You don’t like the way you look, but your friends say you look great. You step onto the scale; the numbers are going down, you should feel accomplished! But clearly, both the scale and your friends are sugar-coating your progress; because you still feel big.
If you’ve ever been distressed (to the point of crying) about your appearance, you could be experiencing Body dysmorphic disorder or BDD. Consider the YouTubers, who have lost 100 pounds and then tell their followers that they are not comfortable in their bodies nor happy.
One of the first psychiatric mentions of BDD was by Enrico Morselli, an Italian psychiatrist, 100 years ago. So it’s not new. If you’re experiencing clinical BDD, you might regularly compare yourself to others or body-check in the mirror. Feeling like something is wrong with your body can additionally push you to avoid social situations, photos, or certain types of clothing. Basically, if you’re experiencing BDD, you think there’s something wrong with you while everyone else thinks you look perfectly normal. This is the most relatable struggle, no matter where you are in your fitness journey. There’s nothing worse than feeling like an imposter in your own body.
The pressure to be liked by others and by ourselves is frankly overwhelming. It overwhelms me! So it’s normal to feel anxiety after (and during) weight loss. But that anxiety doesn’t mean you have a clinical case of body dysmorphic disorder. You could experience something related, Vanderbilt Health calls it ‘phantom fat.'
While weight can be quantified by a stepping on a scale, a person’s self-image is a more abstract thing. Our beliefs, experiences, relationships, cultural context, and behavior all play a part in how we think and feel about ourselves. If some of those areas haven’t changed despite the weight loss, a person might still feel the same way about themselves as they did when they were heavier.”
-Giovanni M. Billings, Psy.D., a Surgical weight loss psychologist for Vanderbilt Health
Don’t sabotage yourself by only seeing your body as only a number. If you want to lose weight forget the scale, just throw it out. Treat your weight like a gender reveal party every time you go to the doctor. Get excited but know you are going to love it no matter what number it is. Because here is the thing, your journey should never be about shedding pounds or making gains. You should be about living your best life. That includes overall wellness and mental health.
Honing in on weight loss can trigger disillusioned views of our bodies and self-worth. Keto, Paleo, Gluten-free- none of those diets will work if you only do them to drop the pounds. You need to adopt the whole lifestyle. If you don’t you are going to set yourself up for failure or a lot of emotional setbacks.
The problem of ‘feeling big’ even though progress is happening, just means you need to shed the mental weight. Your mental health is a huge predictor of your ability to get healthy. Before you start any diet, check-in with yourself. Ask how you can nurture your spirit and mind so they can support you throughout your wellness journey.
You still feel big, because your perception of yourself has not changed. Why do you want to change your physical appearance?
Carrying around the emotional weight of phantom fat will push you to give up on your wellness journey. The anxiety to look the way you want to can lead to an ever-present feeling of defeat. When you have been meeting realistic milestones.
If your body image has ever lead you to isolate yourself from others, feel like a failure, or negatively affected your mental health- find someone to talk to. The Office of Women’s Health offers a helpline you can call to find more resources on this matter.
And remember what you are feeling, It is reasonable. There is so much hype to love yourself and be the best you can be every single day. We can easily be overwhelmed by how we view ourselves, and what we really look like becomes distorted.
Being less-than for even a day is painful. I have found that those less-than feelings are always about something more than how my body looks. So then I have to ask, why am I putting so much pressure on myself to look a certain way?
If phantom weight is something that we carry around in our minds, what put it there? Were you bullied or endure a toxic relationship for far too long? Do you suffer from a chronic condition or illness? If any of these are the case, addressing that is where you need to start. Weight loss can happen, you can change your life, but first, you need to do it for the right reasons.
Getting healthy should be a healing journey. Every time I have tried to lose weight, and I did not approach it holistically, I ended up disappointed. Chances are you will end up frustrated too because it was never about what your body looks like, to begin with.
It has and always will be about how you perceive yourself.
I hope this article will inspire you to take a moment to pause. How grateful can you feel toward your body, that will carry you through this extraordinary life!
Klarrisa Arafa, BCRX Content Writer