How can I become comfortable in a shrinking body?
August 6, 2008 9:58 AM   Subscribe

I am midway through losing a heap of excess weight. Are there any tips/tricks/techniques for making me more comfortable with my new body during this transitional phase? I used to be fairly confident, but now (as a side effect of the diet) I just think of myself as "fat".

Before I started the diet, I was very much in the "I'm large but quite beautiful, really" camp: not exactly one of those people who used the term BBW, but I was OK with my size for years. Now I actually feel less attractive some 25 kilos down (about 10kg to go). This seems to me to be a bit of a catch 22 situation, so I'd appreciate any suggestions to get me out of the trap. In order to stick to the diet/weight loss/exercise regime, I have to admit I'm fat. But I'm not as fat as I was so should be thinking of myself as more attractive, not less... My formerly massive gut is now flabby, which is different but still not good. My treetrunk thighs are still there, just slightly smaller trees. I still have an ass which wobbles and fills the mirror. I can exercise for longer and run up stairs now, but the appetite for horizontal exercise is diminished, because I just don't see myself as attractive any more. And I find myself wondering when I'll stop -- when I get to the healthy weight for my height, what happens if I'm still not happy with my form?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

I think or yoga or any exercise is good, really. Or sex or steam bathes or massage. Basically anything to make your body feel alive, instead of some "form." Why not stop trying to lose weight, and just enjoy where you're at for the moment?
posted by Penelope at 10:07 AM on August 6, 2008

I totally know what you're talking about. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that when you are on a diet/exercise regimen, you have such a laser focus on your body that it can magnify flaws.

I can't offer 100% useful advice, because I suspect this phenomenon is what has led me to abandon most diets before I reached my goal. However, one thing that has helped in the past is yoga. Partly for the mood enhancement benefits, partly because it makes you so aware of all the cool things your body can do. Also, kundalini yoga makes me feel sexy, if that's what you're looking for.

Actually, this reminds me, I really need to start doing yoga again...
posted by lunasol at 10:11 AM on August 6, 2008

This seems to be more about your perception and feelings of self-worth in the face of change - healthy change, but still a shift. Your formerly stable self-image is having to reckon with the visible changes you're making to your body.

I can't speak directly to the weight aspect of this, but I can say this:

Don't focus on the change from a negative perspective. You're fat and you decided you wanted to lose weight. Don't lose your self-image along with it. Step away from punishing yourself for how you think you look and focus on what your body can do and how these changes will make it better.

Remind yourself that keeping up the exercise and nutritional changes will make you stronger, and faster, give you more stamina, make you more comfortable in the summer... make a list of the positives you're working for. Since you were fine with yourself previously, don't trash where you've been. Look forward.

If you've got a partner or a spouse to support you, ask them to be a little more demonstrative for a while, as you need some reassurance. I'll bet they'd be more than happy to oblige, particularly after you show up all flushed and sweaty from working out!
posted by canine epigram at 10:22 AM on August 6, 2008

I know exactly what you mean. It's important to remember that as long as you're working at your diet and exercising, things are improving. This means if you keep seeing yourself as unattractive, this means you're becoming more attractive. If you become complacent and satisfied (without being where you want to be), you'll actually start to be less attractive even though you might be okay with your size. Every time you think of yourself negatively, say to yourself, "This is great! I'm focusing on my body and doing what I want to do to improve my health".
posted by null terminated at 10:36 AM on August 6, 2008

Have you purchased new clothing that fits? Oftentimes, someone midway to their weight loss goal will continue to wear their now-oversized wardrobe rather than spend money on clothing they feel will only be worn for a short while. If you fall into this camp, go out and buy a few pieces that fit. This is a great time to pick up a few trendy yet inexpensive items because you don't have to worry about selecting something that is constructed to last for several seasons.

While it is wildly superficial, I've found the delight in fitting into something I could never pull off before motivates me a lot (and I'm so not a clothes-horse, either).
posted by jamaro at 10:44 AM on August 6, 2008 [3 favorites]

Could it be you are more self-aware? Sure, you accepted yourself before you lost weight and that is wonderful, but now you are more aware (and perhaps you are comparing) of your body and looking forward to an ideal. Be very kind to yourself and keep reminding yourself that your efforts are worthwhile, you are beautiful, and you're on your way to a worthwhile goal.

And I find myself wondering when I'll stop -- when I get to the healthy weight for my height, what happens if I'm still not happy with my form?

Happiness does not come from a dress size as you know. Concentrate on nurturing your inner and outer self. Good luck and congratulations.
posted by LoriFLA at 10:44 AM on August 6, 2008

You're in a tunnel; things will be different at the other end. Probably fabulous.

But while you're still stuck on the train, keep working hard, and focus on something else. Getting ahead at work; saving money; learning a language (if you can do this while exercising); whatever you want that's _not_ totally about your body or personal attractiveness. That'll be there when you're done. And you do need to focus on your body a lot, I know; but not on how hot you look just at the moment -- that's for later. For now, focus on your other attributes.
posted by amtho at 10:45 AM on August 6, 2008

Avoid body-length mirrors. You could lose another 30kg and be underweight and you'd still see something that's been put there by your head.
posted by holgate at 10:54 AM on August 6, 2008

This sounds so much like me that I could have written this question word for word. (I'm not entirely sure that I didn't and am not suffering from amnesia.) It's hard, losing a lot of weight and looking in the mirror and thinking "but... but I'm still fat." It kind of feels like being a living sketch, where you can still feel the old outlines of your body superimposed on the newer lines. Where I used to know precisely what size clothing I wore, now I have no idea, and I can't shake the feeling that the smaller-sized tags on new clothes are flat-out lying to me. It's all so blurry and funhousey. I'm not sure how helpful I can be, but I can try.

First of all, I think this may be your trap: In order to stick to the diet/weight loss/exercise regime, I have to admit I'm fat. Try and reframe this; people don't have to believe they're fat in order to, say, go jogging every morning or avoid junk food. Think of your diet and exercise in terms of the good things they're doing for you instead. Exercising makes me feel refreshed, for example, or I prefer not to eat pasta because it makes me feel fatigued. People do need to eat well and exercise even at their ideal weight, so thinking "I'm doing this because I'm fat" will only hurt you down the line.

Along those lines, think of your progress in terms of the non-weight-related strides you've made, the new things you can do. It seems like you're thinking this way a bit already. Do you see any muscles that weren't there six months ago? Can you lift heavy objects with more ease? Are you sleeping better? Think of your body as your own, a tool for you to move around and get things done, instead of as an aesthetic object for people to look at and pass judgment. To most people, doing is much more attractive than simply appearing.

It might help if you went shopping for new clothes, if your old ones no longer fit. I don't recommend attaching the size on the label to your self-worth in any way, but if you're still wearing your old clothes, it might resolve some of the dissonance by confirming that you really are, say, a size 12 instead of a 16 like you thought. (Hopefully you will not be like me and suspect the tags of treachery.) And anyone, regardless of size, can look so much better in clothes that fit well. Bring a friend along if you can.

And finally, look in the mirror - not at the wobbles or cellulite, but look your reflection in the eye - and tell yourself you're beautiful. Say it out loud if you have to. Repeat as necessary. If you say it often enough, you will start believing it again, and the more beautiful you believe you are, the more beautiful you will appear to others.

If, down the line, you are still unhappy with the way you look, therapy might be a good idea. I know everyone suggests therapy for everything, but diets and workouts can easily lead to eating disorders, in which case it's easier and healthier to work through these issues sooner rather than later.

I wish you the best and hope you can be proud of your progress, because you certainly deserve to be.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:28 AM on August 6, 2008 [3 favorites]

Your post, and Metroid Baby's responses are chock full of similar notions that I have.

I lost about 80lbs about 5 years ago, and for the exception of a few stubborn pounds that keep bouncing back, I've kept it off.

Five years ago and I still can't look at myself in a mirror and be comfortable with what I see. I still see the old shape, with a little more loose skin. ;P But I do look at myself better than I did a year, two years, three years(etc) ago. (I do imagine therapy would speed this process up, but haven't found a good one yet)

The one thing I DO notice consistently is how much easier things are to take on. Exercise is not nearly as much of a chore as it was, I don't have knee/ankle/back pain when I walk, I can walk 10km with ease, etc. If you focus on the positives it will make the adjustment easier.

Consider clothes, too. I don't know whether you've been adjusting your wardrobe as your weight is going down, but having baggy, poor-fitting clothes doesn't do anything for the image, either. If you're still losing, it's frustrating to drop a large amount of money on tailoring/new clothes, so if there are thrift/consignment shops in your area, look for a couple of items that will suit your wardrobe and flatter your slimming self.

Good luck, and congratulations on your progress so far!
posted by irishkitten at 11:49 AM on August 6, 2008

"In order to stick to the diet/weight loss/exercise regime, I have to admit I'm fat."

As Metroid Baby said, this may be part of your problem. Find the other reasons to remind yourself to stick to your life changes, the ways that make you happy or feel better.

My therapist gave me a very helpful analogy once for any sort of major positive change: she loved her daughter deeply and unconditionally before the kid knew how to read, and would of course love her if she knew how to read or not, but loved her enough to want to help her do that thing that would make her life better. (Or something like that, I'm paraphrasing badly.) In any case, the love is the important thing. Love yourself as you are at every stage of the experience.

There's lots of great advice here. Depending on your overall perspective, new clothes may help (thrift stores rawk!), getting feedback from someone close may help (best friend, partner), focusing on activity may help, indulging yourself (in non-food ways!) may help. And yes, avoiding the mirror for a while might not be a bad idea; give yourself a chance to adjust in your head.

I lost almost 60 pounds between April 2007 and May 2008, and I remember having a distinct switch in my self-perception somewhere past the halfway point; I still have weird moments of: "these are my legs? really? and I fit into a size WHAT now?" (And I still am unhappy with my upper arms. 100 pushups FTW?)

I did get some nice external feedback a few times when I felt like I was struggling, as friends and people at work started to notice. If you are starting to get that and feel like saying "but I'm still so fat!" practice instead just saying "thank you". :)

Good luck, and have fun with your new self!
posted by epersonae at 12:25 PM on August 6, 2008

You'll always be able to find something wrong with how you look, no matter how big or small you are. Try to get away from that trap and, as others have pointed out upstream, focus on your achievements.

In order to stick to the diet/weight loss/exercise regime, I have to admit I'm fat.
Try saying "In order to stick to the diet/weight loss/exercise regime, I will strive to improve."

My formerly massive gut is now flabby, which is different but still not good.
"My formerly massive gut is now flabby, which is different but still not and good."

I can exercise for longer and run up stairs now...
Well, this one stands on it's own quite nicely. Make it your new mantra.

I could go on, but I'm sure you get the point. That internal critic started you on this course, but it's time for it to shut the fuck up and let your inner cheerleader pick up some slack: "Rah, rah, rah, you're fitter than you've been since high school/college/you started the desk job! Go you!" Seriously, you lost 25 kilos and kept them off! That's hard work! I know 'cause I've done it too and anybody who doesn't give you immediate, unconditional praise for that is clueless as to how much effort that took.

I'd also second the recommendation to pick up new clothes. If the inner cheerleader takes the day off and the critic comes back, dress to kill.
posted by lekvar at 12:36 PM on August 6, 2008

Nthing lekvar. Focus on the positive and honor the progress you are making now :)

Good luck!
posted by bradly at 1:56 PM on August 6, 2008

Seconding the "buy some new clothes" thing. I have had to replace all my pants twice so far. And I just bought a new suit for my sister's wedding (the only occasion in the last 12 years I've needed to dress up). On the one hand I cringed paying so much for something I will probably wear about once while it fits me. On the other hand, I kinda really like how I look in it!

You may not be a clothes horse now... but if you become one, you'll have a lot more fun with this. Each time you lose a size, you'll find things that didn't look good on you before that now look far better than you thought they would. Whole new vistas of fashion possibility open up; you can play at reinventing your look. It can be a lot of fun.
posted by kindall at 2:24 PM on August 6, 2008

i always recommend that anyone who is unhappy with their body or going through changes get a great haircut and color, get their eyebrows professionally shaped, and buy some awesome bags/shoes/sunglasses/jewelry/accessories.

some clothes that fit are also a great idea. tattoo, maybe?

perhaps you would benefit from setting some interesting exercise goals, to give your body a chance to impress you.

as for your sexual insecurity--maybe the solution is just to get out there and practice (safely). sometimes having someone else worship your body for a little while helps you see all the things that are nice about it, too.

good luck. if all this advice fails, get thee to a therapist. life is too short to hate your body. take care of this before it becomes a lifelong habit.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:29 PM on August 6, 2008

Another thing I thought of: when someone makes the decision to lose weight, particularly for aesthetic reasons, they can go through a bit of a paradigm shift. You kind of stop viewing your body as beautiful, or acceptable, or something that you might be a little disappointed in sometimes but fuck it that's the way you are and that's ok... and you start viewing it as something flawed that can't be tolerated as is, that needs fixing right now. This might explain why you're less interested in sex than you were 25kg ago. (Anecdotally speaking, the times in my life when I received the most male attention were also the times in my life when I was at my heaviest. Not because I was better-looking, but because I was more comfortable in my own skin.)

There's a book called Life Doesn't Begin 5 Pounds From Now - I haven't read it, but I greatly respect the author, and the title in itself is a worthwhile message. You may have that 10 kg goal in your head, but the day you wake up and step on that scale to see your goal weight will probably be just like any other day. We all have flaws, regardless of our weight; we're not perfectly-proportioned smooth skinny people buried in removable excess flesh. (My belly has been round through thinness and obesity because, shit, it's been round since I first noticed it at six years old. Same with my weird chin and big nose.)

It might help you to imagine how you'd feel if you stopped dieting right this moment and remained at this weight for a while. Imagine yourself taking a break and getting comfortable in your own skin, as if it were one of those comfy little nighties that you can sleep in yet feel totally sexy. (In fact, buy a nightie like that and sleep in it.) You don't have to stop losing weight, but with each kilo lost or each mini-goal you reach, take a moment to think "this is my body at this exact moment, and it'll be okay if it stays like this." Put your body in the context of the present and not the goal weight future.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:44 AM on August 7, 2008

Find a sport/exercise you -like- and do it for fun. Getting good at a sport is hugely motivating and a great self-esteem builder. You'll appreciate your body no matter what shape you are. Enjoy being stronger, more flexible, faster, and such, and not just thinner.

And it's okay to think "I'm quite beautiful, really."

Best wishes.
posted by allthingsbright at 2:16 PM on August 7, 2008

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