Weight Loss – it’s a Mental thing

12 Mar 2019
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A couple of years ago I lost nearly 3 stone over the course of a year, but when I look in the mirror I don’t see a reflection that looks much different from my previous heavier self. I know physically I’m smaller, after all I have dropped 3 dress sizes: I was a ‘hearty’ size 14 (meaning squeezing into a 14 but really more comfortable in a 16), and now I have size 10 jeans in my wardrobe. So, why don’t I feel thinner?

Actually the cause of this disparity in image versus reality lies within my mind. It has similar traits to eating disorders (but without the serious side effects of, say, anorexia) and it is also rooted in the images that surround us on a daily basis, those conflicting arguments of being fat versus being thin.
Now, I’m a pretty happy person – my husband would say I’m annoyingly optimistic! Even when I was unhappy with my heavier weight I still had many moments when I looked in the mirror and thought “Looking good!” whilst of course sucking in my tummy. So basically I knew I was overweight (by the way this doesn’t mean I was unfit – I was going to the gym 3 times and week and I ‘ran’ in the London Marathon the year before) but I genuinely think I didn’t see the real me, rather like wearing rose-tinted glasses or looking at one of those old-fashioned distorting mirrors which make you look taller and thinner, or shorter and fatter. And I think my general positivity – or annoying optimism – played a huge part.
Had I leaned towards anxiety or depression I believe I could have gone the opposite way and thought I looked much worse than I did – and this is where the eating disorder connection comes in: many people with eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia) see themselves in this distorted way. Even when they are way below a healthy weight they still see a fatter version of themselves and this in part drives the desire to lose more weight (along with other mental health issues and a need to control some part of their life), weight that they can ill-afford to lose.
So it is not their real appearance they are seeing but rather a mental picture of how they think they look. And our mental state plays a huge part in our outlook and how we view ourselves and the world at large.
Back to my weight loss and personal image: whilst I optimistically thought I was ok, on an intellectual level I know I needed (and wanted) to lose some of that weight. At this point I had been on and off diets all my adult life – at age 19 I was a size 10 (of course I didn’t appreciate my body back then!) but the years, bad habits and two babies take their toll…
The trigger to finally shift the weight for me was when I entered my first triathlon – and nothing will motivate you more than seeing a Lycra tri-suit hanging on the wardrobe ready for you to climb in it!
So the key change was my mind set and remember, I had tried numerous diets before without much success and certainly not keeping weight off for any length of time: I had a solid goal in mind – the thought of swimming, cycling and running in public in my tri-suit!
And I didn’t go on a diet, rather I found a lifestyle that worked for me, I lost nearly 3 stones and dropped several dress sizes but I still maintain my ‘diet’ with moderation. Losing weight is not a one-off and back to how things were, it is a mental shift in attitude towards food that can achieve weight loss and, crucially, weight stability.
That’s why so many people yo-yo diet, losing weight and regain the same or more. They are dieting for a period but then going back to their old habits but their relationship with food has not changed, whether they eat from habit, for comfort, misinformation… the change needs to start within the mind itself before you can have achievable and sustainable weight management.
Hypnotherapy helped me to determine what my goals were and kept me there, and I continue to use it to help maintain my weight now.
So it’s okay that I don’t ‘see’ a slimmer me because intellectually I know that I am slimmer. I know my clothes are smaller, my fitness has improved (just by shedding the pounds my running pace has improved without any conscious effort), my flexibility and strength are the best they have been and my health is better.
And I’ll continue to be annoyingly optimistic and see the world through those rose-tinted glasses 🙂

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