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Walking the line: Body image perception and reality

This was not an easy post to write, but it has been on my mind so here it is. As I  am approaching the 3rd anniversary of my very short running and racing career, in spite of all the positive changes in my physical and mental health and well being, I struggle every day to keep it all in perspective.

There is a real psychological phenomenon called “phantom fat“.

After a person experiences weight loss, their perception of themselves can sometimes take its sweet, sweet time to catch up to the body’s physical changes. They can continue to carry around imaginary excess weight after the real pounds have been dropped; experts have likened the phenomenon to the phantom pains amputees feel long after a limb is gone. Yes! Experts! This is a real thing and I’m not alone on the crazy train.

Read more: http://www.blisstree.com/2012/03/02/beauty-shopping/phantom-fat-weight-loss-eating-disorder-body-dysmorphia-510/#ixzz3q97QGqjx

In spite of the fact that my weight has been consistent for over 2 and a half years, every change of season brings dread when I try on clothes to see if they still fit. Mild panic ensued when I started working on upper body strength and conditioning a year ago because that, apparently, caused some dramatic changes which to me, felt as if I had gone from”extra small” to “extra large.” I cannot even tell you how many different bra sizes I have gone through in 2 years.

THE EVER CHANGING BODY COMPOSITION

If you strength train and eat right your body composition will change.

It seems like a no-brainer, but nobody really told me it would happen and that as I progressed in the gym, my body composition would continue to change. In spite of people telling me  “You look great!” Comments such as this from my daughter who recently told me, “Mom your arms are massive!” make me stop in my tracks, just a minute, and want to run to a mirror to see what the heck is happening!

hulk

I have given up shopping for clothes; my closet is one tenth what it used to be, now consisting mostly of running and athletic shoes and workout gear. I only buy what I need when I need it. As my body changes, my clothes fit differently,thus, making me question my body image even more.

MIRRORS SHOULD BE OUTLAWED

The image standing before me in the mirror has not changed much in three years. Yet it has, my brain just can’t see it. I am trying to stay away from mirrors, and thank goodness my gym has no mirrors. I still turn sideways when I am walking by and between things because I feel larger than I am. When I see photos of my new self I am shocked at my size; Why do I feel so large?

Simply put, I strength train 3 days a week, I usually run 4 days a week, I am strong and continue getting stronger, but I live with the uncomfortable feeling every day that at any given moment, a day or a week off might mean the end of it all.

The majority of serious strength and conditioning articles, blogs and websites are written for men-not women-and the majority of strength and conditioning information for women is written for younger women.

Telling me I am crazy to think that way, or telling me to just go buy new clothes when they start to feel tight is not helpful. What is helpful is a supportive, positive network of friends, colleagues, family and a positive training environment that keeps things real and in perspective.

 

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