Trying to Lose Weight Made My Body Dysmorphia Worse. Here’s What Actually Helped.
After losing over 40 pounds in 2022, I felt the best I had in 10 years. I was shopping for jeans sizes that I’d only ever dreamt of. I was playing outside with my toddler, full of energy, and with no sign of being winded. My sciatic pain was ancient history. I could move my body in ways that I hadn’t in nearly a decade. So, if I felt this way, why did I feel so horrible?
For most of my life, I was a bigger girl. And that’s not because I was overweight at all as a kid. I was just a little bit taller and bigger than most of my friends, but because of that, I really stood out. I got passed over for dates. I was teased. I was dieting and working out on my mom’s pilates DVDs when I was 9. So, after I had my baby and gained more weight than I had ever in my life, I knew something had to change.
Even after losing weight, I was completely preoccupied with these non-existence flaws on my body that were only visible to me. My husband complimented me all the time. My mom told me that I looked the best I had in years. None of it mattered because what I saw was someone totally different.
Even after reaching my goal, I never felt settled.
Since my dramatic weight loss, I was more obsessed with my weight than ever before. I was checking myself in the mirror, asking my husband how every single outfit looked on me, and I could not stop comparing myself to others.
Despite losing the baby weight and then some, I still felt “fat.” I still looked in the mirror and picked apart every inch of my skin that looked out of place. I weighed the lightest I had in years, but I still felt inadequate. After therapy and meditation and much introspection, I began to realize that this was my body dysmorphia talking.
I knew that this kind of negative self-talk was toxic and detrimental to not only my mental health but also my physical health. So, I decided to do something about it and implemented some helpful habits and tactics to work through my dysmorphic viewpoint and stop seeing myself through a distorted lens.
I implemented three habits to take care of my mental health.
First, I started going to therapy. I knew I needed to speak with someone about my body dysmorphia who would be a sounding board with zero judgment. Just talking about my obsessions, struggles, and intrusive thoughts was enough to help me get to a point in my weight loss journey where I felt comfortable continuing on. Due to how I felt about myself and my body image, I often considered throwing in the towel when it came to my healthier lifestyle because (in my head), I saw absolutely no changes. I was still unhappy.
Secondly, I started to journal every single time I worked out. Even if it was just a simple walk around the neighborhood with my dog, I would take 10 to 15 minutes post-workout to just open my journal and jot down whatever was going on in my head. I was guilty of letting my mind overthink and get the best of me during workouts. Consistently journaling helped me get to a place where I could organize the clutter in my head before I got overwhelmed.
Lastly, I knew that this 40-pound weight loss was more than just about “looking good.” There were a million other reasons why I had decided to finally change my life to practice healthier habits. So, I decided to set other goals for myself that had nothing to do with weight or body measurements. I wanted to be able to lift more weight at the gym. I wanted to try hot yoga. I wanted to train for a half marathon. Small, achievable goals (still pertaining to exercise and a healthier lifestyle) helped me realize that not everything about this journey needed to have my weight and how I looked at the epicenter of it.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder is not something that is easily overcome. I fully realize I have much work to do when it comes to being free from the obsession that is my appearance. However, I know that with professional help and at-home practices, it has become manageable. When I do feel those triggers coming on, I now have tactics and practices I can put into place to stop them in their tracks before they turn into full-blown panic attacks, and it feels freeing.