On Phantom Fat (or Body Dysmorphia), Accepting Your Body Type, Reshaping the Body and Getting Stronger, and Loving The Skin You’re In
Okay, my title is long but hopefully this post will not be too long. Many people who have lost a substantial amount of weight suffer to some extent from body dysmorphia—some mildly, some severely. It takes a while (often years) for the brain to fully catch up to the body. I’m not in the camp of thinking I’m still a size 24. But I sometimes forget I am now a size 6 (and some 4s on top especially). I sometimes am genuinely surprised when I try on an outfit and it fits. Sometimes I pass by a mirror and don’t fully recognize my image for a few seconds. Sometimes I scan a seat on the train in between two people and wonder if I’ll fit. I always do but feel nervous at first. That’s because when I was obese I always spilled over into the next seat and even when tired I would have rather stood than risk embarrassing myself by squeezing into a seat. For those of us who have been obese for decades, it can be a longer journey to really SEE our new bodies, especially when we’re still a work in progress. As I slowly increase muscle, I like looking slimmer but am frustrated by changes such as my belly fat not shrinking as fast as my chest (which honestly just can’t—I hope—shrink further :))
Two days ago I put on a dress that I felt went well with my shape (smaller on top, curves on hips). I received compliments but I looked at my picture and just saw my smaller upper waist and wider hips. Those hips! My husband just shakes his head and says “THIS is an ideal woman’s shape; every guy knows that.” But apparently every woman hasn’t gotten the memo. 🙂
I wore this dress to go see the movie The Black Panther and go out to dinner with my family. I even made a meme joking about how it was the knockoff version of actress Lupita Nyong’o’s red carpet dress (see meme below). My older daughter is so nice and always says I could model like Lupita. I answer, Lupita is tiny. When looking up information on her, I discovered that she too is a size 6. She’s a little shorter than me and my hips are wider but hey, I thought, we can’t all have the same shape and measurements. At the end of the day, I decided to continue working on SEEING my real me and to accept where I am on my journey, including my shape.
“Body-image experts say it’s not uncommon for people, especially women, who have lost a lot of weight to be disappointed to some extent to discover that they still aren’t “perfect.” The excess fat is gone when they reach their goal weight, but they may have sagging skin, cellulite or a body shape that they still deem undesirable. Like Hicks, some even continue to see themselves as though they are overweight.
Some specialists use the term “phantom fat” to refer to this phenomenon of feeling fat and unacceptable after weight loss.
“People who were formerly overweight often still carry that internal image, perception, with them,” says Elayne Daniels, a psychologist in Canton, Mass., who specializes in body-image issues. “They literally feel as if they’re in a large body still.”