand that this can be problematic. Losing and maintaining weight is work so if I'm not rewarded when I look in the mirror, well, maybe I'm just meant to be heavy. Next thing you know I'm backsliding.

You would think that staying motivated when I've lost 2/3 of my extra weight is easy. Not really, it's still a daily struggle. My habits are new. Eight months of healthy habits versus 20 years of couch potatohood. It gets easier with time to make my morning smoothie, pack my gym bag and lunch and ignore the treats in the office. But the potential for backsliding remains--especially if it's hard to tell by looking in the mirror. Experts say it takes time for the brain to catch up and I totally agree.

Yeah, I know, I know---it's not only about looks. True, I have more energy. I'm healthier. I can shop anywhere. Believe me, I'm GLAD to have all of those non-scale rewards--especially my health. But emotionally, I still embrace the teenaged ideal of looking good in a pair of jeans.

To add insult to injury, we live in a culture heavily influenced by Madison Avenue's idea of beauty and are constantly subjected to a barrage of messages like:
"Our boutique's full-figured attire goes from size 10 to 14. If you are larger, you'll need to shop online"
"At 5'10" and 110 pounds, she's our ideal model"
"36-24-36--owww, what a winnin' hand"
"When you stand with your feet together, there should be a space between your thighs"

So we cope with the din of societal messages by creating our own affirmations:

"Real Women have curves"
"Don't no one want a bone but a dog"
"She's not fat, she's phat"
"I like big butts and I cannot lie"
"More bounce to the ounce"

Oh, the war of words goes on and on and when you're a woman of any race, the chatter is exhausting. In my case, my BMI is 27.8 and I am still 23 pounds from goal. I'm now hearing from friends and family that I don't need to lose any more weight. Are you serious? I finally got hip to how my weight was affecting my health and you say I should stay heavy? What's up with that?

Bottom line is, I want to be healthy AND I want to look my best. No, I don't want to be skinny, but I'm tired of seeing that slightly overweight woman in the mirror. I am so over her. I visualize looking in the mirror and seeing a new, vibrant, healthy and happy woman of a normal weight. I want to give myself time for this new image to register, so my brain and body will follow. So I keep pushing forward and work hard to visualize the new me.

Onward and downward.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

NYKIMMIE 8/31/2012 7:32AM

    You look great! emoticon

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MOBYCARP 8/30/2012 8:54PM

    My sister says it takes a year per 25 pounds to adjust the body image to a new weight. Perhaps that isn't the precisely correct ration of time to pounds, but the concept that body image lags weight change (up or down) resonates truth to me.

I am currently in maintenance. I've spent the last 3 weeks between 3 and 4 pounds lighter than I weighed on January 1. And even with my weight in a very tight range, my perception of being fat or thin varies from day to day. Tomorrow I should take some more pictures, so I can look at a month over month comparison and see if the camera thinks I'm maintaining as well as the scale says I am.

I suspect I won't really *feel* thin again until I'm running regularly.

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NEW-PAMELA-BERG 8/30/2012 3:02PM

    I caught a glimpse of my legs in a photo a friend took a few weeks ago. I didn't even realize it was me (except I was holding my iPad). It is interesting how we see ourselves versus what the camera captures. I think I am going to take some new pix of me because you are so right about the person I see in the mirror.
About 10 years ago my new mil handed me a picture of me sleeping, I honestly thought she had handed me a picture of my new man's ex wife...I didn't understand why she gave it to me...then I realized that fat lazy person sleeping on the couch was me!!! And yet here I am all these years later just now starting my journey. Go figure :)

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MILLIE5522 8/30/2012 2:46PM

    Keep taking photos & eventually you will believe it. Also keep some old clothes that used to be tight. They will be reminders of how far you have come. You are not alone. I and many others have the same problem with body image. I still look at other people who are the same weight/height and think they look slimmer than me. So for me its still work in progress. emoticon

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KTBLEYES1 8/30/2012 2:34PM

    Although I am starting over again after about a year of backsliding, I never gave up on myself. I continued to eat mostly healthy. I just gave in to those old comfort foods because they really DO comfort me. Back before I had my last two babies (who are now in their 30s), I had gotten down to 1.5 lbs from my set goal weight. Now why did I stop there? What was I afraid of? Was I going to disappear or something? I remember thinking that the woman in the store window looked pretty, and wondered who she was. It was me! I did not recognize myself. I continued to have that problem until, as you wrote, she disappeared! That almost thin, normal pretty woman was gone. It did not take long to put the weight back on, sadly to say. I then had 2 more babies. With each one I gained a few pounds. But then after having them so close together and with another older child too, boy did I need the comfort foods more! One day after visiting my grandson and changing his diaper on the floor, I had to struggle to get up. I had in the mean time put back on 80+ pounds. This took several years and many mood swings to accomplish. I was weighing 263 lbs when I re-joined w.w. for the umpteenth time. I lost down to 196 and got stuck there....again. Then those old self depriving comments started in again. Yep, up I went again. I have not re-gained all of the weight again, I am still down 35 lbs from that ugly 263. Now with SparkPeople in my pocket and the help I need from all of you wonderful people trying, doing and maintaining to encourage me, I KNOW that it will come off again. I have medical issues and grandchildren to see grow up for inspiration. I can't lose, but WILL lose. As always, I got carried away. What I am saying to you is: Keep up the good work; Don't give up and backslide, you have done too well; When those demon self depriving talkers start in, find a way to negate them. Yes, I remember when I was down nearly to goal. I did NOT see myself as normal yet. Even wearing the slimmer clothes, seeing the number on the scale, compliments from everyone, etc. This time I have the right tools. You do too! You look fabulous, by the way! Hang in there, you are fantastic! You inspire me to get on it!

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What a difference

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Yesterday, my daughter and I watched videos of my grandson from when he was a newborn to about one week old. We were amazed at how quickly he has progressed from being a tiny newborn to taking his first, few and faltering steps yesterday.

I was surprised to see that I was in the video holding my grandson. I'm wearing the same t-shirt from my "before" picture on my Sparkpage, so it means the video was shot on the same day. When I appeared in the video, my daughter looked at me and exclaimed "What a difference!"

I had never seen the video before and was astounded at how big I looked. I'm glad it only took the picture to spur me into action. The video would have totally depressed me.

My grandson has gone from being a 7 pound newborn to a 26 pound ten month old. I have dropped more than 40 pounds. It's like both of us have transformed.

BTW, I lost 1.5 pounds this week. My BMI is 27.8. Now, I only need to drop about 12 pounds to meet my third goal, which is to lose 57 pounds by the end of this year. Woo-hoo!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

LABRATIAM 8/30/2012 6:47AM

    emoticon Too cool!

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BLKLILY 8/29/2012 9:51PM

    emoticon emoticon

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    That's so awesome! How affirming!


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HANAVAS 8/29/2012 2:32PM

    How wonderful! Such a sweet way to see the difference.
P.S. Aren't grandbabies the best! emoticon

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ZOMBIELOVER 8/29/2012 10:01AM

    Way to go!!!! You are an inspiration!!!

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    So, you are collecting weight and transferring it to your grandson! LOL

Make today a great day!

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LRK4CHRIST 8/29/2012 8:53AM

    WOW! Good for you. It's wonderful to look at your past and see how things have changed for the good. God is Good! I pray u continue to have success with your Healthy Living. Make it a lifestyle and you'll never be the same again. Be blessed!

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The Weekend, Baby

Sunday, August 26, 2012

This weekend I played softball for the first time in THIRTY emoticon YEARS. I am on a co-rec team in a recreational league and we had our first game on Friday. Our team isn't very good, but in a league like this one, I don't think it matters. We didn't win the game, but I bet my teammates drank the most beer.

For me, it was an opportunity to reconnect with a sport I played for six years in my youth. Although our team practice wore me out, I didn't move enough during the game to justify entering it into my fitness tracker. Still, anything I can do that gets me outdoors, away from the television and interacting with people can only be a good thing.

I have nothing in common with my teammates; we are a motley crew. At 46, I'm the oldest and our organizer is 22 and an unemployed 2012 college graduate struggling to find work in her field. Our best player is a local television anchorman and there's one other fella who works in medical records at an area emergency room. Total, I think there's five women and eight men. This is going to be an interesting season.

Saturday, I visited consignment shops in my ongoing quest to rebuild my wardrobe on the cheap. I hit the jackpot at one store because I found Chico's brand separates in a Chico's size 2 (size 12-14). I had stopped shopping at Chico's because after my bout of unemployment, I could no longer afford to. In addition, I had gained so much weight that I could no longer shop there because if you are larger than a Chico's size 3 (about a 14-16), then you are relegated to shopping online. I found a travelers size 2 jacket and a matching pair of size 2.5 pants. Each piece only cost about $15, which is a really good deal. Yay!

That afternoon I had a "cheat meal" which keeps me from feeling totally deprived. Not surprisingly, I had barbecued spare ribs, along with grilled vegetables. I bring up this meal because it's important to note that if I'm really trying to transition from "dieting" to a lifestyle, then it has to include my favorite less healthy foods in controlled situations. I have been doing this most weeks since I restarted the plan. Sometimes, if I'm not craving anything in particular, I'll forgo it, but if I really have a taste for something, I just go ahead and eat it and put that craving behind me. I think for me, the key is that I feel in control because it's something I planned.

Today, I did my grocery shopping for the week. I'm trying a few new recipes including a low fat version of a chocolate cream cheese pie, chicken salad, and an old Weight Watchers turkey burger recipe that I just love. I also bought my week's supply of berries for my morning smoothies.

What remains to be done today is for me to strength train at the gym. All this back-and-forth debate going on in my head is useless. There's no debate. I have the time today, so I have no excuses.

Onward and downward.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

DIBANANA 8/28/2012 8:26PM

  Good for you! No excuses is awesome. I'm proud of you for playing volleyball. Although you say you didn't get much of a workout I think that will change as your team gets better and as you say you are out and socializing and not sitting in front of the tv.! Yay for you!


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TACONES 8/26/2012 3:27PM

    Sounds like you really had a great weekend. emoticon emoticon

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To YOU, my Sparkpeople Friend

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Today, I was thinking about my blog and just APPRECIATING SO MUCH the support you have shown me through your Sparkgoodies and comments. emoticon

When I blog, I strive to be open and honest about all of the emotional ups and downs that accompany the journey to healthier habits. For me, the ability to write out my thoughts is actually quite therapeutic and it helps me to know that you and I are in this together.

So on those days when you are feeling bored, discouraged, stressed, depressed, anxious, angry, irritated, frustrated and upset please know that I've been there and completely understand and relate to how you feel. Changing habits that have been ingrained and programmed deep into our consciousness is TOUGH, but together, we will continue to push through it. emoticon

No matter what happens in your life, please, please, pretty please don't give up on yourself or your dreams because I refuse to give up on you. I wish you health, wealth and happiness.

Keep sparkin' !! emoticon

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BLKLILY 8/26/2012 10:37PM

    emoticon you too!

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BABY_GIRL69 8/26/2012 10:04PM

    Simply beautiful!!!! God bless, Dee

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MPLANE37 8/26/2012 8:46PM

    That helps. Thanks for the nice words!

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SPARKLE1908 8/26/2012 1:40PM

    Thank you for the kind words...having support is essential!!!

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BARBAELLEN 8/25/2012 10:56PM

    Trust me, while your blogs may be therapeutic for you, they have really helped me, too. You've shared some really great things you've either picked up somewhere or have experienced through your personal journey. No doubt we can't be expected to relate to every Sparker's blogs, but I always seem to be able to relate to yours. Thanks! Onward and downward. :)

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Inches Lost and Future Goals

Friday, August 24, 2012

Yesterday, I ran a SP report to learn where I've lost inches. Here are the results:

Bust: -4.5"
Waist: -3"
Hips: -4.5"

My waist to hip ratio has risen from around .80 to .85 because I'm losing weight everywhere except for my waist. Just aggravating, dang it.

I also recognize these truths about my body:
1. No matter what I weigh, my waist will only be about 6-7" smaller than my hips. (Yech for being apple-shaped).

2. For my waist to appear narrow, I would have to part ways with the few curves I do have and just look angular, you know, like Olive Oyl or a ruler. I'm not feeling this idea even if it means a smaller waist.

3. My waist to hip ratio still puts me at risk of diabetes, even though my blood sugar readings are now normal. Hopefully, this will resolve itself as I take off the last 24 pounds.

4. I am middle-aged and fighting hormonal changes that are causing my waist to thicken anyway.

I am looking forward to "evicting" the next 14 pounds in 2012 and just maintaining my weight during the holidays. My hope is that being on maintenance for awhile will help me build the skills I will need to keep the weight off. I'm joining Weight Watchers in October so I can attend the weekly meetings, meet some like-minded people and stay focused. In January, I will work on the last 10 pounds.

Once I get to my goal weight, I will evaluate how I look and feel, then decide what to do next.

One other thought I have before I close; I have not lost this weight alone. During my journey, I've met with a registered dietitian, a personal trainer, and a therapist. I've attended an eight-week weight loss support group, read articles on SP and elsewhere and dug out old recipes from my Weight Watchers days. It's all about leveraging expertise in areas where you're weak, so you can build a better, stronger, faster, healthier, and happier YOU.

Onward and downward.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MPLANE37 8/25/2012 8:41PM

    Going strong. Keep it up!

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MRFUZZ 8/25/2012 1:44PM

    I have also noticed the waist to hip ratio problem. This has been a source of frustration to me. But, I am finally just realizing that for me, it will always just be my reminder that I will always be at risk for high blood sugar and cholesterol. I am still so much better than I was a year ago. You really summed it all up so well! Every time I exercise now, I remind myself what wonderful things the exercise is doing for my inner body functions and metabolism. emoticon emoticon emoticon

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SONYALATRECE 8/25/2012 8:14AM

    Wonderful determinaton!
Keep up the endurance & motivation.

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SPARKLE1908 8/24/2012 2:11PM

    Wonderful goals...I know you will exceed them....you have been very focused and dedicated and it is paying off!!!

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JAZZEJR 8/24/2012 12:59PM

    emoticon emoticonInches lost are the best. And don't give up on that waist. I will shrink too!

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