I’ve gone from a size 12 to a size 8 in a relatively short amount of time and I still see a fat girl when I look in the mirror. Sometimes I see a bigger girl than I used to when I was heavier.
I’m a size 8, and I still pick up size 12 pants and dresses when I’m shopping. Size 8 pants look like muffin top makers to me. And I’m shocked when they actually zip because there’s no way I could fit into a size I haven’t been since high school. I have myself thoroughly convinced that I’m still a big girl.
The scariest of them all; I have a pair of size eight jeans in my closet I have yet to wear. They still have the tags on them because I have it stuck somewhere in my head that they just wont fit, even though I’ve tried them on several times with repeated success. It’s super weird and a bit emotional and I can’t really get my head around these changes; it feels like this size is only temporary and that I shouldn’t go out and buy new clothes because I’ll just balloon again because I’m destined to be heavy for the rest of my life. Instead, I’m still wearing a pair of size 10 jeans, even though I spend half of my life pulling them up as I climb the stairs to my office.
Aside from feeling like I’ve gone fucking nuts, I feel jipped. Where is the confidence I was promised? Isn’t it my time to be planning a trip for super awesome swim time? To feel utterly fabulous? To be able to get dressed in the morning and leave the house in the first thing I pick out because there is no longer such a thing as an unflattering dress that make me look like a whale? Shouldn’t shopping be a happy fest of ‘damn, I look fine’? Not so. To me, I look exactly the same. Still changing clothes 100 times. Still leaving shop after shop under a cloud of frustration. I’m not blowing all my cash on a trip to Portugal or Spain so that I can be seen in a bikini for the first time in years. No bathing suits. On occasion, whale status.
But I found this — and if you can get past the requisite Oprah-ness, it really happens to a lot of people: self-image takes its sweet ass time to catch up to the physical changes in the body. Apparently, this is a thing — a delightful little phenomenon called ‘phantom fat.’ After a person experiences weight loss, their perception of themselves can sometimes take its sweet, sweet time to catch up to the body’s physical changes. They can continue to carry around imaginary excess weight after the real pounds have been dropped; experts have likened the phenomenon to the phantom pains amputees feel long after a limb is gone. Yes! Experts! This is a real thing and I’m not alone on the crazy train.
But I’m worried; what if I lose more? Will weight loss like this cause me to lose my shit, adopt eight cats, and wear muumuus for the rest of my life? Will I go crazy and eat twelve boxes of Jaffa Cakes because I won’t be able to see the changes and think that all the restrictions are for nothing?
I’m realizing that getting to know, respect and love my body – no matter what my size – is just as important as proper nutrition and fitness. As it turns out, the emotionally destructive relationship I’d had with my body all this time was doing just as much damage as my shitty diet.