What is body image distortion? Body image distortion has nothing to do with whether you’re overweight, at an ideal weight, young, old, male or female. “Double vision” as some people call it, is when can’t see your beauty because all you notice are “imperfections.”
It can also mean that you see yourself differently from the way you actually are. For example, you might be slim, but you see yourself as heavy.
It can become a habitual way of looking at oneself, and it’s extremely common for those who have lost a lot of weight. Body image distortion can happen after weight loss when your head hasn’t yet adjusted to the new proportions of your body.
How Body Image Can Affect You After Weight Loss Surgery
Imagine you’ve had weight loss surgery. It’s been a couple of years since your procedure, and you’ve lost around half your body weight, about 150 pounds.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing. You had to learn what you should and shouldn’t eat. You gave up simple carbs. You learned to love protein. You made time to exercise every day.
It doesn’t matter which procedure you had, but let’s say it was laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery. Patients typically lose a lot of weight quickly after this operation and continue to lose gradually for several years.
It wasn’t always easy. Sometimes you didn’t feel well. There were a couple of setbacks when you ate a treat that was once a staple. A sugary dessert. It made you physically ill and sent you running for the restroom.
At times you felt blue. But now, mostly, you feel happy. The work is paying off. Not only have you succeeded in reaching your target weight, but most of your obesity-related conditions have reversed.
Your tests show an improvement in blood pressure and cholesterol. You’re no longer considered pre-diabetic. Your joints don’t hurt. You’re more active and energetic. You ride bikes with your kids, take hikes, and you’ve completed a handful of 5k and 10k races.
Just about everything in your life is different since you’ve lost weight. Deep down you’re the same person you’ve always been, but being free of the restrictions of morbid obesity has changed how you live in significant ways.
But, one thing is the same: You look in the mirror and see a fat person. You think of yourself as being overweight. You still head for the plus-size clothing section in stores. Sometimes you even make self-deprecating jokes about yourself.
How Does a Healthy Body Image Help With Weight Loss?
A healthy body image is essential for happiness and can affect your long-term success at maintaining weight loss. Recognizing your accomplishments is part of reinforcing the good habits you’ve established. It’s not productive to keep seeing yourself as you used to be.
Body image distortion can be temporary and minor, or it can be more pronounced and lasting. It’s understandable that you’ll need a period of adjustment. Body image is formed in childhood and adolescence. If you were overweight as a young person, your self-image may be entrenched.
You may have spent years, even decades seeing yourself as fat. The weight loss after bariatric surgery can be so rapid that your perception of your body can’t keep up.
The aftermath of weight loss surgery is a huge change, possibly more transformative than other milestones such as getting married or having a child. As with these other game-changers, you need time and support to cope.
In short, you deserve to enjoy the results of your hard work. Here’s how to avoid body image distortion after weight loss surgery.
Attend a Weight Loss Surgery Support Group
Whether you’re just thinking of surgery, have recently had surgery or are a few years down the road, there’s a group for you. Weight Wise offers support groups with trained professionals to offer advice for nurturing a positive self-image.
Support groups help you handle the changes and challenges after weight loss surgery. Participants share tips, techniques, stories and emotions. You’ll meet and chat with others who have similar or very different experiences. You’ll feel uplifted, understood and welcomed.
Embrace the New You
For some, losing weight is akin to losing a ball and chain. Obesity keeps people from doing all that they want to do. Embrace the new freedom and opportunities that open up after weight loss. Start a new sport. Shop for clothing. Take a ballroom dance class.
Try things that were once out of reach because of weight or health. Focus on the differences you feel. For example, before surgery perhaps you couldn’t walk up stairs without feeling winded. After losing weight, not only can you go up stairs, it’s possible you can climb a mountain! Over time, completing these once impossible activities helps you to identify as a thin, active, healthy person.
Try An Affirmation
What about self-affirmations? Do they work? They do for some people. At the very least they work on the principle of “fake it until you feel it.” That may not sound like a ringing endorsement but think of it like this: If you keep repeating something positive, it can displace the negative internal chatter.
While affirmations aren’t a cure-all, it’s worth trying them out. Find something you like about your body, and repeat that to yourself. When you’re on the verge of a saying or thinking something negative, use an affirmation.
An affirmation can be whatever works for you. Some people like to repeat things that they aspire to. Others, like to stick with something they’ve already achieved. For example, if you had weight loss surgery and have begun to lose weight, it’s entirely accurate to say, “I’m strong. I never give up. Look at how much progress I’ve made.” A statement like that is truthful and positive and reminds you to give yourself credit.
Focus On the Positive
Whether you use affirmations or not, you can get into the habit of being positive. Focus on what you can do today. For example, if you’ve been able to jog for a block for the first time in years, celebrate! In time, if it’s your goal, you’ll extend your endurance to complete longer distances.
Talk to yourself in a positive way. If you’ve been in the habit of being self-critical or a perfectionist, learn healthier ways to cope. Recognize and praise yourself for your accomplishments. Acknowledge setbacks as a temporary lapse. Take time to enjoy each milestone in your weight loss.
Reach Out for Help
At WeightWise, we offer pre-and post-operative counseling and care. Your success and happiness are vital to us. If you’re struggling to find something to love about yourself, even though the scale is telling you you’re succeeding, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Please attend an online or in-person informational seminar. They’re free, no-obligation and our experts will be more than happy to assist you with answers to your questions.