I recently shared a new before and after on Facebook (stay tuned, I'll show you too!), and at the risk of sounding vain... I couldn't believe the attention it received. I was blown away by how impressed folks were, especially considering I've seen most of them recently while out in our local town.
Sometimes I forget that while my 'before' is very, very, very fresh in my own mind... it's not in others'.
Let me explain that a little bit.
Most days I have to remind myself that I've lost over a hundred pounds. I'm constantly holding myself back from things because I still see myself as the 'before' version of me. Though I'm more confident, I still have moments where I freeze in panic when I approach a new restaurant booth and am unsure if I fit. I'm always surprised when I do. It's as if my brain hasn't caught up to my body.
A great example of this was at a wedding I recently photographed. The church where they were married was one I had photographed another wedding in about five years ago. Long before I lost weight. During that ceremony I had tried to sit in the pews, but unfortunately the space between the pews was so small, that I couldn't fit. It was a long ceremony and I ended up exhausted by the end of it because I just... couldn't fit to sit. Fast forward to the wedding I did this September in that same church and queue the anxiety. I walked in with my breath caught in my throat as I eyed up the still-so-tiny space between. When we were instructed to sit for the first time, I stayed standing because I wasn't ready to attempt it again. I was so scared. However, soon after... I told myself that if I went the entire ceremony without trying I'd be more disappointed than if I don't fit again, so I tried. Lo and behold - I fit! I mentally screeched in celebration and couldn't to tell my sister all about it.
After speaking with many weight-loss success story individuals over the course of my journey so far, I've come to realize that this is incredibly common. So common, in fact, that there's a legitimate medical term for it.
It covers more than just weight-loss, but it's called body dysmorphic disorder (or BDD)
While beginning the planning for this blog, I knew the disorder name but I wasn't really sure how to explain it properly as most of the articles I've found are very medical and relate more to those who feel they're too big when they aren't or they just simply feel they're ugly when there's absolutely nothing ugly about them. BDD can affect more than just those with extreme weight-loss, too. People who have lost smaller amounts are just as likely to be impacted by BDD, as it's rarely connected to the amount of weight lost. Luckily I found this incredible blog post found here that explains it perfectly, and I would encourage you to read as well.
"“While weight can quantified by a stepping on a scale, a person’s self-image is a more abstract thing,” Billings said. “Our beliefs, past experiences, relationships, cultural context and behavior all play a part in how we think and feel about ourselves.” If some of those areas haven’t changed despite the weight loss, he said, a person might still feel the same way about themselves as they did when they were heavier."
This really hit home for me. It really ties into my personal beliefs, too, that being overweight doesn't have to equal being unhappy, it just often does. I've met plenty of heavy guys and gals that are totally happy and in love with themselves! If you've read my story, you'll know that a huge part of my WHY is that I wanted to find happiness.
Back on topic, though
When I posted this before and after photo and the comments and likes flooded in, I was taken aback immediately. I still am. The last time I checked it was at over 260 likes! It shocked me that people were so surprised by my progress, I thought to myself... don't they see the girl on the left still when they see me? I know I do most days. As I'm getting ready for work and grabbing my favourite smallest-size-ever jeans, I still question if they'll really fit. Then they do. Honestly, most days they're too loose now too. When I'm shopping with my sister and she grabs me a size from the rack, I always argue with her and tell her to grab a bigger size. She never listens, of course, and naturally... she's always right. Please don't tell her I said that, for the love of all things good in this world, don't tell her.
It manifests itself in so many different ways. One night I remember sitting at home, I was feeling extra confident and decided to snap a selfie. When I looked at the result of the selfie I actually felt a tightening in my chest as I looked at the girl on my phone. I didn't recognize her. I felt the panic seep in as I stared at my "reflection" and couldn't stop trying to figure out who that girl was. I was uncomfortable and to be completely vulnerable with you, a little scared. I was scared because my brain and my eyes weren't lining up with reality. I thought there was something wrong with me. I ended up deleting that photo and not taking another that night.
I know that a big part of BDD comes from my mental health, which makes this blog even more perfect since we just celebrated National Mental Health Awareness Day. I'm so proud of the progress I've made in my journey physically, but also mentally. While I still struggle to see the current me instead of the old me, I do know that the progress I've made majorly out-weighs (ha-ha, puns) the struggles I still have.
The article I linked above for BDD touches lightly on ways to combat it, but what I really loved about it was this:
"“Working on viewing oneself as a whole person with varying parts, interests and facets – as opposed to over-identifying with and/or attaching so much importance on the physical self – could also be helpful,” Billings said."
My promise to myself
Starting today, October 12th, when this blog post is going live -- I'm making a promise to myself to actively work on this. Viewing myself as a whole, complete person. Because that's exactly what I am.
Thanks for reading and following along my journey!