- 5 Things to Know About Body Image After Weight Loss
- Your reasons for losing weight likely impact how you feel afterward.
- Weight loss can lead to a really positive relationship with your body.
- But even if you feel great physically, the emotional side can tell a different story.
- Body acceptance has nothing to do with how much you weigh.
- If you’re struggling, you can use these tips to get back on the right track.
- Seeing Double
- What Role Do Other People Play In Your Body Image Distortion?
- Beating Negative Thoughts
- Shop: Colorful Winter Coats
- Why Losing Weight Doesn’t Always Lead to Body Confidence
- 5 Tips to Build a Healthy Body Image After Weight Loss
5 Things to Know About Body Image After Weight Loss
After you lose weight, most people assume you’re feeling healthier and happier—and you might be.
But adjusting to a new body size can do a number on your self-esteem, no matter what the number on the scale says. You may not recognize yourself anymore and face body issues such as stretch marks or loose skin.
You may even struggle with receiving attention or compliments stemming from your weight loss. In fact, one study found that losing weight doesn’t automatically make you happy.
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It can even lead to a higher risk of depression and anxiety.
Our experts explain how weight loss affects body image, and they share their best tips for positive body acceptance.
Your reasons for losing weight likely impact how you feel afterward.
According to Mayra Mendez, Ph.D., a psychotherapist at Providence Saint John’s Child and Family Development Center, weight loss usually occurs in order to change life habits.
This is in an attempt to be healthier, as well as to improve endurance, energy levels, and mobility.
However, sometimes people are motivated to lose weight based on external pressure and idealized social norms.
Or they want to gain acceptance and value from others. With the first type, body acceptance is more likely, but with the latter, self-image tends to be more negative.
“Body image after weight loss can be very tricky,” says Erin Wathen, a food addiction counselor and holistic health and life coach.
“Even an extra 15 pounds can be an excuse to not go for the big job or the rationale for why we don’t speak up for ourselves in our relationships. We have to reconcile what the extra weight did for us. Maybe it kept you safe—e.g., not having to go back into the dating pool after a breakup. Or it served as a human shield from criticism for choices you made as a parent because of your size. If everything about being a different weight was bad, we wouldn’t have stayed there as long as we did. The key is identifying it, acknowledging it, and finding a new thought process for not staying small in our own lives.”
Weight loss can lead to a really positive relationship with your body.
“Let’s start with the good,” says Aaptiv Trainer Kelly Chase.
“Weight loss can improve your body image. You will gain more confidence in your new size, appreciate the dedication you put in to achieving your weight loss goal, and be inspired to want to help others feel happy and confident, too. I do believe that everyone, no matter their size, can have a positive relationship with their body and beautifully accept their curves. On my own weight loss journey, I personally have accepted my body much more now that I have lost unwanted weight. But when I was heavier, I would try to say positive affirmations daily to shift my mindset and accept my body for what it was, which helped keep as much of a positive mindset as possible.”
Weight loss can encourage a desire to take care of your body, look in the mirror and feel good about yourself, and more regularly identify with parts of your body you really like.
Additionally, Mendez says, it can reinforce healthy behaviors and validate feelings of accomplishment regarding your weight loss goals.
But even if you feel great physically, the emotional side can tell a different story.
Many people who have lost weight know firsthand the difficulty of looking good on the outside but struggling emotionally on the inside.
That’s common, says therapist Heidi McBain, and hearing praise about losing weight doesn’t always help because it either reinforces you were overweight before or emphasizes the physical versus who you are on the inside.
And if you’re constantly comparing your body to other people, or it doesn’t feel like you’ve lost “enough” weight, shame can be the prevailing narrative, Mendez says.
That’s because body image is perceptual, not physical. This means that even if you lose weight, you may see yourself as larger, heavier, shorter, or stockier than you really are, she adds.
“Weight loss doesn’t always create a positive body image,” Chase says.
“It can result in having loose skin, losing your muscles or curves or booty gains, and having stretch marks. It may also create an even bigger problem, like fear of food or fear of eating too much and gaining weight again. It’s best to surround yourself with positive people, or even a health coach, to support you on your journey. So you’re surrounded by positivity and people lifting you up, which should create a positive mindset.”
Body acceptance has nothing to do with how much you weigh.
“Weight loss is not at all a surefire path to body acceptance,” says Devin Alexander, who has maintained a 70-pound weight loss for more than 20 years and now serves as the chef for NBC’s The Biggest Loser. She explains that many people don’t have a realistic view of themselves due to drastic body dysmorphia.
“In my case, I dropped 70 pounds, was a size two, and still thought I wasn’t attractive. landed me in Overeaters Anonymous after many broken plans because I couldn’t find anything to wear,” Alexander says.
“I had always thought that if I was a size two, I’d be able to walk into a department store, throw anything on, and look great. Instead, I stopped feeling girlie because I still had big hips, and my chest and curves were disappearing. When I got my head straight and gained a few pounds back, I realized my body is best at a size four. Not overly lean, but fit.”
The bottom line, Mendez concurs, is that body acceptance requires each person to go on an individual journey. It takes more than weight loss to challenge negative perceptions.
By believing you deserve and have a right to happiness and contentment regardless of your weight or how your body looks, you can start to see your own value.
“Body dysmorphia can affect anyone no matter their size,” Chase says. “I have known many women, who either lose weight or have always been thin, who have unhealthy or negative body images of themselves and think they’re ‘fat.’ The mind, at this point, needs to be shifted. You transition your mind from negative to positive self-talk.”
If you’re struggling, you can use these tips to get back on the right track.
“Sometimes the hard work—keeping the weight off—begins once we’ve reached our goal size or weight,” Chase says.
“Therefore, surrounding yourself with empowering and supportive friends and family or even a new community of friends will do wonders for your self-esteem. promote positive body acceptance.”
Here are some tips for body acceptance after weight loss, per our experts.
- Maintain a realistic perspective by reflecting on the goals you set for yourself.
- Write out and say positive affirmations daily.
- Believe that you have a right to be proud of your efforts.
- Start a meditation practice to help you feel more centered and grounded.
- Take photos of yourself to see your progress.
- View yourself as a whole person, not just a person who lost weight.
- Keep a gratitude journal to focus on all the positives in your life.
- Give yourself time to adjust to the physical, psychological, and emotional changes that come with weight loss.
- Dress for your new body, or hire a stylist to help you find clothing that makes you feel great.
- Share your journey with others.
- Talk to a counselor for support around body image distortion or negative thinking patterns.
“As part of my recovery, I started wearing a baby picture of myself in a locket ring with the commitment that I would never say anything to myself that I wouldn’t say to a small child,” Alexander shares.
“It’s amazing how mean we are to ourselves. I forced myself to behave with love toward myself like I do to everyone else, which changed my mindset massively.”
Talk to an expert.
Pay attention to red flags that can indicate you need more help on your path to body acceptance.
Mendez says these often include overwhelming or paralyzing negative thoughts and feelings, withdrawal from friends and family, lack of hygiene or self-care, neglecting responsibilities or tasks, or increased substance abuse.
Chase shares that looking back, she experienced a lot of fear around eating and gaining weight. It wasn’t until she put trust in a health coach that she overcame that fear to have a more positive relationship with food and accept her body.
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“We speak to accountants and financial advisers and arborists and attorneys and so many other professionals who have studied topics that we haven’t,” Alexander says.
“So why do so many people have a tough time turning to trainers or psychologists or other personal experts? It takes strength to recognize that you don’t know everything and might benefit from another person’s expertise. If you’re struggling, as Nike would say, just do it.”
Have you lost a lot of weight yet still ‘feel fat’ or think you look overweight? The truth is, your brain takes time to adjust, and body image distortion after weight loss is a common side-effect for a lot of people. It doesn’t mean that it is something than can’t be overcome.
Over the past seven years, 12WBTer and mum of three, Louise has worked hard to lose a huge 35 kilos. Louise admits that long term weight loss was very much a ‘two steps forward, one step back’ process for her. But, reaching her goal also culminated in fulfilling a lifelong dream: to run 10 kilometres! “Wearing a size 12 when I used to wear a 22 isn’t so bad either,” Louise laughs.
However, Louise is also experiencing and unexpected down side to her weight loss – a bad case of double vision about how far she’s come and how much her body has changed. “I’m still trying to get my head around the changes; I’m still surprised when I see photos of myself.”
This manifests in other ways too.
“I’ll be at a BBQ and find myself making a fat joke because I used to be the fat person – only to realise I’m being offensive to half the people around me because I no longer look like a person who has the right to make that kind of joke,” says Louise.
“Or, I’ll walk into a shop and not even contemplate trying things on, or head straight for the large or extra-large rack without realising I probably need a medium. It’s a constant re-evaluation of my reality, and while I know logically that I’m skinny for a fat girl, and I’m looking absolutely fantastic for someone who used to be 35kg heavier, I’m still not where I want to be.”
This ‘double vision’ is a good way of describing body image distortion, says Professor Phillipa Hay, from the Mental Health School of Medicine and Centre for Health Research at the University of Western Sydney. Professor Hay is also the co-editor in chief of the Journal of Eating Disorders.
“Often the rapidity of weight loss can play a part in it occurring – your brain and your neurons are catching up to your new persona, and not as quickly as your body is changing. But, I think it’s common for many people who’ve lost a lot of weight to struggle with it. Small children can readily accept changes in their bodies – say, if they suffer severe burns – because they’re in the process of laying down those images and views of themselves. But when you’re an adult your view of yourself is very much ingrained, and it can be difficult to reconcile changes with who you are as a person, because the person you think you are is very much also tied in to the body that you have,” she explains.“It can be a distressing and confusing experience for people.”
Weight loss in itself is a major life change, much like getting married or migrating to another country, and we need time to adjust, she adds. “We did a small study on people after bariatric surgery and many said they just weren’t prepared for the stress of the life adjustment after the weight loss. While for many people losing weight is a positive thing, you still have to integrate the changes in your own body image and your perception of self on all levels.”
What Role Do Other People Play In Your Body Image Distortion?
It may also come as a shock to find out how other people relate to you after you lose weight. “When people are heavy there’s a stigma, and a difference in interpersonal encounters,” says Professor Hay, “which is quite different to the way people relate to you when you’re thin. So that can be a major psychological adjustment too.”
Louise agrees, and says she’s been quite surprised at the number of people who’ve noticed her weight loss and told her not to lose any more weight.
“Those kinds of comments feed into what’s happening for me internally,” she adds. “My goal now though is to get into the middle of my healthy weight range – I’m at the top end of it right now. Just the idea of hitting a healthy weight range was the ultimate for me, I though I’d never get there. I’m also conscious that some people are never happy no matter where they get to and that’s a risk. So it’s absolutely about fixing how you feel about yourself as well as your body – actively working on that.”
Beating Negative Thoughts
Positive self talk is a biggie; it’ll help your mind adjust to your new physical reality. Doing things you couldn’t before is also key. “Get to know your new body, buy clothes, do a dance class or something that was really difficult for you before,” suggests Professor Hay. “All those things can help you adjust.”
Louise’s strategy is to give herself time, and learn to appreciate what her body can now do as opposed to how it looks.
“Looking good is great of course, but for me it’s about feeling better” she says. “The other day, a friend said to me, ‘I’m struggling to walk up the stairs. I’m puffing’ and I realised, yeah. I remember those days. So, what’s worked for me is gaining a sense of belief and confidence in my body. I mean, I can run 10km! That’s a huge achievement. I’m strong, I’m fit, and I’m healthy… It’s a different way of appreciating yourself.”
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Photo: Julia Kozerski
Just after her wedding in 2009, when she weighed 338 pounds and became determined to lose much of it, photographer Julia Kozerski embarked on a new art project. She took photos of herself in department-store dressing rooms, documenting her body’s transformation as she lost what would end up being 160 pounds.
Scroll through the series, “Changing Room,” on Kozerski’s website, and you’ll find, at first, pretty much exactly what you might expect: full-length selfies, with Kozerski’s lovely smile growing larger as her body grows smaller. It seems like a fun, empowering project: Kozerski, 29, is fond of animal prints and platform pumps that draw attention to a unicorn tattoo near her left ankle. You could literally chart the development of her confidence by the height of her hemlines.
About two-thirds of the way through the series, though, two unexpected images creep in: extreme close-ups on Kozerski’s face, devastated, tear-stained. They’re jarring: What happened to the smiling, excited woman in heels?
A possible answer lies in another set of self-portraits Kozerski took inspired by her weight loss. Called “Half,” it is a series of nudes with a much more sober, even confrontational tone: These photos highlight Kozerski’s stretch marks, loose skin, stretched navel, sagging breasts. She looks, unsmiling, down at her body, or out into the distance.
“I kind of put it out there, in the world, to be like, ‘Fuck you – this is real, this is what you need to see,’” Kozerski laughs over the phone from her home in Milwaukee.
The “Changing Room” photos place Kozerski in the conventional story our culture tells about weight loss: the no-brainer cause and effect of “Look Great, Feel Good!,” as cheerfully suggested by People magazine’s weight-loss cover stories and The Biggest Loser’s original theme song. The “Half” photos, by contrast, explore Kozerski’s surprise at eventually finding that happily-ever-after image lacking.
“Everything starts sagging, and you’ve got stretch marks, and clothes fit differently, you’re kind of panicking, and you’re saying, ‘Am I doing the right thing? Because this shirt doesn’t look right,’” she says. “I was very, very – I don’t want to say depressed, but I would get really down on myself about, like, ‘I’m not doing this correctly,’ or, ‘This isn’t what it’s supposed to look like.’”
For Kozerski and many like her, the experience of significant weight loss is much more psychologically complex than the multi-billion-dollar diet industry, with its beaming “after” photos and promises of a new life, acknowledges. After all that work, it can be a disappointing blow to discover that bodies that have lost 50-plus pounds simply don’t look like bodies that have maintained a steady weight since reaching adulthood. (While cosmetic surgeries like those detailed here can treat loose skin, stretch marks, and sagginess, they’re also expensive, invasive, and mostly absent from the fairy-tale weight loss success stories we see depicted so often.)
“You sort of feel like someone shortchanged you on the satisfaction of things,” explains John Janetzko, a Harvard grad student who has lost 120 pounds. “I feel, oddly, more aware of everything – when I lean forward, if I feel like I have any stomach fat that’s there. And it’s strange, because I’m like, ‘Well, how did this not bother me before?’ … It becomes this nagging, incessant reminder of, you did something, but maybe it wasn’t enough, maybe you should keep going.”
Beyond just the surprise of a new body that still may not conform to the social standard of how a beautiful one should look, reaching a goal weight often leaves ex-dieters bewildered as to where to go from here – and upset to find that even after this tremendous accomplishment, they still aren’t completely satisfied with their bodies.
“I haven’t spoken to a single person who lost a ton of weight and didn’t have some issues with their eating habits or body image after it was done,” Janetzko says. “And I’m pretty sure if you asked them at the beginning, they all thought that it would just be magic, and they would feel better automatically when they lost the weight.” Despite now being a very lean 166 pounds at just under six feet tall (and training for a marathon!), Janetzko says he still doesn’t see a thin or fit person when he looks in the mirror.
“While you’re dieting and the scale is going down, it’s incredibly motivating when you get on the scale,” explains Dr. Judith Beck, a psychologist who specializes in applying strategies of cognitive behavioral therapy to weight loss. “After you’ve been at the same weight for months and months and months and months, it’s no longer thrilling to get on the scale.” And continuing to work hard to maintain a new body that feels alien is a task even more complicated than achieving that body in the first place.
For at least some newly thin people, there’s a meta-dissatisfaction in feeling that significant weight loss has made life anything other than perfect: Any discomfort you may feel with your body is compounded by a sense of shame at not feeling unmitigated pride at a moment you expected to be triumphant.
“It’s a fantasy, that when we lose weight, everything wrong in our lives is going to be right — that means our relationships are going to be right, we’re going to feel completely differently about ourselves,” says Geneen Roth, a New York Times bestselling author of books on eating who also leads retreats and workshops, and who herself lost between 60 and 70 pounds in her late twenties. “People are shocked to find out that this thing that they’ve been longing for and waiting for and working for is not what they thought it was.”
“I don’t think exclusive to large amounts of weight loss. I feel like that often happens with people who are really successful, who have really made it,” Roth says. “And then they find that, ‘Oh, this doesn’t do what I thought it was going to do, and now I feel ashamed that I’m still unhappy.’”
Even when talking about her weight loss, Kozerski says there’s no room to share the full experience – like when she went on a popular talk show to share her story. “They’re putting me in Spanx, and I’m like, ‘This is not what I want to talk about; this is not at all how I want to come out,’” she says. “I would rather put it all out there.”
“If you walk into the grocery store, you see on display – this person lost all this weight, and now they look like this,” Janetzko says. “A rational human being would look at it and recognize, ‘Oh, okay, it’s edited.’ But you do still feel kind of guilty; like, I look at that and think, ‘Well, I lost that much weight, and I don’t look like that.’”
Reps for People declined to comment for this story because an editor wasn’t available to explain some of the magazine’s choices – retouching “after” photos in weight-loss spreads, for example, or strategically hiding the kinds of unflattering features Kozerski’s work focuses on, like loose skin and stretch marks. As for The Biggest Loser, executive producer Dave Broome, reached by e-mail, argues the show’s primary emphasis is on health, not aesthetics: “When you have one foot in the grave (as many of our contestants do when coming on to the show), being concerned about what your skin might look like after you lose weight becomes a minor issue compared to dying or having a significantly shorter life span because of obesity-related issues,” he writes.
Broome also mentioned that contestants have access to psychological counseling both during and after filming. And in his view, the show doesn’t present weight loss as a shortcut to self-acceptance: “Coming on to The Biggest Loser isn’t a magic pill that fixes you for the rest of your life.” Still, it’s hard not to get that impression when you visit the website for the Biggest Loser Resort, a fitness retreat affiliated with the show: “Everyone deserves a long, rewarding life, amazing relationships with friends and family, and satisfying and productive careers,” it helpfully points out. “That all starts with a balanced, healthy lifestyle.” Which you can achieve, presumably, by losing weight.
Cultural fantasies of weight loss present a tidy, attractive proposition – lose weight, gain self-acceptance – without addressing the whole truth: that body image post-weight loss is often quite complicated. Perhaps that helps explain why the rate of recidivism among people who have lost significant amounts of weight is shockingly high – by some estimates, more than 90 percent of people who lose a lot of weight will gain it back. Of course, there are lots of other reasons: genetic predisposition towards obesity, for one. For another, someone who’s lost 100 pounds to get to 140 pounds will need to work harder – including eating much less each day – to maintain that weight than someone who’s been at it her entire life. (Tara Parker-Pope’s excellent piece “The Fat Trap” explains these physiological factors in much greater detail.) But what about the psychological? Who would be surprised if a person – contending with both a new body that looks different from the one she feels she was promised, and the loneliness of feeling there’s no way to express that disappointment – returned to the familiar comfort of overeating? At least its effects are predictable.
So how can we better prepare extreme dieters for the reality of losing so much weight? Beyond more realistic portrayals of what post-diet bodies look like, we might also do well to reduce our emphasis on numbers – on the starting weights and goal weights that define the “beginning” and “end” of weight loss. The people I spoke with who had lost significant weight either never had a goal weight in the first place, never reached it, or saw it change during the course of their diets. In Dr. Beck’s diet plan, she explains, “We define ideal weight as the weight that you get down to when you’re eating in a healthy way that you can keep up with for your whole life.”
Maybe diet culture could stand to take a page from sobriety culture, too. Just as you don’t complete the twelve steps and celebrate with a bottle of wine, the idea that extreme weight loss has an end point after which life reverts to “normal” leaves dieters with very little recourse once the thrill of weight loss has ended. For those who have struggled with food, maintaining new habits is a lifelong, day-by-day process.
Weight-loss discourse would be healthier, too, if more focus were placed on the small, measurable, tangible positive effects it has on our lives rather than the giant, life-defining, theoretical, eventually unattainable ones. John Janetzko, for example, spoke glowingly about the new role sports play in his life – he’s discovered he loves doing something he’d never felt confident enough to try before. Julia Kozerski waxes poetic about farmers’ markets and bike rides.
The most important thing, though, is to stop allowing ourselves to be told that everything would be different if we could just lose the weight. Big, important things about people’s lives do change after they’ve lost weight – and yes, often for the better – but no one becomes a different person. You’re still you, even when you’re half of your former self.
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Data published by the World Health Organization estimates there are more than 1.5 billion, yes, billion people around the world who are overweight. That’s a whole lot of overweight people.
In my experience, issues with weight are directly connected with issues of self-esteem. The more self-esteem a person has, the better able he or she is to make healthy food and exercise choices.
As a concept, self-esteem isn’t complicated. It’s simply our capacity to love and nurture ourselves. But while the concept of self-esteem is straightforward, building our self-esteem can be difficult. People with low self esteem fall into the “oh-why-bothers” and make bad decisions concerning themselves.
The best way to get out of the low self-esteem trap is to engage in “esteem-able” acts. Instead of trying to think yourself better, the following concrete steps can move you along a healthier, more esteem-able, path:
- Take one small action each day that positively impacts the world around you. The key here is to think small. Pick up a piece of garbage that you see littering the sidewalk. Hold the door open for someone else.
- Fake it until you make it. Push yourself through your resistance. Hold your head high when you feel like slouching. Smile at a stranger when you want to turn away your glance.
- Start an affirmation journal. Each morning, take 5 minutes to fill up a page of a medium-sized journal with 2 positive affirmations about yourself. Be guided by the person you want to be. If you feel heavy and unattractive, write in your journal, “I am fit and lovely.” If you have a hard time speaking up for yourself, write, “I have a strong and clear voice.”
The key here is to get into ACTION! Because low self-esteem is so deeply engrained in our psyche, we must take little steps to reach the summit of emotional and physical health. Along the path, you’ll see how your insides will guide your outsides. The weight will come off and you’ll radiate beauty from within.
Why Losing Weight Doesn’t Always Lead to Body Confidence
Photo: Malte Mueller/Getty Images
At her highest weight of 263 pounds, Leah K. didn’t think she could be more unhappy with her body. The 33-year-old had been battling her weight her entire adult life. And despite her best efforts to exercise and eat healthfully, the weight wasn’t budging. Not only was she suffering from chronic physical health problems, but the years of dieting had also taken a toll on her mentally. Her self-esteem was rock bottom and she spiraled into an eating disorder. Finally, she made the decision to try bariatric surgery. It wasn’t a choice she made lightly. But it seemed her best chance to regain her health, inside and out.
After the surgery, she quickly lost 100 pounds and at first was delighted with her new body. But she discovered that while she looked different on the outside, she felt the same on the inside. The weight loss didn’t magically cure her self-hate or the eating disorders. “I began to recognize that shaming, blaming, and hating yourself doesn’t work to lose weight, and losing weight doesn’t work to fix those feelings,” she says.
Leah isn’t alone in her post-weight-loss mental struggles. Many people do see an improvement in their self-esteem and body image after losing weight-but some find the opposite is true. (Like this woman who was less happy after reaching her weight-loss resolution.)
“In our current era of ‘reality-based’ cosmetic surgery television and over-the-top air-brushed social media, many weight-loss patients may hold unrealistic expectations of what they will look like and what their life will be like,” says Ryan Neinstein, M.D., a board-certified plastic surgeon at NYC Surgical Associates, who has treated many patients in this situation. If you hold on to that unrealistic ideal-thinking that once you get down to your goal weight that everything will be perfect and you’ll suddenly love your body-you may discover that you still have body image issues even at your “dream” weight, he explains.
For Leah, she also discovered that the weight loss caused her to hyperfocus on other “problem” areas like the loose skin on her stomach and arms. Anna K., 29, had less weight to lose but says she experienced similar feelings. After working hard for a year to drop 15 pounds, she says she expected to feel fabulous but she didn’t. (Related: How One Woman Learned to Love Her Body After Weight Loss)
“I’d counted every calorie and never missed a workout and it had worked,” she says. “Except it hadn’t. Before, I’d hated my stomach. And while my stomach was now flat, all I could see were my thighs. They seemed so big in proportion to the rest of my body. I transferred all my hate to them.”
There are many other ways this post-weight-loss depression can manifest. Some women say they still “feel fat” even when the scale says otherwise. Others report being angry at people who ignored them when they were heavier but are now kind or attracted to them at their lower weight. Still others say they feel like an imposter in their own skin or they’re worried that people will be disappointed or won’t love them if they gain the weight back. These issues are as real and as painful as any physical problems, but treating them can be tricky.
Self-image is a very complicated issue and is affected by a variety of factors, not just weight, says David Greuner, M.D., surgical director at NYC Surgical Associates. One key factor is the person’s mental health history. A majority of obese people report symptoms of depression and anxiety, according to a study published byJAMA. And while weight and mental health are intertwined, simply losing the weight isn’t enough to resolve mental illness. You need to treat both conditions, he says.
“I find that past emotional trauma can distinctly have an effect on someone’s perception of their physique, regardless of their true appearance,” he says.
He recommends getting professional help to resolve mental health and body image issues. A therapist specifically trained in body image issues can help you resolve lingering feelings. In addition, building a solid social support network, with friends and family who love you and are willing to listen, helps a lot as well. Your loved ones can help you see your true beauty by reminding you of what they see in you. Lastly, he encourages people to focus on the positive aspects of weight loss that aren’t related to appearance. (Anna Victoria: “My Transformation Wasn’t Just About Looks”)
“I try to have patients focus on the overall benefits of their weight loss, such as better mobility, athleticism, and heart health,” he says. “I also try to help them understand that what they have accomplished took a significant amount of discipline and effort to achieve. It’s easy to forget how far you have come once you have reached a more favorable situation. But by taking a second to appreciate your achievements, you will often feel much more satisfied and fulfilled.”
Leah, with the help of her therapist, was finally able to turn her feelings around. “It takes years of unlearning to get rid of those negative thoughts,” she says. Her mental shift included ditching her old disordered dieting behaviors. While she still does many of the same things-eating healthfully and exercising-she says she now does them as a way to love and nurture herself, rather than as a punishment. (Related: The 10 Rules of Weight Loss That Lasts)
And this time it’s sticking. Even though she’s regained some of the weight she originally lost, Leah says she’s never felt healthier or happier with her body. “I can honestly say now that I love myself and it’s such a great feeling.”
- By Charlotte Hilton Andersen @CharlotteGFE
Today, I want to talk to you about how to gain self-esteem and its connection to losing weight. Now, I don’t think it’s any surprise to realize that the respect we have for ourselves is closely tied to how we treat ourselves, how we treat our bodies, and how we allow others to treat us in relationships. A great way to gain self-esteem, is to act and respond to situations in a respectful way. You make the effort to make the right choice. Not just because people are watching, not just because someone might find out, but because it gives you pride… but because inside you’re proud of the decision you’ve made. You didn’t take the easy route. You took the right route. It’s not always complicated, but it is sometimes difficult.
Often times, people, they take the easy route and that’s how they end up ten pounds overweight, twenty pounds, fifty, a hundred. That’s how people end up divorced. That’s how people end up with children with major problems in terms of behavior, because of taking the easy route when the child cries and throws a tantrum.
It’s much easier to say, “Okay, fine, here, we’ll do this.” It’s sometimes more difficult to do what’s right. But, in the long run, you will have more respect. You’ll have more respect for your body, for your relationships and all the other areas of your life.
In order to improve your self-esteem and respect yourself, you’ve got to make the right decision, whether people are watching or not. You’ve got to feel good about what you’ve done and the choice that you’ve made, whether it’s the decision to go exercise, the decision to eat right, the decision to engage in negative addictions or poor behavior choices. The decision to hang out with the right people to do what’s difficult, to do what’s challenging, but to do what you know is right.
Each time you do that, you build self-esteem. As you continue to build that self-esteem, It becomes easier and easier because it becomes a habit. Making those right decisions, doing what you know you have pride for, is a habit and that habit will build upon itself. You’ll feel your esteem grow. You’ll feel your self-respect grow. You’ll feel yourself actually having an easier time with making those difficult decisions. Believe it or not that’s going to help you with your journey to lose weight or maintain the weight loss. Make the right decision… I know you can do absolutely anything! I say it every week and I mean it! It does take thought, it does take stopping yourself and realizing I’m worth it, I need to respect myself, I need to make the right decision for me. I deserve this!
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In a new study, slf-esteem in some overweight girls didn’t bounce back, even after their body mass index returned to normal.
It’s easy to think that losing weight will solve all the body image and self-esteem issues that one grapples with. But that’s not the case, as many people know from experience. Now, a new study shows that formerly obese young women may continue to have self-esteem issues, even after the weight is lost.
In the study, 2,000 Caucasian and African-American girls were followed for 10 years, beginning when they were between nine and 10 years old. Based on body mass index (BMI), they were placed into one of three groups: normal weight, transitioning from obesity to normal weight, and chronically obese. The participants filled out questionnaires about their self-image every other year during the study period.
The next steps in Mustillo’s work will be to pinpoint the periods during youth when people are more or less susceptible to the “stigma of obesity.”
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African-American girls started out with lower self-esteem if they were overweight, but those who lost weight gained more self-esteem over time than Caucasian girls did. The self-esteem of Caucasian girls who were initially obese was also lower than normal weight girls, but it stayed fairly constant over time, even after they lost weight. In other words, it did not “rebound” as it did for African-American girls.
5 Tips to Build a Healthy Body Image After Weight Loss
The moment is different for everyone. You might notice that your fingers aren’t quite as fleshy when you’re washing them one day. You might realize that a necklace sits lower on your chest. Or you might need to tighten your belt a notch in the morning. Whatever signal you get that your body is changing, it’s a welcome event. Because while of course you’re losing weight to improve your health, you’re probably also excited to look better than ever.
But don’t be caught off guard if you experience other emotions as well. “When patients are focused on weight loss, they only think of positive aspects and assume it will solve all their problems,” explains Alexis Conason, PhD, a psychologist in private practice in Manhattan and a researcher at the New York Obesity Research Center at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital. “But it’s hard adjusting emotionally and physically to a new body.”
You might not like the way your body looks at first, especially if you see cellulite for the first time, or newly-loose skin. And even if you’re thinking, “Damn, I look great!” you might be overwhelmed when everyone from your bus driver to your sister-in-law tells you the same thing. With your closet full of now-oversize clothes, the thought of shopping for new ones might leave you panicked. Some people feel vulnerable – more sensitive to colder temperatures – without that extra weight covering their body.
How can you get over that “weight loss shock” and enjoy your healthier, slimmer shape? Give your mind and body a chance to catch up to each other, with these expert ideas.
1. Don’t micromanage your mirror image.
Stop scrutinizing your drooping breasts or dimply thighs. Instead, congratulate yourself on your success. “Recognize what your new body can do for you,” urges Conason. “Every morning, think about one thing you’re grateful to your body for. It can be ‘I love the way my body is strong’ or ‘I can lift a heavy weight’ or ‘I can walk up stairs without losing by breath.’” Practically speaking, it can take several months for skin to tighten up. Help the process along by taking toning yoga or strength training classes. (If you’ve lost a lot of weight, you might want to look into plastic surgery to trim the excess skin.) As for those expensive firming creams, the jury is out on whether they work, but it can’t hurt to show your skin a little love with some coconut oil or shea butter.
2. Prepare yourself for attention.
Some experts say excess weight can serve as a kind of emotional cloak of invisibility. So when you shed those protective pounds, you might feel unprepared to deal with attention. Janis Rosenberg, PhD, a psychologist in private practice in Culver City, Calif. who specializes in body image, recalls treating one client who wasn’t used to well-meaning flirting from men. “After she lost weight, all the attention almost felt like an assault, so we worked on her feeling more powerful on the inside,” she says. Rosenberg suggests visualizing an inner “wise woman” who can deflect the come-ons for you: Think about what she looks like, how you feel when she is present, what words she would say to you to help you tolerate the uncomfortable moment. Over time, you’ll feel stronger inside.
3. Accept awkward compliments gracefully.
It’s hard to believe, but after a while, you might tire of friends and family remarking on your new body size. After all, you’re still the same person inside. “If someone says you look better now, it can feel like they’re saying you didn’t look good before,” explains Rosenberg. Her advice: Quit taking it personally. “Wow, you lost a ton of weight!” may sound more like a backhanded compliment than a sincere one, but always assume the source has good intentions. “You’re in charge of how you take it in,” she says. If you’re uncomfortable receiving praise, Rosenberg suggests practicing by giving yourself compliments in the mirror so you get used to them. And remember that fame is fleeting. Eventually, people will get used to your slimmer shape, and you’ll become “you” again.
4. Get cozy in your skin.
When you lose that extra padding, it’s common to feel sensitive to colder temperatures. Even in the summer, an over-air conditioned room can feel alarmingly chilly. Always carry a sweater or wrap, and tinker with your home thermostat until your internal thermostat adjusts. You might also feel exposed or “naked”—even with clothes on, explains Rosenberg. The sensation can come on strongly and suddenly, and it helps to figure out in advance how to soothe yourself until it passes. Try taking a hot bath, wrapping yourself in a thick robe, wearing baggy clothes or practicing yoga. Over time, the vulnerable feelings will be less frequent. “As you grow into a healthy body esteem, you’ll feel more comfortable,” says Rosenberg. “You own your body.”
5. Shop your comfort zone.
You need new clothes—that’s a fact. But if shopping hasn’t been fun in a long while, you might be reluctant to head back to the dressing room. If that’s the case, go easy on yourself: As soon as you have the time and money, head to a store where you already feel comfortable and just grab a handful of smaller sizes. Then head to the dressing room. Try on everything and don’t obsess about numbers; many stores engage in their own unique “vanity sizing”—meaning you could be a size 12 at one place and a size 8 at another. Once you’re feeling bold, experiment with different clothing styles. Go ahead and try on that strapless dress you never thought you could wear. It might look great now.
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