Weight Loss, the Body Image Aftermath

It’s been a year since I opened up about my weight loss (read the original post here) and I could never have imagined the impact sharing my story would have.  Over the past year I’ve been contacted privately by more people than I could ever have imagined who were simply saying thank you for inspiring their own personal change. And that silly swimsuit picture has been viewed more times than I care to think about.

But the story doesn’t end with a happy, YAY-I’M-SKINNY-NOW-ALL-OF-MY-PROBLEMS-ARE-GONE. Poof! Magic!

There’s a lot more to it than that.  Like everything else, it’s not what what it’s made out to be.

There’s an aspect to weight loss that no one talks about and an aspect to life that we all struggle with – a mental aspect that’s a lot harder to change than the number on a scale.

In the months following my weight loss I was surprised to learn my body adjusted to the change faster than my brain. For a long time I was genuinely surprised when I saw my reflection. Why? Because in my mind, I still identified with being a size that I no longer was. For months afterward, when I went shopping I looked for baggy shirts that would hide a pooch I no longer had. I refused to wear shorts because I didn’t want anyone to see my thighs. I kept my hair long because I thought it made my face look thinner.

It’s been EIGHT YEARS, and to this day, when I look at myself in the mirror I still don’t see myself as being thin. It’s not until I see myself in a photo that I see me as the world sees me, and I’m still incredibly self conscious of the size of my thighs. They’re the first thing I see when I look at my own reflection.

Eight years and seven marathons later, and I’m still adjusting to my “new” body. Up until last year, I wore running shorts that were a size too big because I thought the ones that fit me made my legs look fat. Then one day out of necessity, I bought a pair of spandex because I was having range of motion problems with my shorts when I did running drills. It took a week for me to actually wear them out of the house. When I did, I couldn’t help but think everyone was staring at me.

Y’all, the last time I bought jeans they were a size 0 and I still have a body image problem. Psychological issues are serious business. They’re strong and long lasting. Building yourself up in your own mind is a long process regardless of where you are, where you came from, where you’re going or what others think of you.

The change starts in the mirror. We all have flaws, pieces of ourselves we don’t like – for me it’s my thighs – no, I don’t particularly like them but I try to remind myself that my thighs are what help me run. They are strong. They propel me forward. They catch me when I fall. It’s something I fight every day.

Every. Day.

No one is perfect. Everyone struggles. Our struggles may be visible, or they may not. They can internally motivate you to change or they can suffocate you. In the end it’s up to you.

That piece of yourself that you don’t like, take it and use it. Improve yourself. But know that change doesn’t come quickly, it takes time. For some of us, it takes eight years…and counting.

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