I have a lot of friends on a weight loss journey like mine. It never fails, they start and before long I always hear the same thing…
“I’m killing myself! I’m eating well! I’m working out!! But it must not be working because I can’t see it”.
I always respond the same way… a light chuckle followed by “Ahhh…you are dealing with seeing your skinny…that’s completely normal”.
This is usually followed by: “No!! I’m not like you I bet you love that now you wake up everyday and feel skinny. I want to be that way”.
There are a lot of challenges to dieting. A lot of dark sides, bad moments, and although you may think that giving up sugar or bread would be the hardest part…it is not. The toughest challenge by far is “seeing your skinny”.
Seeing success or “your skinny” is like gasoline to your motivation and willpower. When you feel like you can’t walk away from one more carb you need to see that all you are doing is working so you can replenish that motivation and keep going. The more gasoline a car has the farther it goes right? Same concept for your weight loss…the more success you see the more you want to continue.
There is just one problem with relying on “seeing your skinny” to replenish your motivation and keep you going…the amount of weight you lose has absolutely no effect on your ability to see your skinny.
In other words, just because you lose the weight doesn’t mean you are going to see your skinny.
Perhaps this is the reason why so many people stop dieting. They get to a point where they simply can’t see their skinny and they get discouraged. They don’t “see” the loss so they don’t think it’s working and then they question why they are restraining from that piece of cake. It’s not working anyway, so eat the damn cake right?
It’s the classic debate we’ve had our whole lives ever since our Santa days: “Do we need to see to believe?”. Unfortunately for us on weight loss journeys the answer is usually “Hell yes I need to see the weight loss!! I want to look in the mirror and know I look good. SHOW ME THE SKINNY!!”
In fact, I think if we are truly honest with ourselves this is really our goal on this journey… not to fit in a smaller jean size but to finally be happy with that girl staring back in the mirror.
Okay so in order to succeed at dieting we need to see our skinny. Sounds easy right?
Oh my friends, it most certainly is not. Here’s what I’ve learned that I wish someone would have told me 100 pounds ago…
Just because you lose the weight does not mean you are going to see your skinny!
Actually, it’s okay no one told me this. I wouldn’t have believed them if they did. I would have laughed and said “Oh no not me!! When I hit size 10 I’m going to feel like Heidi Klum!! I’m going to strut around town Project Runway style and know I’m skinny! Those crazy skinny people who don’t see that their bodies are amazing are just crazy!! I’ll never be like that!! I’ll wake each day saying Damn I look good!!“.
Yet here I am 125 pounds lost and I want you to read my words very carefully…
I don’t always see my skinny.
Yes you read that right, so I want you to read it again. I DON’T ALWAYS SEE MY SKINNY. I still have those days where all I see are my flaws, all I focus on is all those negative self image thoughts of myself.
In other words, here at 125 lost I still struggle with some of the same body issues I had at 300 plus pounds.
But Mandi, look at a before and after…it’s so easy to see the change!!
Well, easy for you but not for me…because our views are much different.
To understand why it’s so hard for people to see their own skinny, I want you to think of a movie theater. You and I are going to the movies together. We walk in and take a seat. The movie we are seeing that night is “My Skinny!” …a happy, fantastic, I look hot and amazing image of me. And I’ve been waiting my whole life to see this movie!! We both sit down to look at it. Now, you next to me have a unobstructed view of that screen…so you can see it plain as day. Nothing blocking your view. It’s right there.
But I, right next to you do not have a clear view to that movie screen. Oh far from it! Instead of your clear visual field, I am blocked by 30 years of body shaming issues that are lodged in my self-esteem. And because I’ve spent my whole life dealing with these negative thoughts they are massive!! From the first moment I felt fat in 4th grade all the way to my rock bottom moment that started my journey when I had to explain to my daughter why she had to sit with me on an airplane instead of her friends because I couldn’t fit in the seats with other adults. All of these things have created a large block to my vision.
So it’s just like someone sitting in front of me in that movie theater. Only, it’s not just a regular person. Oh no! All those body image problems I grew up with have manifested themselves in the form of a huge beastly 500 pound 7 foot tall giant that walks into the movie theater and sits right in front of me, blocking my view of my skinny. So now our views of my skinny are completely different. You can see it, I am blocked.
Get the point?
We all have our own giants in front of us when we try to see , our own “skinnies”. This is why you can go to a store and see a size zero person standing in a mirror looking at herself in a new pair of jeans and talking about how big her butt looks. You may think that she’s crazy because all you see is the fact that one leg of your jeans is bigger than her entire pair, but remember you have an unobstructed view…you have no idea how big the giant is in front of her view.
So yes everyone of us struggles to see our skinny sometimes…and I’m here to tell you that losing weight will not somehow make you immune from these moments.
In fact, I recently had one of these moments. I was standing in my bathroom changing into my pajamas. I had finished a Body Pump class where I had used heavier weights and so I was still a bit high off the “I’m strong” feeling I get when I lift. You know.. the “I’m queen of the world” workout high we all love.
I looked at my reflection in the mirror, sat down in the movie theater so to speak. Only this moment I didn’t see my skinny. Far from it. That giant of 30 years of body shaming issues completely blocked my view and he was all I could see. My thighs looked big, I noticed the saggy “there was a baby here” parts of my belly, my excess skin parts of my body that were left from this loss seemed so much larger.
And instead of attempting to look around that giant in front of me, I continued to obsess about that giant. All my flaws…all my self esteem issues flooded back. This of course led to a tailspin of doubt that flooded into my brain… “Is it still working?” “Am I gaining weight?!?!” “I work out everyday… what the hell!!”
I turned from side to side desperately looking for my skinny, but by that time I had focused so heavily upon the negative body issues there was nothing I could do to see it.
So as you might do if you didn’t see something in a movie, I quickly sought out reinforcements. I immediately opened the bathroom door and did the classic interrogation that every husband dreads. The “there is seriously no right answers to these questions so just get out alive” interrogation.
“Look at me?” I said. “Do I look bigger to you?”
My husband is no stranger to this moment, and he is no fool, so he didn’t answer that and instead just laughed. He told me I was absolutely crazy, of course I didn’t look bigger. He looked at me like I was completely insane. I simply walked back to the bathroom and told him he didn’t understand.
And he didn’t understand. I mean how could he? Remember he’s sitting in the movie theater with no giant in front of him preventing him from seeing my skinny. He can see it plain as day.
I went back into the bathroom and looked again. Only this time I recognized that the reason I couldn’t see my skinny was because of the big giant and I needed to look around that. We all know that if someone sits in front of us at a movie, we can still see, we just have to be a little creative…maybe strain our neck to one side, sit up higher, move around a bit. So I started to make a conscious effort to see around all the negative thoughts.
So yes, these moments happen to me from time to time, no matter how much weight I lose. And yes, they will happen to you too…quite often in fact when you first start.
I have no great answers for you on how you can get better at seeing your skinny. I’m certainly not an expert, because a year into my journey I still have plenty of these moments. But here’s how I deal with the giant in the movie theater:
I start by really focusing on my thoughts, making a conscious effort to recognize each negative thing coming in my mind. Once I do that, I try and redirect the thought. I make an effort to stop focusing on the stuff I can see, and start focusing on what I can DO and what I can FEEL. I remind myself constantly that those things are the true victories. So it goes something like this:
Me in the mirror: “Do my thighs look bigger?”
“Nope not thinking that way… bigger or not those thighs just managed to do a zillion squats in Body Pump class… so moving on”.
Yeah you are going to have to talk to yourself A LOT when you are losing weight, trust me!
By continuing to do this, I’m shrinking that giant beast of a man sitting in front of me in my movie theater blocking my skinny. Each time I succeed at doing this he gets a little smaller making it easier for me to see…he’s not 7 foot tall anymore, but he is still in front of me and still plenty big. But each time I succeed in looking around him, he shrinks. But I am fairly certain he’ll never really go away.
So what I want you to do from here on out is recognize that losing weight does not equate with seeing your skinny. The two are not dependent on one another. What effects your ability to see your skinny is learning to tame that giant sitting in front of you…and this is something you are going to have to work at. Your skinny is there ready for you to see it time and time again…but you need to work at shrinking down the negative thoughts, one by one by one. If you do that, I promise you will basking in your skinny for many years to come.