Body Image

Today I am proudly borrowing this post from Teresa1031, a friend from my online community, because I felt like she was speaking to me.

It’s been a while since I posted this but it’s one of my favorites. I’ve read posts here lately from people concerned about pictures, whether they look too thin, things other people say to them, etc. All are common issues with people who have had WLS, I believe. It means we have to work on body image. What we look like needs to be more closely aligned with how we view ourselves in our heads. 

I’ve written about this before (probably many times) because it was a tough thing for me. Some people can maybe just shift into a thin way of thinking, especially if they had been thin at one point in their lives. I don’t remember ever in my life thinking of myself as a thin person so it was a difficult adjustment.

My husband believes that unless you start thinking of yourself as thin, the changes in your physical self (weight loss) are harder to maintain. We fight hard to keep mind and body together. I made a list once of things I could do to help with the adjustment in my thinking. Not sure I can think of all of them again but maybe we can add to this thread…ideas to change your body image. How do you start thinking of yourself as a thin person and stop thinking of yourself as the morbidly obese person?

1. Take lots of pictures and study them. My husband has a nice camera and loves to take pictures. When I buy new clothes he has me try them on and he takes pictures so I can see what I look like. He takes lots of pictures. Sometimes I print them and I have kept a few in my desk drawer. I know it probably seems vain but I’m not showing them to other people as much as absorbing this new image of myself.

Sandy’s idea: Another way to see the changes is to take a photo with out your head, just your body. When you look at your own photo you see yourself in your mind not as you are. The headless shot shows the body without a veil in your mind.

2. Get rid of your old clothes and buy things that fit you. Find a store where the sales folks are willing to help. Tell them you have lost a lot of weight and need some assistance finding your size and what looks good on you. Or take a supportive friend along. Do not keep wearing the same old baggy stuff! Shop at thrift stores and discount stores until you settle into a size but don’t go around with safety pins in your clothes. Smaller sizes are physical proof of the changes in your body.

3. Don’t neglect your under garments. Some women appreciate lingerie and if you are one of them, buy some! They make you feel good and them help you appreciate your new body. Once as I was losing weight, my cousin took a photo of me and photoshopped my boobs up where they should have been rather than hanging down where they were…if you get my drift. It made such a difference in my appearance. Get some help with fitting from a professional if you can.

4. Measure yourself! Now there is proof that your body is changing. I measure myself the day of my first consult and once a month after that. My waist was 52 inches the first day and now it’s 28. I hold the tape out to 52 sometimes just to visualize the difference. Measure your upper arms, your calves, your neck, your bust, your waist, your thighs, and your hips. Make a chart so you can keep track of the changes over several years.

5. Alanis Morissette said:I think there is no better way to invite a human being to view their body differently than by inviting them to be an athlete, by revering one’s body as an instrument rather than just an ornament. It’s a really great way to reorient how you see your body so you can see it as this incredible, awe-inspiring machine that you need to fuel well in order for it to function.

Even if you don’t get into exercise, do something physical with your body. Recognize the things you can do now that you couldn’t do before your WLS. Can you run up steps? Can you pick up your grandchild? Can you carry two bags of groceries? Do you dance? I had WLS so I could DO things and paying attention to all the things I can do helps me cement the image of the new me in my head…which decreases the risk of going back to the obese person I was.

6. Brag about your efforts and your rewards. Your family and friends might get tired of hearing about it but we don’t here at your 24 hour a day support group! People who have been obese are not very comfortable bragging about themselves especially when it comes to their appearance or their athletic pursuits. Get over that! We love to hear about the wonderful changes that are happening in your life…your new size, your new exercise class, your new romantic interest. Get out there and live your precious new life and then come back and tell us about it!

7. Accept compliments graciously. When people tell you that you look good and healthy and strong, just say thank you and it’s been a lot of hard work. Don’t minimize the effort that it’s taken. Kathy adds: It was very hard to learn to just smile and say thank you when complimented; I kept pointing out what I thought was wrong…oh my arms are so gross….my stomach is so big….nobody else notices those things…it is just my mind trying to trick me into my old patterns and habits.

8. Deal with your other psychological baggage. WLS won’t make your life perfect but it sure helps with that obesity thing that hung around your neck for all those years. WLS won’t solve all your problems but it gives you a head start on a new way of thinking about yourself. Pinkie adds: If you are not ready to deal with the baggage, you likely are not ready for the surgery! Its a very tall order, but also a very doable one.

9. From Yvette: Get a full length mirror and look at yourself every day. I have one hanging opposite my bedroom door, so I can’t help but look at myself every time I walk out of the room.

10. From Chandra: It’s important to me to find areas of my body that I like, think about why I like them, and to remind myself of them, even by touching them sometimes, every day, several times a day. For example, I love my shoulders and arms, and the flatness of my belly (shrinkles aside). If I focus on them, I am not only reminding myself of how different I am now, but I am also focusing on the positive versus the negative aspects of my new body. And you know, even though the girls don’t look so hot naked, the fact that they are much smaller is a plus when I’m running, hiking, or playing a sport (and the right bra makes all the difference!). Yvette adds: I have recently fallen in love with my waist. I don’t remember it ever being this small. I keep looking for clothes that show it off. Lately I have caught myself smoothing my hands over my waist in the back. It’s like this reminder that “yup, I have a new skinnier body”…

11. Another one from Chandra: But perhaps the best way to remind myself is to deliberately move myself through or into small spaces whenever I find them. In the gym the other day, I looked at the space between the arms of two elliptical machines and automatically thought, “I won’t be able to get through that.” I recognized the thought, shoved it away, and mindfully thought, “Bet I can!” Then I did it – without touching either arm. Same goes for those walks through restaurants that we used to dread, walking between racks in clothing stores, sitting in an airplane seat, sitting in a restaurant booth where it looks to me like, “uh-oh, it looks like that’s going to be tight fit,” or sitting in a desk at my daughter’s school, among many others.

12. Another from Chandra: I think that the single most important way to correct our body image is to engage ourselves in mindful self-talk – to combat those negative thoughts about our bodies with new, more positive ones, and making it a habit, day in, day out. When we were MO we were obsessed with how awful we looked, so why not be obsessed with how good we look now?

I was just going to post a link, but you can’t get there from here unless you are a member. If you want to be a member, go to beforeandafterhelp.com and sign up. Great place, lots of wonderful people and useful information.

PS: Here is my headless torso picture. Without my own head in the picture, I find that it looks thinner. Strange, but fascinating.

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