Special to The Times
Whenever someone chooses to commit to a weight loss journey, it’s not just a physical transformation that happens, but a mental transformation as well. Regardless of how long it takes for people to reach their goal weight, there are significant things that occur along the way that impact their body image and confidence. For all of the positive reinforcement one receives, they might also notice some negativity or odd reactions from those they are close to. Here are some tips and insights from leading experts that offer clarity and solutions for anyone seeking to transform or who already has.
You shed friends along with pounds. Sanam Hafeez, Psy.D., a New York City-based licensed neuropsychologist and teaching faculty member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College, explained that, “It is normal to lose friends as you lose pounds. As you see the payoff from the lifestyle changes you’ve made you may feel disconnected with friends who may still eat and drink things you no longer do. You’re evolving,” Hafeez said. “It’s common to notice jealousy and digs. You may even experience exclusion from dinners out presuming you wouldn’t want to indulge.”
Have faith that your true friends will love you at any size. “It will actually be difficult to tolerate any gossip, negativity or activities that are counterproductive. The last thing you need are people who bring you down when you are doing something positive for your well being. Look out for yourself. At times that may mean distancing from certain people,” Hafeez advised.
Loose skin becomes the new thing you notice. Once you reach your goal weight, you may love how you look in clothes, but naked in or a bathing suit is a whole other story. This is most common when weight loss is significant. Even when weight training is part of the regimen, loose skin does happen.
John Zannis, M.D., a board certified plastic surgeon based in New Bern, North Carolina, frequently sees and treats patients who went through a weight loss transformation. According to Dr. Zannis, “loose skin can gather at the stomach, under arms, breasts, buttocks, inner thighs, face and neck. The more significant the weight loss is, say 50 pounds and above, the more likely a plastic surgeon is sought out to explore body lifts that specifically address loose skin after weight loss.”
You have more energy, are excited about life and can do more. As you change your diet, add daily exercise to your new lifestyle and see the weight melt off, you gain energy. You don’t feel the need to hit the snooze button anymore. You may wake up energized for that 7a.m. power walk or you may be inspired by that beautiful new dress you get to wear to work, another dress size dropped. Yay!
“Use newfound energy to your advantage,” Hafeez said. “Your brain is forming new neuropathways as your perception of your body starts to change. That flight of stairs that was once an obstacle is much easier. Simple things like putting on shoes, picking up toys and pushing a vacuum are done with ease. As you take notice of what your body can do, you gain more confidence and want to do more. This energizes you both physically and mentally.”
Shopping gets interesting. It is common to get overwhelmed with options now that you can shop the way you always dreamed. Perhaps your new strong, shapely legs have inspired you to wear dresses again for the first time in years. Or after always covering your arms, you may opt for sleeveless tops. Either way, trying new looks outside of your comfort zone can be daunting. Shop on your own or with someone you really trust, Hafeez advised. “It is important that shopping is made to be fun by approaching it as a style experiment,” she said. “Don’t expect everything to look perfect just because you are a much smaller size. Some things will work; others won’t. Look for clothes that feel good. When you smile in the mirror, that’s a sign you’re on track.”
You make yourself, your health and well-being top priority and start to inspire others. When you lose a noticeable amount of weight, other people want to know how you did it and how you are keeping the weight off. Your immediate family may also adapt to your dietary changes and experience weight loss by association. When your kids see you wake up every morning to exercise they see that anything worth having requires commitment. Your significant other may be inspired to lose weight, too. “When you take care of yourself and are in a positive mindset, it has a positive impact on everyone you interact with,” Hafeez said. “When the mind and body are aligned, you love the way you look and feel, you’re happy and someone others can look up to.”