Weight loss isn’t all beer and skittles. In fact there will be very little beer and very few skittles. It’s weight loss. Duh. Saddle up because this shit is HARD.
It’s worth it of course in the end but given that this is a long process, here’s a reality check about a few things to be prepared for after you start losing weight.
1. You may become more critical of your body before you learn to love it.
When I started losing weight, and I mean serious weight, it was like a light bulb was switched on and all of a sudden I saw myself in a way I hadn’t in a long long time. It’s a protective mechanism, I believe, that some of us, when we’re overweight, live full-time in denial.
I used to look in the mirror and I didn’t see my 91kg, I just saw myself with the round face and the ‘curves’ I’ve always had. In some ways this denial is helpful because the alternative of daily self-loathing is not a desirable state either.
It’s much nicer to have a more positive self-image than a negative one. However if we’re blind to the truth and therefore to the health implications of our excess weight, then denial is not a true friend.
When I suddenly woke up to my actual size and started to lose weight, ironically I became more critical of my new, slimmer frame than I ever had been when I was bigger. And that was surprising, and disappointing.
Wouldn’t it make sense to be loving myself more as I lost weight?
Shouldn’t my self-love be increasing in proportion to my decreasing size?
Wasn’t I finally getting what I had always wanted?
Perhaps for some people it does happen this way, but from the informal polling I’ve done, it’s pretty common to start out with small goals, and then as they’re reached, those goal posts shift and we never really feel like we’re ‘done’.
The real truth is that our self-image bears only the loosest connection to our actual size. I probably only love my body marginally more for the way it looks now than I used to, but I absolutely, categorically love my body for what it can now DO.
The empowerment that comes when you start losing weight is the game-changer.
Weight loss is as much a head game as it is a physical challenge. If you think weight loss is going to automatically translate into a positive body image, then you may be in for a surprise.
2. Your skin will loosen and you may start to feel flabbier.
Similar to the above, many of us feel we actually look worse after weight starts to come off than we did before, and it can feel like a painfully slow process for your skin to realise that there is less of you to cover, and start to shrink down to your new size. It will happen, but slowly.
Be proud of that extra skin, drink lots of water, continue to exercise with a focus on strength training, and it’ll happen in time.
3. Your friends may start telling you you’re looking ‘gaunt’ or ‘too thin’.
This is a phenomenon I definitely noticed when I was still quite a way from what I considered my goal weight. I don’t know where it comes from. Jealousy? Well-meaning concern for your health perhaps?
I have also speculated that it could be from a warped perception we now have in the Western world about what a ‘normal’ body looks like – we’ve come to accept excess weight as being just par for the course.
It may also be the case that your friends, family, whoever is expressing ‘concern’ is worried that you’re changing the rules on them. If you’re changing yourself, and believe me, so many things in your life will change as a snowball effect of losing weight – what does that mean for your relationships with those people and the roles you’re each used to playing?
My advice for dealing with those people is either to ignore the comments and let your happiness soothe away their concerns, or gently probe to try and get to the root of their concerns. Either way, expect this, and be prepared to address it without defensiveness.
4. You may be tempted to swap your fat pants for judgy pants.
Nothing’s more irritating than a reformed smoker/drinker/gambler/ebay addict, right? The same goes for someone who’s discovered nutritional enlightenment.
The more you learn about nutrition and the ‘right’ way to eat for your body, the more you’ll see poor food choices and a general ignorance towards good nutrition everywhere you look. The size of servings will start to shock you.
The way people just pile extra cheese/butter/whatever on to their plates mindlessly might make you feel a little ill. When you go past a drive-through and see the line of cars full of already overweight people you might quietly shake your head in disgust.
When you’re out with your friends for a meal and everyone’s just trying to enjoy themselves, take my advice and don’t be that person. Leave the judgy pants at home, otherwise no one will feel like they can ‘really’ eat in front of you. Or they’ll feel silently judged for that garlic bread starter or side of fries.
Some ways around this are to either scope out the menu for where you’re going in advance and decide what you’re going to order – suggest a restaurant where you know that almost anything that anyone else orders (not just you) is nutritionally ‘sound’, OR give yourself a night off and reassure your friends that you can still eat like a boss when you give yourself permission.
5. You’ll keep picking up the wrong size clothing in a store.
Remember what I said earlier about warped body image? After you start losing weight, you may never really truly get a handle on your ‘real’ size. I still don’t know how big/small I am.
I know what I see when I look in the mirror but I don’t know what anyone else sees or where I really ‘sit’ on society’s weight spectrum. When I’m shopping for clothes now I still naturally gravitate towards larger sizes, and I am still tempted to dress like a ‘fat girl’ and hide myself under layers.
It takes time to get your head around these changes. Almost overnight (that’s how it feels although of course it’s actually a long process to change your body and your life), you’re suddenly both more and less visible.
People see you differently and you’ll see yourself differently – as if through a warped, foggy lens that will gradually unfog as your mind and body realign to each other and their new harmony.
Patience and compassion – for yourself as well as others – will be your greatest weight-loss virtues.