The SparkPeople Blog

Poll: Does Your Body Image Change With Your Weight?

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
9/1/2009 6:24 AM   :  176 comments   :  16,437 Views

We all know itís very easy to develop a negative body image when we feel like our own bodies donít match up very well with media images of the ďperfectĒ body. Sometimes, even very minor imperfections can be the source of much dissatisfaction.

And I imagine that most of us who set out to lose weight and/or improve our fitness are hoping that our body image will improve as our body changes.

But is that what always happens? Does body image improve along with your BMI score?


Apparently not for a lot of people, according to this article from MSNBC. Especially those who lose a lot of weight or those who have a history of losing and regaining weight several times. Most people who lose weight report more satisfaction with their bodies and what they can do, but this doesn't always translate into improved body image.

For some, their "new" body never feels quite real, as if they're not sure the weight loss and increased fitness will last very long. Others literally can't "see" their bodies as they are now--they still see the "phantom fat" that used to be there.

The linked article offers some information about why these problems may happen, but maybe the most important question here is what people can do when they find themselves still feeling uncomfortable in their own skin even after weight loss.


When I think about my own body image issues, it seems like I have more than one body image floating around in my head. How Iím seeing my body at the moment depends a lot on what Iíve been doing recently. If Iím eating well and exercising regularly, I see myself in my mindís eye as being relatively healthy and fit, and I see my body as ďnormal.Ē Iím not very self-conscious about my appearance, even though I know Iím a long ways from being thin or buff. I can put on my compression biking shorts, muffintop and all, and head out into the world without giving a second thought to what someone else might think about this fashion choice.

But when Iím not eating well or exercising, this all changes pretty dramatically. I start seeing myself the way I used to when I was well over 125 pounds heavier. I get very self-conscious, donít want anyone to look at me, and wouldnít even think about wearing my bike shorts in public. I feel like my body is about as un-normal as you can get. If my weight goes up a couple pounds on the scale, these feelings and thoughts just get worse.

So, it seems that losing all that weight didnít entirely change my body image. It doesnít take a lot to make those old feelings and thoughts about my body come roaring back to the surface again. But, fortunately, it also doesnít take much to get myself back into a more realistic and positive frame of mindóI just need to do something healthy for myself, whether itís eating better, doing some exercise, or finding another way to de-stress about all this.

For me, the best antidote to negative feelings about my body is to treat myself as if I respect and care about my physical self, even when I may not feel that way at the moment.

Maybe someday Iíll get to the psychological roots of all those old feelings, and get rid of those demons once and for all. But if not, at least I know how to handle them when they do come up.

Whatís your story? Does how you feel about your body change according to your weight or clothing size? Has losing weight made a major difference in how you see yourself, or is it hard for you to see your body as it is now? What do you do to maintain a positive attitude toward yourself when those negative thoughts start coming up?


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Comments

  • 176
    I think I have these same issues. Its difficult now seeing myself 30lbs lighter..I still find myself being critical at times...I wish I could see myself just once through the eyes of others.. - 1/24/2012   6:30:50 PM
  • MAGGIE101857
    175
    There are days when I look in the mirror and still see the "fatter me". That's when I pull out a "before" picture that shows how far I have come. I will always have curves, a short torso, wide feet (thanks Dad!!!), and other bits that are not winning the battle against gravity!!! lol Such is life!!! - 1/24/2012   6:24:31 AM
  • 174
    I feel fine about how my body looks, just not how it behaves!! It is very prone to sudden weight fluctionations and it can't seem to lose weight anymore! ANNOYING! - 12/20/2011   12:54:39 AM
  • DRW843
    173
    good article. the happiness feeling of losing weight and looking good goes away. the appreciation for energy,health,strength, and ability to move more easily becomes a higher priority. - 3/6/2011   5:26:59 AM
  • CBEAUSMITH
    172
    Most of the time I feel good about myself. That is until I get to the gym and see myself doing my routine....I find it VERY frustrating. I know I should see it as a motivator, but I don't. I really don't. I used to be the little hot blonde, working out half naked, and now I go fully clothed. I couldn't possible get more clothed except to be wearing a turtle neck ( at the gym) My body image changes with weather (sunny- I feel like a million$$) what I eat (when it's bad choices for longer than a few days-i feel grose) and what I wear (baggy, grose clothes and not an ounce of makeup- I feel fat, grose, sloppy and old) I am even vain enough to go to the gym wearing some makeup, it does make for better workouts (initially, anyhow) When I do get back into my 'zone' of good workouts and eating the best I could, everything is good, I feel sexy all the time, which my husband benefits from. And it's all good until I get the wrong angle of myself then it's like all of the sudden my bubble just got burst....and I realize i don't have the body I thought I did, and I have more work to do. - 9/17/2010   10:37:31 AM
  • 171
    That article you referenced was specifically about the author's clients, who had weight loss surgery and lost the weight very rapidly. I don't think it can be generalized to normal healthy people who lose weight by eating a little less and exercising a little more, and maintaining a slow, healthy weight loss.

    The women described sounded like they all had eating disorders, with distorted unrealistic body images. This is recognized as a mental illness, is it not? I don't think it sounds like most of us weight losers at Spark. - 9/13/2010   1:51:04 AM
  • 170
    Oh, definitely. I am feeling more confident. I don't feel that it is sad at all. It is a great motivator and an incentive to lose weight, which is unhealthy, and gain control of your life again. Before I returned to One-derland I was obsessed with choosing food to be my comforter. Now, I choose exercise and healthy foods including lots of fruits and vegetables. Just through exercise and eating nutritiously one can start to feel good about themselves even with no weight loss. But the weight loss is an added bonus that just adds to the feeling of euphoria. I never backed away from a challenge in my life when I was overweight. I worked hard and didn't let my weight keep me from doing the things I wanted to do. But now it's just so much more enjoyable. I still have a long way to go and I'm looking forward to each -5 lb. goal I set. - 9/12/2010   12:57:56 PM
  • 169
    Absolutely!!! I feel great physically, more energy etc, but when I get into those tiny jeans (tiny for me) nothing makes me feel better. My moods improve. Life is good when you feel good about yourself!! - 9/10/2010   9:05:07 AM
  • THIN-AT-LAST
    168
    I had it all backwards....I "thought" I wasn't so big untill I saw a vidio of my rump and was shocked to think I was "living" in a huge (100+lbs extra) body when I only "thought" I was a "little" overweight....ooooooooooooooo - 9/9/2010   4:47:03 PM
  • 167
    My body image depends on my mood. I've lost 50 pounds and I'm happy about it, but how I think I look varies wildly with the day. Same with the way I feel about how my hair looks, even when really it's about the same from day to day. The best thing about losing weight has been that exercise really improves mood. - 9/9/2010   4:37:36 PM
  • 166
    My body image seems to get better as I lose weight, but I still have a long ways to go and not yet happy with my body. I am hopeful though and I def. feel better than I did 80 lbs ago. - 9/6/2010   8:24:20 PM
  • 165
    I do it. When I get on the scale, even if it's during the week instead of my official once-a-week weigh in, and its up even a pound, I get that fat feeling. I'll give up dressing cute that day and cover up in my biggest sweatshirt (not such a bad thing since it's so darn cold right now), and I even walk, stand, and sit differently, like I'm trying to shrink down and not be noticed. - 3/3/2010   3:10:09 PM
  • HAPPYTEX
    164
    I view my body positively. I've been working out for years and stay in pretty good shape, even though since I quit working about five years ago, I've gained about twenty pounds. Still, not bad for a 72 year-old granddad. I want to lose those pounds because I feel better at my correct weight. Now, it's for more than just that.

    I had a pacemaker inserted about a month ago, and I will never be able to work out the same way again. For the first time in my life, I won't lift over 50 pounds at a time. Obviously, I can only tone up, work for definition. I will become smaller, which I don't want, but I will still, I think, have a good feeling about my body. As I've said befotre, my body doesn't define me.

    There's more to me than my body. - 1/12/2010   10:01:54 PM
  • 163
    I have no idea what size I am, anymore. And I don't mean the number on the tag in my clothes.

    It's very disorienting. - 12/7/2009   9:40:21 AM
  • 162
    I find that since I've lost weight, I crave someone noticing it or commenting on it, I guess to validate it. That affects how I see myself. Somedays I still look in the mirror and just see flab. Other days I think wow, looking good. Depends on the day! Depends on the outfit. So my body image fluctuates from good to bad with no rhyme or reason.

    As C. Rosie said earlier, when her sister lost weight, she ended up looking the same, only smaller. I have that same body type (& the same sister, lol). But I also agree with her about looking at food & exercise for your health & not just to look good.

    Nowadays I try looking at food simply as nutrition, as it helps to separate the emotional connection to eating, and the bad choices that go along with it. Sometimes I think I am too restrictive as to what I am allowing myself to eat, but at this point, I'm not ready to lose that control.

    - 12/5/2009   2:14:30 AM
  • 161
    my body image gets worse as i loose weight. i recently left treatment for an ED and i can say that while i was not comfortable at the weight i was at when i left, a health weight and one that would still qualify me as thing, my boday image was certainly better than when i was 30 pounds smaller, weighing in at 64% of my ideal body weight. - 10/19/2009   11:44:20 PM
  • 160
    I've had the same feelings. I have lost 34 lbs but have 10lbs to go but can't shake the overweight feelings even though I get compliments from co-workers. - 10/15/2009   8:32:22 PM
  • MARGOMCP
    159
    My body image of myself is as I was in my mid-20's, young, healthy, "handsome" and 112 pounds lighter. Since I'm not likely to look like that at the age of 60; don't know what I'm going to do when I get back to a healthy weight. I think I'll settle for less denial when I catch myself in store windows and do a double-take? - 10/4/2009   12:18:39 PM
  • 158
    True, When I was in my goal weight I didnot appreciate how I looked like, but now I am yearning to get back to that weight.. wierd, but true.. I am learning to accept me as I am now.. - 9/22/2009   7:45:32 AM
  • WHEELS54
    157
    I think that part of the reason the I did not have a good self-image before I started this lifestyle change is that I felt out of control. I feel like I have a normal relationship with food now. I lost 15 and would like to lose 20 more but I feel pretty good about myself now. I know that I am the same person inside at any weight and joining SP has given me a great deal on insight on the struggles and prejudices that overweight and obese people face every day. - 9/17/2009   1:48:57 PM
  • 156
    0 self confidence. All I can think is of the 92 lbs left to lose - 9/16/2009   7:29:36 PM
  • TCJC624
    155
    absolutely, it is sad but it is true - 9/12/2009   7:36:45 PM
  • 154
    It is hard to know which came first. My weight has been going up and my feelings and my energy have been going down. I am an energetic starter, not a good maintainer in the middle. Therefore, I never reach the end. This time around I am starting small and hope to be able maintain. - 9/10/2009   3:41:24 PM
  • 153
    have always had a good body image because I sit and walk tall even though the weight has been added I still think of myself as much slimmer than I am - 9/10/2009   12:11:57 PM
  • 152
    Sometimes I am on top of the world with the weight I have lost, especially when I go home and see those that have not seen me in a while and get all of these great compliments. Then at the same time I am with others who do not notice the weight loss and I get in "fat girl mode" and try to make jokes that are not really funny to be the life of someone else's party. The end is that I am hurt and upset and leave in tears, although no one notices that I am gone. Just like the old "fat girl". I wonder, will this mind set ever end for me. I thank my God that His love is always unconditional and that being healthy is my choice and I am beautiful regardless. My thoughts about myself will improve just like my weight loss goals will improve. I accept me for me at this time in my life and I am beautiful right now!!! - 9/9/2009   3:54:00 PM
  • 151
    This is a fascinating topic. As I gradually gained 40 pounds I fluctuated between feeling fat and out of control, to very normal, depending on the articles of clothing I wore, the compliments I received and how I happened to feel in general.

    As I was losing weight (currently 29 pounds), I felt wonderful and very thin (compared to my former body shape).

    Currently I notice I lost that feeling of thinness. It seems the original rush and thrill of the wt. loss has gone away and I have grown accustomed to being a samller size. Although I feel great...more fit and more in control, I'm noticing this skewed opinion of myself when I look in the mirror or see a current picture of myself.

    My overall goal is to feel good and good to me means in control of my food intake....flexible, strong and healthy. I'll continue to pay attention to how I can fool myself about how I look depending on my mood in the moment. - 9/9/2009   6:44:51 AM
  • BETTII
    150
    I feel best when I'm fit which means I'm at my thinner weight. A book that I've been reading called Love Your Body, Love Your Life by Sarah Maria has really helped me to overcome negative beliefs about myself. It shows you how to create a body and a life that you love. I'd highly recommend it. http://www.breakfreebeauty.com / - 9/8/2009   5:55:07 PM
  • 149
    I am one of those that sees the Phantom Fat. I have Body Dysmorphia. When I was 16 (I'm 28 now) I was put on Steriods for medicinal reasons. One of the side affects is "ballooning" of the face and body not to mention the increased appetite. At 16 I was already awkward not to mention the illness I was dealing with and the side affects of the medicines I was taking. Due to the steriods I gained 60 lbs in 3 months. I wasn't much heavier at that time than I am now but in my Senior Prom pictures I look like I'm about 230 lbs. When I see the number on the scale now even if I'm skinny, I still remember what I looked like back then. It's a tough issue to deal with and some days it takes A LOT of talking to myself to realize that it was a side affect NOT the real me. It's a work in progress but I'm working on it. - 9/8/2009   1:18:53 PM
  • 148
    Absolutely my body image changes with my weight. That is not my personal image as I truly like myself, but my image of how I look and even how I dress changes with my weight. - 9/8/2009   10:29:14 AM
  • 147
    I was big all my life & now that I at last lost the weight I feel & look like a totally different person. I have a whole new look on life & I also have tons of hindsight to boot.. It will soon be 8yrs that I have kept the weight off I intend on keeping it off & improving more every day!! - 9/8/2009   9:54:29 AM
  • IR5676
    146
    Since my weight has slowly increased over the years, I didn't really feel too different, but since I really hit the perimenopause years, I feel like I've ballooned! I think I look fat, or at least, out of shape, even though my husband denies it (bless him!). Since I have one month left before menopause (YEA!), I'm determined to get back into shape and lose about 40 lbs! - 9/8/2009   9:27:12 AM
  • 145
    I do feel a lot better about my body. I'm more open to wearing certain items because I've lost weight and toned up. Everyone looks at me and calls me skinny, I don't see that b/c there's more pounds to be lost. I believe that if I didn't have a pouch I wouldn't care to lose more weigth, but being a mother of two I've accepted that I'll never have a flat tummy - 9/8/2009   9:16:34 AM
  • 144
    At this point I do not feel as heavy as I am and i'm thinking that may be why I haven't done as much as I should have for my weight issue, and that I beleive is why in spite of health issues continuing to creep up, I still gained weight. Not deleiberately but I didn't put it in check as soon as I should have. I have never had a poor body image. I don't understand some of the self hate that some people seem to be burdened with. We have enough issues to deal with in this society. I 've always liked the way I looked, so did my husband, regardless of the weight increase. I was always taught as a child to be proud of who I am, that was before the weight gain, thank God that lesson was ingrained!! I still believe I'm an attractive person but one who needs to seriously get the excess weight off. - 9/7/2009   11:14:23 PM
  • 143
    I have a real hard time getting this fat image out of my head. I am a size 3 and somedays I feel real fat. I feel like I did years ago when I weighed almost 200 pounds. And other days I feel just fine. But most of the time I feel so fat. - 9/7/2009   4:41:54 PM
  • 142
    I always feel bigger than I am. Before I lost weight, I decided to do it because I felt huge and had had enough! Now I have lost most of the weight that I wanted to lose - I want to have a "healthy BMI" and am almost there, although I think that the last 10 pounds is going to be difficult. The thing that REALLY makes me feel that I have a healthy body though is the fact that I can now jog longer and farther than I ever used to be able. I can do more sit ups and push ups than I ever used to be able. And every now and then I make a point of looking at the label on my jeans, although I can't believe what I see, it isn't a double digit number! But even with all this, I still forget sometimes and feel like my old BIG self! Keep exercising! Keep up the good work! Be Healthy! - 9/7/2009   2:42:51 PM
  • 141
    I used to be thin, and then after I had my kids I was "overweight" according to medical standards, but I never thought of myself as "fat" then. I have always been the smallest in my family, until about 2 years ago. I have always had people around who told me I wasn't fat (except my doctor, lol). So when I gained 80 pounds over the last 4 years, I knew I was obese, but in my mind I was still thin, or at least thinner. Everytime I look in the mirror I am surprised by how big my face is, or my belly. Maybe that is why it took me so long to be committed to losing weight. I had other excuses, sure, but deep down, I am a thin person at heart and soul. I am starting to lose weight now and as my weight goes down, my confidence goes up as well as my image of myself. I am going to reach that goal weight and be the person that I really am on the inside. - 9/7/2009   12:38:27 PM
  • SWEET_DEVOTION
    140
    When I look in the mirror and I'm wearing a new top and I look thinner, I feel better about myself. However, when the shirt comes off and I am faced with the harsh reality of flab and rolls, it goes way down. I'm not happy with my appearance and I wish the body underneath the clothes looked as good when the clothes come off, or when I wear something tighter. I suppose all I can do is work on it. I think body image has a major part in weight loss, for some the image they see effects whether or not they go for that tub of ice-cream. I tend to try to shy away from it when I feel that way, but I will munch on just about anything else. A vicious cycle that I intend to break. - 9/7/2009   12:11:55 PM
  • GIANT-STEPS
    139
    I always feel smaller than I am. When I hit my peak of about 315 I felt a little overweight rather than morbidly obese. Of course reality would set in when I tried to do something a fitter person would do like hike up a mountain. - 9/7/2009   11:15:16 AM
  • 138
    I was 340 pounds when I signed up for spark people, and I really signed up hoping for some added energy, but then started losing weight. My body image was not too bad to begin with. I knew I was obese, but I knew that did not define who I was. I was thankful that I was all functional, with no health issues. I've lost 130 pounds so far, and my body image has improved. I just feel younger, and stronger. I feel healthier. I can fit in "normal" sized clothing. Those changes have raised my self confidence. I have my moments, but in general I am feeling good about myself. I even wore my swimsuit in public this summer, even though I did not feel horribly bad about myself that is something I would have NEVER done before. - 9/7/2009   11:10:43 AM
  • 137
    Yes I think it does a lot but when I am taking care of myself better I feel better too and that is much more important then my body imagine. - 9/7/2009   10:53:30 AM
  • SKINNYJEENS
    136
    I always feel bigger than I am. I have been a yo-yo for a while with my weight going up and down about 15 or so which on a short frame is a difference of 2 sizes or so. When I am at my smallest it still doesn't feel small enough but when I am bigger I wonder why I didn't think it my smaller size was good enough. This time when I get there again I'm going to appreciate it so much more. - 9/7/2009   8:33:49 AM
  • 135
    I feel much better about myself when I am thinner. I feel more comfortable in my body and have more self-confidence. I hate being overweight. I hate the fact I let myself be so careless as to get that way in the first place. I want to be the best me I can. For myself and for my family. - 9/6/2009   11:41:59 PM
  • 134
    I feel a lot better when I'm thinner, however tend not to mind my weight as much if I am being healthy and still not at my goal weight. For example, now I'm being healthy, and while not at goal, don't care if other people like my fashion choices or think I have a muffin top. - 9/6/2009   1:51:44 PM
  • 133
    At this point I don't feel as fat as I actually am so I'm shocked if I accidentally see myself in a mirror or photo. But I suspect that when I lose the extra person in my body, I won't really see myself as slim either. I didn't before I gained weight so why would I after knowing how big I've gotten.

    That doesn't really make sense because between slim to fat and fat to slim should give a different perspective. But who ever said people have realistic perspectives? 8~) - 9/5/2009   8:07:49 PM
  • 132
    Well I have to say that my body image is still that of the THIN me. I am 175 lbs over what I weighed in college. I still have a pair of shorts that I used to wear when working out. I was a competitive athlete on scholarship. Now these shorts look (to me) like they belong to a 5yr old.

    Nowdays when I pass by a window or mirror I see this heavy person and wonder who it is, and find it's me! I can't seem to get my picture of myself from about 20 yrs ago out of my head. I guess it works both ways!!! - 9/5/2009   5:24:02 PM
  • 131
    I know my stomach is different (I mean I went from a size 28 to a size 12). But the rest of my body is different, too. So my stomach sticks out just as much as it always has.

    People want me to think of myself as a success for losing 95 pounds, but all I can seem to see is my stomach hanging out. And not a little bit like in the blog about the picture in Glamour. She and I may be the same size, but my stomach is twice hers.

    Women have been accepting their flaws "so what if I have a droopy stomach? I have X amount of beautiful children!" Well...I don't ! I don't have any children. I have no good reason to have such a large stomach except that I once weighed 245 pounds.

    I don't actually sound this pathetic in real life, I promise. Just something about waking up feeling really down this morning, seeing the scale go up, and then reading this blog....I just can't seem to think of myself as a smaller person. Especially since my body is perfectly comfortable staying a size 12. This is where it is stuck.

    I try to think of my blessings each day. So I know that I am very lucky to be alive and to have a body that can do what it can do. But even I can get totally plagued by what my scale says.

    I guess to make the story short : I can relate! - 9/5/2009   1:12:49 PM
  • HURLEY862
    130
    I can totally related to the "phantom fat" feeling. I went from 160 pounds to 120, and when I look in the mirror I think "I know I've lost all that weight, how can I possibly look the same?" Then I see a picture of myself when I was heavy and am shocked! It's just mind-blowing how much bigger I was, but I just don't see it when I look in the mirror. - 9/5/2009   12:06:37 PM
  • 129
    I think it's so much easier for us all to see the negative image of ourselves. That's what we need to work on - turn around - modify - whatever it takes. For myself I have a better image of myself but still look at the bigger me rather than m;y accomplishments. Maybe it's our driving force to keep us going toward our goals... I don't know but the negativity can't be good either. - 9/5/2009   10:45:36 AM
  • 128
    I hate my body right now, but I also know that loosing weight won't change that opinion of myself. Only I can change that opinion of myself. My self image has a lot to do with the fact that I've let myself forget who I am. Being fat is only a portion of that image. Loosing the weight won't change it, but it will help. I have a long road to travel to have the self confidence in myself to like what I see when I look in the mirror. - 9/5/2009   12:58:44 AM
  • 127
    I have never been happy with my physical appearance! When I was youung in High School and weighed 98 pounds I thought I was a cow! When I weighed 180 and couldn't fit in the bathtub I thought I was a cow! Now that I'm down to 140 I still see myself the same in the mirror as when I was 180! A COW! - 9/5/2009   12:55:42 AM

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