Perceptions are not always reality. The truth is, I am led to believe that our immediate perceptions are rarely reality – especially our self-perceptions. We do know it is easier to see flaws and concerns from the outside – for example when scrutinizing others’ relationships. How is it that we can wear rose-colored glasses for our relationships, but see ourselves so negatively? A phenomenon that I am sure I will never quite understand.
As a woman who has gone from overweight to athletically fit, I know the struggle of lagging self-perception. If you’ve ever lost a decent amount of weight or significantly altered your appearance, you know what I am talking about. You look in the mirror and you see the “fat girl” you used to be. Then you see a picture of yourself as you are today and you say to yourself, “that cannot be me!” You might even take that picture over to the mirror and look between the two, baffled. In the end, you walk away from this experience believing that the ‘fat girl’ you saw in the mirror is what is real: An unfortunate and inaccurate self-perception.
Psychology experts have coined this “Phantom Fat” syndrome – likening it to that of the psychological phantom limb theories of pain. If you’ve had it and lost it, you see the fat as still there! It takes time for the mind to catch up to the physical body in this realm – and some individuals need the guidance of a psychologist to address body image concerns if they linger. Those who have lost significant amounts of weight and have excess skin or cellulite are at greater risk of the “Phantom Fat” phenomenon, as the body is often still perceived as far from perfect. Another contributing factor to “Phantom Fat” may be the constant fear of weight regain that so many of us hold onto.
Think back to a romantic relationship that had been scrutinized by others but you perceived to be perfect – after the relationship ended and those rose-colored glasses came off, didn’t you in retrospect see what others saw and realize that you were in a better circumstance out of that relationship? Just as it takes time to grieve the loss of a relationship and get to the stage of acceptance, we often need to grieve the loss of fat. It takes time. Sometimes we wonder if it is worth all the hurt and the pain (e.i., sweat and hunger pains!). The longer the relationship the longer the ‘recovery’ period? The longer you perceived yourself as a “fat girl” the longer it may take recover as see yourself as you really are today.
So I ask this: What is your relationship with your body? This is the most intimate relationship you will ever be in! Your journey may be long – but just like recovering from a heart break – it is SOOOO worth it!