8.16.2010

Weight Loss Psychoses

To say there is a great deal of psychology involved in losing weight is not a ground-breaking statement. I am not the first person, nor will I be the last, to say that losing weight is a lifestyle change, ideally a permanent one. The habits that lead to weight gain are innately psychological, and as I learned in a psychology class during my doctoral studies, we don't "unlearn" a behavior. We simply can't. We have to replace that behavior, that way of thinking, with something new.

I've learned a lot about myself and my eating habits over the past 11 months: when I'm inclined to snack, why I snack, why I make some of the choices that I do. It's been illuminating, to say the least, and I've been working to replace those thought processes. I've also started to realize, though, there are some other odd psychological things I'm dealing with as I lose weight. I don't think I'm alone in these, but I won't know for sure unless I throw something out there.

This isn't the first time I've lost a significant amount of weight. Twice I've lost a goodly amount of poundage; once intentionally, the other simply by circumstances of working all the time and subsequently eating less. The second time I hadn't realized I'd lost as much weight as I had until I went to buy new jeans and was down two sizes. This time, I'm being intentional about it again, tracking my workouts, reading up on what is effective and what isn't, making those lifestyle changes that I can stick with for the rest of my life. Replacing my behaviors, in good psychological stead.

Now I'm learning I have psychological ideations I need to address. I've never been a skinny girl. I was a big baby, and as far back as I can remember I was always wearing "husky girl" clothing. I never wore junior sizes -- they didn't have junior plus sizes when I was that age -- and I went from "husky girls" to plus-sized women's clothing. I've always known I was fat, but you don't ever feel as big in your own skin as you actually are. It's difficult to explain. I suppose, as much as I disliked being the big girl, I was comfortable in my skin. I knew generally how much space I took up. There's a certain security that comes from simple size, from feeling solid and substantial. As I get smaller, I'm actually getting weirdly insecure. Part of me wonders if I'll "miss" the weight, the size. I'm not very small yet, and I don't have the bone structure to ever be a size 2, but there's this weird lingering voice in the back of my brain questioning if getting smaller is the right thing. Words are failing me at the moment, but maybe other heavy gals out there who may or may not be reading this blog understand what I'm saying.

The other self-image factor I'm dealing with is how my body is changing shape. At my biggest, I knew where my worst problem spots were and how to dress my shape well. I didn't try to make any illusions, squeezing myself into inappropriate clothing. Those who know me well know my adage of, "Just because you can fit into it doesn't mean it actually fits." But as I lose weight, all I used to know about dressing my body is being challenged. Spot-toning is a fallacy, but at the same time weight loss doesn't happen evenly all over the body, partly because excess weight isn't carried everywhere in the same proportions. I'm now fitting into pants I haven't been able to wear for at least 3, if not 4 or 5, years, but because of how my body is changing shape they still don't look right on me. One pair I put on yesterday is overly baggy and saggy everywhere -- hips, thighs, butt -- but still manages to cling to and show my panniculus, my overhanging abdomen. 4 years ago, when I was wearing them regularly, I don't remember them being like that. Then again, they weren't as baggy, either. It is weirdly frustrating to know your pants are a size too big, yet if you were to go down a size they'd fit better but probably wouldn't look any better.

It's a matter of relearning my curves, I suppose. I also most likely have to come to terms with the fact that I may have the figure my grandmother had, and my mother, my aunts, and my female cousin all have: flat rears, square hips, very little waist-to-hip ratio. Hourglass figures do not genetically run in my family, at least on that side. (I don't know about my father's side, as I don't know any of my female relations there.) As a heavier girl, I had those hourglass curves -- and, of course, I also had curves I didn't want!

It's scary, frankly. I'm making radical, and hopefully permanent, changes to something I've known all my life: my body. It's also a little exciting, I suppose. Maybe I should lose the weight and dress like crap, and my friends will nominate me for "What Not to Wear." Or maybe I'll just lose the weight and still care about my appearance. But "WNTW"... it's something to think about...

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