“Seeing is believing!” This is a very familiar idiom. Can we always see things accurately? Do we perceive what we have seen correctly? Do we always interpret what we have seen correctly? Honestly, no we do not! Why? Because some of us have perception/interpretation issues.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder
What is body dysmorphic disorder? There is a phenomenon called “Phantom Fat” (body dysmorphic disorder) which happens to many people who after having lost a tremendous amount of weight and reached a normal BMI, still see the obese person who they used to be. There seems to be a great amount of “lag time” between what we see and what we know. The mind-body connection has been broken/interrupted. Some people adjust while others never adjust and see themselves as they are now and regain the all the weight they have lost. Research has proved that changing body image is much more difficult than changing the physical weight on the scale.
When I started this voyage of greater health and weight loss; I hung a pair of jeans that I had not been able to wear in a few years on my closet door. I tried to squeeze into them and they were at least six inches from being able to be buttoned or zipped! I KNEW when I could fit into that pair of jeans; I would feel thinner, accomplished and healthier. Before I knew it, I was wearing those jeans and they became so big, I had to put them into my donation stack! But how did I feel? No different really. I was happy but I didn’t feel any different! This can be a real problem for people losing weight if they do not feel any different. Physically, I was feeling so much better. My energy levels were getting better, but I didn’t feel or see my body any different than I had at the beginning.
I had a picture taken of me back in January (not my choice!) when I first started Weight Watchers and put it alongside a picture where I had lost 20 lbs. (again not my choice) and then I asked a co-worker to take a current picture of me. I had just reached my 50 lbs. lost milestone. I added my new picture and put it beside the other two. What did I see? I could not see the difference between the first picture (before) and the current picture (during) after having lost 50 lbs. My co-worker said to me, “What do you mean you can’t see the difference? There is a huge difference!” I looked at her and shrugged my shoulders; I could not see the difference. Below are the pictures I referred to.
Despite what I haven’t been able to see in those pictures, I have kept focused and lost more weight since then. I will soon reach my 75 lbs. lost milestone and I will take a new picture and to put beside the previous pictures. That will be an interesting comparison to say the least!
I have read there are ways to overcome the body dysmorphic disorder and found some of the ideas/suggestions interesting. Apparently some people have a “light bulb” realization that their bodies have changed and are different and for others it comes much slowly. I think I am one of the “slow” learners in that regard. I will try some of the suggestions and see if any make things “click” for me. Here are some great suggestions for overcoming the body dysmorphic disorder:
One night at a family gathering, a woman’s sister, who is of average size, came up with an idea. She asked to switch clothes with her sister. She told her sister that she felt they were the same size. The sister put on her sister’s clothes and much to her surprise, they fit! That was mind-blowing that her tiny sister’s clothes fit! She found out she and her sister were exactly the same size.
“Lotion therapy” has helped many to connect their head to their body. Lotion therapy is very simple, each day you gently apply lotion to your whole body. This instills a person to “feel” their body, take care of it and give it respect. This re-connection of the head and body has prompted many to want to address her weight issues and to help them to truly know what size they are.
Tracing Shape/Size Exercise
A dance therapist who works with clients who have body dysmorphic disorder, pairs people off in her workshop. She tapes large sheets of paper against the wall and asks them to trace their partner’s body shape/outline. They trade places and the other person traces their body shape onto a large sheet of paper. When they both step away from the paper and see the outline of their body shapes they are often truly surprised by how small their shape really is.
To help get a more accurate picture of yourself, ask family and friends to cut pictures out of magazines of real women who are your size, to point out in crowds women’s bodies that resemble yours. When you look at the pictures, repeat this phrase: “This person is similar to me” several times. This will help your mind to embrace your new body shape. Seeing a stranger who has a similar body type/size will not trigger your emotional associations of seeing a picture of yourself. This helps to free your mind to accept your new body shape/size.
As children we often spun in circles until we felt a great sensation. The physical act of spinning helps your body to become centered and aligns your body’s energy axis. Throw your arms into the air, look toward the sky and spin! This exercise is believed to help your mind and body connects in a different way and allowing your mind to embrace your body and enjoy the feeling of being disconnected within.
Walking in the Dark
Turn off your lights and close your eyes and walk around the room. When you’re walking in the dark, you cannot rely on your eyes – or current picture. You’ll have to rely on your memory of the room, conscious and sub-conscious, and will have to have heightened senses to keep from falling over or banging into things. This will jog up your brain and your energy fields as well as you start sensing with your whole body. If you can do for about 10 minutes a day you’ll find yourself being more aware of your current body, not your previous mental image.
The connections between body and brain, front of the feet and heels, front of the body and the back all come alive because of challenge of walking backwards. This actually corrects blocks in the energy field in your spine and neck which are usually around if a person’s current body image and sub-conscious body image isn’t the same. (I do the elliptical backwards at times which I know engages different muscle groups and makes some muscles work even harder so this sounds reasonable!)
Hand Coordination exercises
Every time you do something that requires both the sides of your body to match each other, you are supporting the two sides of the brain in connecting up, and when this happens what follows is that the sub-conscious brain is connected with the conscious and helps body image to get corrected.
I haven’t tried these suggestions yet but I plan on trying each one of them and see what differences I notice/feel for each. Here is one I have experienced:
If you are having a hard time believing what you see, it is suggested that you go out for some retail therapy. Not to buy but to get a clear idea of the size you truly are now. Find something you like and select a size you feel would fit and head to the dressing room. Many have reported that they grabbed a size they felt would fit and ended up with something two sizes smaller to get it to fit properly. It is thrilling feeling when you try on something you thought would never fit and it fits! Earlier this year, I took a pair of size 16 pants (no “W” in front of the size) into a dressing room and thought I know these will never ever fit me and then when I pulled them up and zipped and buttoned them I was amazed! The pants were too snug to wear to work but I knew I was close to being able to wear that size, a smaller size than I had worn in a few years! (that size 16 pair of pants that I was so excited to wear are in the stack of clothes I can no longer wear – too big– I am preparing to donate!)
I keep “inspiration” clothes hanging on my closet so I can keep pushing forward to get into the next size, etc. It all started with that pair of jeans that I mentioned earlier. I have found “inspiration clothes” to be an excellent tool for me in my weight loss! This year that first pair of jeans, several pair of pants, another pair of black denim jeans and a new pairs of pants have hung on my closet door and have been able to join the clothes— inside my closet!
I currently have a green dress hanging on my closet which I keep eyeing that I want to wear for my birthday in five weeks. We shall see how close I come to accomplishing that goal! I know I can get my body into the dress now, but it fits like an extremely snug sausage casing! I feel ten more pounds and it should fit fine. If all goes well I will be posting a picture of me in that green dress soon! It might be for New Years instead of my birthday but either way, it is still good!
The other side of this coin is that I “know” those inspiration clothes are smaller than I was wearing previously but as I get into them, I start thinking, “Oh this must not be as small as I thought it was!” I have talked to others who have experienced the exact same thing. So I know I am not alone in this.
I am not sure what will be my “light bulb” moment, but I know it is coming! I know research has shown that those who can align their body image with reality are more likely to keep the excess weight off; I want to keep all my excess weight off, be active and be healthy! I will give a good update on this in the future, hopefully soon!
I promised an update and here it is! I have now lost 77.4 lbs and took a new picture, and I CAN see the difference! I have been trying to see myself differently and most of the time I do see myself differently but I am a work in progress! Last night I was laying in bed and could reach around (a victory in itself!) and I could feel my the back side of my rib cage. It isn’t buried like it used to be! I am now less than 10 pounds from what I weighed when my dad died in 2007 which is another major accomplishment! Goal and lifetime, here I come in 2014!