The Funhouse Mirror Effect
THE MIRROR LIES
I don't know about you, but I have trick mirrors in my house. In fact, trick mirrors lurk everywhere, in public restrooms, department stores, hotel lobbies and on several walls of my health club. These mirrors never tell the truth. Like a funhouse mirror, they tell me I'm fat, thin, old, young, ugly or beautiful. Rarely do those messages match up with reality. If you have trick mirrors in your world, do not believe their lies!
You know I'm kidding, right? The trick isn't in the mirror, it's in my brain. Because of decades of denial, self-hatred, weight fluctuation, aging, envy, societal messages (the fast food server asks me, "You want that super-sized?" while I study the skeletal body of an actress on a magazine cover), and random electrical impulses skipping crazily around my brain, I cannot accurately process data from my reflection in the mirror. This isn't unique to obese and formerly-obese people, but it's a special burden for us because as we work so hard to lose weight, we are even hungrier for positive feedback than we are hungry for food.
For this reason, I suggest that you save your Before photos and one Fat Outfit (no matter how much you hate them), keep records of your body measurements (because sometimes you'll see progress there when none shows on the scale) and document your weight loss surgery journey with monthly photos. Last Monday I looked at myself in my bathroom mirror and thought, "Damn, girl! You look good!" On Tuesday, after a weigh-in that showed no increase or decrease, I looked in that same mirror and thought, "Damn, girl! You are porking up!" At moments like that, it is a great comfort to try on my fat clothes and feel them slide off my body because they're so big, or to set a Before photo alongside a Now photo and be reminded of how far I've come.
THE SCALE TELLS THE TRUTH
But not the whole truth.
The scale weighs your clothes, shoes, fat, muscle, bone and water weight. This data will vary throughout the day as you eat, drink, exercise, urinate and defecate. You can buy fancy scales that will give you readings for total body weight, fat and water weight, and all those values will fluctuate every day. You can't let those fluctuations make you crazy. Recently I tracked my weight every day over the course of a week. It went like this: up, down, down, down, up, up, with a net gain or loss of zero. When I'm trying to maintain rather than lose weight, I'm happy about that. When I’m trying to lose weight, seeing my weight creep up and up as the day goes on does absolutely nothing positive for my weight loss effort.
On the day when my early-morning weigh in showed a 3.6 pound increase, I could have let that information spoil my day, but instead I copied my British friend, Kate. I shrugged and said, "Silly cow." My body weight is just one piece of information about me. It does not tell the whole truth of my worth as a human being and a WLS patient. The scale doesn't remind me that I had lost 1.75" from my bust, waist, legs and arms when I measured myself that week. It doesn't remind me that I exceeded my weekly exercise goal by 75 minutes. It doesn't remind me that I met all of my nutritional goals, wrote 20 pages of my book manuscript, had a job interview, gave medication to my dogs, listened to my husband rant after a bad day at work, took one of my dogs to visit the nursing home residents, or any of the other things that are important to me.
I realize that the scale is our primary tool for measuring our progress as we lose or maintain our weight, but you can't let it run your life. When an inanimate object starts to dictate your thoughts and feelings, it's time to lock it in the trunk of your car or have someone hide it from you. As Kate says, keep the scale where it belongs: beneath your feet, not in your head.