Does This Picture Make Me Look Fat? My Battle With Negative Body Image.

Since crossing the finish line at the Provo City Half Marathon last Saturday, I have been on an emotional high. I have been feeling like all the hard work I have been putting in to lose weight and eat right this year is starting to pay off in a BIG way. All of the kind comments and encouragement from my friends, family, running family, and the readers of this blog have only extended the euphoric feeling that started when I crossed the finish line and saw 1hr 35min on the race clock. Over the last couple of days my average pace per mile during my workouts has dropped over 40 seconds due my surge in confidence from my race results. I have also begun re-evaluating what time I think is possible for me to run at the Marine Corp Marathon in October. What is it that has had the power to bring me back down to Earth? Ironically, it is the race photos from the event that was responsible for the euphoria and surge in confidence in the first place. Why, you might ask? Simply put, when it comes to me looking at photos of myself, I am my own worst enemy.

As someone who has struggled with their weight as far back as I can remember, I have developed a tendency to look at my body (whether in the mirror or in photos) with an extremely critical eye. As I looked at my race photos from last Satruday’s race, I immediately was drawn to, what I felt, were the negative parts of my appearance that need to be worked on. I have placed some of my race photos below and have added captions to them containing some of the thoughts that went through my mind when I first saw them. Let me preface these photos by saying that I know that the negative captions I have placed in them are not true statements. That is what makes the photos so upsetting to me. It does not matter that I have lost 46 pounds since January first and that I just ran a half marathon at an average pace of 7:19 a mile; when I look at these photos, I see someone that sticks out like a sore thumb in a crowd of seasoned athletes.

FINISH 3

 

Linebacker v. Runner

FINISH 2

I’m sure many of you are now thinking, damn, this guy needs some serious therapy. If any you are thinking that, you need not worry, when you have had the life experiences I have, you keep your therapist on speed dial.

I can’t pin-point when my negative perception of my body began. In my mind, it seems like it has always been that way. My body has always been different than my two older brothers bodies. I remember feeling embarrassed when my mother would take us shopping for jeans. She would tell the sales associate at the department store, “I need two pairs of slim fit jeans and one pair of husky fit.” My mother had no malicious intent, but I remember how much I hated being different from my brothers.

The first time I remember being put on a diet was when I was about seven years old. The memory has faded with time, but I remember my mom and brothers sitting me down at the kitchen table and helping me make a list of foods I could eat and foods that I should avoid. They did this with the best intentions, but once again, I felt different from my brothers because they ate whatever they wanted and were rail thin.

Once, on a family vacation to Disney World with my father, my grandmother took me on a ride that my brothers did not want to go on. As my grandmother and I returned from going on the ride, my brothers were both eating one of those Mickey Mouse shaped ice cream bars. My dad did not know it but I heard him telling my brothers to finish the ice cream before I got there. Naturally, I wanted an ice cream bar as well. I asked if I could have one too and was told that I did not need it. Of course, being a child, I asked again. I was told again, “no, you don’t need it.” I responded, “but you bought one for my brothers.” My dad could see this was a no win situation for him so he caved in and bought me my own Mickey Mouse shaped ice cream. I ate the ice cream through tear filled eyes because I knew, once again, that I was different from my brothers. In my father’s defense, he wasn’t trying to hurt my feelings, he was just doing the best he could to protect me from myself and my ever growing waistline.

Body image photo

Although all of the events listed above happened before I was 10 years old, the emotional scars remain. I’ve made significant progress over the years, but as the picture above illustrates, when I look in the mirror, I don’t see what is really reflecting back at me. I always see a person that needs to lose weight. For this reason, I hardly ever look in the mirror without a shirt on, I rarely take my shirt off in public, and I often feel out of place at races when I am surrounded by individuals with traditional tall and slim runner’s builds.

Over time, I have developed my own way of dealing with bad thoughts about my body. Now, when I feel my thoughts going down a negative road, I go through a checklist of positive points to recalibrate my negative thoughts. First, I always remind myself that I am running and weight lifting 4-5 times a week and that I am doing my best. If I am looking at a race photo and comparing myself to the others in the shot, I remind myself that I am running the same pace and, in many cases, am passing runner’s that are much slimmer than me. Finally, I remind myself where I started. I no longer weigh 262 pounds and no matter what, I am far better off than I was then. These two or three thoughts, are usually enough to put my mind back into a more healthy state.

One of the things I have liked most since starting this blog is meeting others who have been on a similar journey with their weight. I am curious how those of you deal with any lingering issues you may have with your body image. Do those of you who have lost large amounts of weight struggle with negative body image as well? Do you have a checklist of positive affirmations that you use to bring your thoughts back to a healthy place? I would love to hear about anything that you do to help yourself.

 

31 thoughts on “Does This Picture Make Me Look Fat? My Battle With Negative Body Image.

  1. Thanks for sharing this. We all have so much to battle through and it seems that no matter how many cheerleaders we have on the sidelines the voice inside can drown them out. Once we can put a muzzle on that negativity we will certainly see ourselves through less clouded lenses!!

  2. Hey, I’m right there with you. There are so many awkward pictures of my loose skins flapping in the wind that bug me to no end. I hate it. While, I don’t have a “beach body” I know I am a healthier person and because of that I’ve learned to kind of embrace it. But, that doesn’t make it easier.

    But, congrats to you! I wish I had your speed!

  3. Wow!! You read my mine… I deal with the same issues daily I look in the mirror & it’s not what I see when I close my eyes… We’re our own worst critics

  4. I think many people including myself have similar thoughts…and we’ve all heard the “don’t compare yourself to other people” statement. Which really doesn’t help at all. Maybe just pull up some of your photos before you started training and check out the difference between then and now.

    Anyway, you’re doing great, and all the real runners are the ones that run, it doesn’t matter what they look like.

  5. Nick,

    I have struggled with this too. I have over time lost a total of 80 pounds. (Some of it more than once!) I am thin now. I have trouble just typing that because the “fat” girl in me tells me that I still have weight to lose. I gravitate to shirt sizes that are to big for me. My daughter has to continually re-direct me to smaller sizes. Now that I have bought smaller sizes on bad days I remind myself that it is a process and that those clothes fit me now! I also remind myself that I can do really hard workouts and run really far. Thanks for your blog. I enjoy it a lot! I appreciate the inspiration.

  6. Thank you for sharing a very honest post. So many people have body issues. It is nice to know that we are not alone. I have lost 30 lbs and don’t always see it in myself. I try to focus on the good things that I can see. Yes, I still have love handles and that baby belly that probably will never go away but I have collar bones and more of a curve around my waist.

  7. Hi Nick,
    Thanks for sharing this, I can only imagine (and can see by some of the comments) that it will resonate with a LOT of us!
    Even though you think you should have grown out of some of the negative self-image by now, that fact that much of what you described happened BEFORE you were ten likely only served to implant it that much more fiercely.
    My journey has been a similar one, I was a little overweight as a kid and it’s not long before a parent trying to help or a schoolmate trying NOT to help says something that gets implanted forever.
    There are LOTS of unflattering race photos out there, I have never seen a good one of myself. Looking at yours, what I saw was a very athletic guy. Given a choice, I would pick the “linebacker” over the “real runner” any day!
    As many of us can attest, the negative self-talk is one of the most difficult things to deal with. Intellectually, you know you’re doing well, and I guess that’s what matters. It’s the people who get it the other way around that are in the most trouble.
    Anyway, in MY books, you’re an inspiration!

  8. Thank you so much for your candid post. I recently posted my body image journey on my blog, and in that post I say “I’m not at my “skinniest”, and I’m more confident than I’ve ever been. I love my body. I’m grateful for my body.”.
    Within days of posting it, I had a “relapse” while trying on a new running outfit for the Provo Half. I left the store devastated. My thinking…. I didn’t look like a “runner”. I guess we’ll continue to have these feelings resurface, and we’ll have to recognize the error in that kind of thinking. I also had a hard time looking at my Provo Half pictures. So goes the journey!

  9. Nick this is a great post. It made me tear up. I was overweight as a child and it really hit me when you said you at the ice cream bar with tear filled eyes. Been there many times. It’s so hard as a child and does leave scars. What do I do now? I recognize the negative self talk and acknowledge it, but remind myself of what I can do. How far I have come. I can’t rely on what I see in the mirror, so I go with what my body can do. Thanks again for sharing. Really great read.

  10. My best friend and I have worked extremely hard, through Crossfit and running, and between the two of us, we’ve lost over 200 pounds. She’s now a trainer, and I do races like they’re going out of style. And yet, whenever we talk about it, we can never get past the “fat girl” mental block. The “I’m not skinny so I have to compensate with the rest of my life” mentality. I’m always shocked when someone actually tells me I’m beautiful rather than complimenting just my eyes or my hair. I never purchase my race pictures because all I see are how chunky my thighs look in motion.

    We can make it. We are strong. Thanks for this post – I felt like it was written for me.

  11. Thanks for sharing this Nick. I can sooo relate. And for the record I think you look amazing in those pics. Strong, athletic…and your time reflects that. Measure your success by your time. Your eyes will catch up with your progress and youll see what everyond else sees. You look great and should be so proud of all you’ve accomplished. And dude…that time is killer : ) -Laura

  12. Wow, you struck a nerve with this one, for a lot of people apparently. No surprise though, negative body image is so common, and hard to avoid. Like many readers, I have fought the same thing. It does not discriminate, nor does it make any sense most of the time! (I’m currently 6′, 176) I still feel heavier than I need to be, which is a bit silly when I’m clearly in a healthy range for my height. On the plus side, I have focused lately on being healthy instead, and this in turn has helped me drop maybe 6 lbs over the past 6 weeks. Also training for my first marathon, so my running has gone up this year, which helps. I think my biggest comparison is to the “best me” I can be. I know I have been lazy, and I know I can be fitter, and I am finally trying to get there before I’m too old. Who knows, maybe I’ll get there this time.

    I have 3 older brothers, all have run multiple marathons…being the youngest creates some baggage, especially if you feel “different.”

    Regarding your running time: I ran one very fast 7:20 mile the other day at the end of a 7 miler, slightly downhill. Ironically, I probably look like a “runner”, but would have finished 30 minutes behind you in a half!

    Good luck with your journey, I wish we all had answers instead of just sympathetic ears!

  13. Aww virtual hug 😉 I haven’t had people comment about my weight like you have but I hate being photographed with my sisters and always being the fat one with more chins than neck and an extra roll to help support the “girls” 😉 One day I will be as strong and iron willed as you but until then I’ll just be amazed at all you can accomplish!

  14. Thanks for sharing this post! I struggle with the same thing all the time, but people tell me I must have a body image problem b/c they don’t see what I see. Nonetheless, as we runners know, it’s all a race against ourselves. We’re out there, we’re keeping fit and challenging our bodies to its maximum potential. And for that, we are ALL superheroes, no matter the shape, size or speed! So, keep up the good work and most of all make sure you’re having FUN out there!
    http://confessionsofanamateurathlete.blogspot.com

  15. Hi Nick,
    Thank you so much for your post. I think it took a lot of courage to post the pictures, etc. The funny thing is that I don’t see any of what you see. I remember after my first half marathon I posted the picture even though I look fat. I said, this is the body that did. But honestly since then, I have been very cautious of what I post. I’m so afraid. I can totally relate to your childhood stories. I remember being sent out to walk the dog while everyone else had ice cream sundaes. I hope that I can learn from your post. I don’t think I’ve ever had a good picture.

  16. This was a great post. We are kindred soirits, though you are WAY faster than I am. I co-host a podcast with Andrew Weaver at DoughboytoIronman.com and wondered if you’d be interested in coming on the show and discussing thus issue. We had one episode on body image with Anna Vocino (if you go to iTunes or website imyearone.com you can find it). I think our audience would like to hear your story.

  17. You are a a runner. What runners have in common regardless of height, weight, color or location is we love to run. You obviously love to run.

    I like you have lost a lot of weight. I understand what you see in your pictures. Seeing you say it makes me want to tell you that you are crazy that you look great. Although I know when I look at my own pictures I see similar things.

    Being a big ‘husky’ kid and growing up heavy certain does cause a negative self image. It is possible to fix that with time. My only suggestion is to change your attitude towards how you look. Sexy and athletic really is an attitude. Look at Bolt the sprinter. He is a big boy for a sprinter and damn is he fast. Would you say he is not athletic? Watch him walk and talk and you know for sure he is athletic.

    Learn to get your swagger on and believe you are an athlete and you will become one.

  18. I have also lost a great amount of weight over the years and am, finally, only 10lbs away from my goal. However, I find that the closer I get to my goal, it begins to change. I told myself I would originally lose 50 lbs, when I lost 45 I decided to lose another 10… and so forth. I’ve not lost 65 and still feel I need to lose another 10. When I look in the mirror, I see the EXACT same body I saw before I lost the weight. I know it’s ridiculous because I’ve gone from a size 21 to a size 6, but I sometimes feel like it’s a miracle I can squeeze my body into a my clothes. I run the marathon in 4 hours and, just like you said, before the race begins, I look around me and see all the lean mean running machines – runners with firm bellies and lean thighs – and ask myself how I fit in. I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb. But my marathon time has gone from 4:27:30 to 4:03:13 in three years so I must be doing something right. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel right in my skin but i use the same affirmations as you and, for the most part, they get me through the rough patches.

  19. Thank you for this. I go through the same thing when I look at my race photos. At 5’6″ and wide chested I’ll never be considered lanky. It doesn’t matter how many PR’s I set , I’ll always see myself as short and round. It’s something I hope to break one day but you know what they say about old dogs. This isn’t the type of subject that normally comes up, and of course my wife will tell me I look great. It’s encouraging to hear I’m not the only one.

  20. My heart breaks to think about the young boy you describe. No child should ever feel that way. I think you have always been an amazing person, no matter what weight you were. And now you are an amazing runner. There is no need for comparison. A 1:35 half marathon rocks. You look like a runner from where I’m sitting.

  21. Thank you so much for sharing this. I’ve never been thin, either. Mom bought my clothes in the husky section, I preferred academics, music, and science fiction over sports, was pretty much your typical fat nerd. Finally started working on losing weight last summer. Got bitten by the running bug in October. According to my bathroom scale I’ve dropped 50 of the 85 pounds that I’m trying to lose, though according to the doctor’s scale it’s more like 40. Either way, I know that’s no small feat.

    I ran my first 10k race at the beginning of this month. I was so proud of the accomplishment! Then I got the email with a link to proofs of the race photos. My eye is instantly drawn to the parts of my body that I hate – mostly the belly and man boobs. I went ahead and forwarded that email to my family “just because”, and they responded with comments about how great I looked. I went back to the proofs and forced myself to look at them again, trying not to focus on the parts I dislike. I can *kind of* see what they’re talking about, but it’s still really tough to ignore that voice in my head taunting me with things like “You really think you can be a runner, Fatty McFatso? Ha!”

    So, yeah. I kind of know what you’re talking about. It’s nice to know we’re not alone in this. Thanks again.

  22. “The fat girl inside”… I have her too, and she can be so cruel. I am 60+ pounds smaller than I was at my biggest and I STILL grab large sizes when shopping. I still see the fat girl when I look in the mirror and I see all of my friends as smaller than me, even though I’ve been told many times (by my loving boyfriend) that I am small.
    I just ran my first 50k and seeing the race photos have helped so much; I can actually see my fitness and I’m SO happy in them!
    It can be so tough to be a new person, even if it’s taken years to get here. It’s pretty easy to continue negative thoughts and have the negative body image.
    This is such a great post! So real and painful. Keep up the incredible work. Also… your pace is beyond impressive

    • Thank you for sharing Allison! Your story is inspiring! I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do a 50k.

    • It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who feels like this. Thanks for sharing, Allison! And congrats on your 50k. That’s my next big goal!

  23. Just read a couple of your posts and I can say that I am in the same boat! My brothers’ “loving” nickname for me was “Bloaty.” Even when I went home this last month, I could see how critical my entire family was of people who were bigger. Made me realize where my negative self-image came from. I had lost 50 pounds and now have gained 35 of it back. Even at my smallest, my brain hadn’t caught up to my body, but looking back at pictures, I can see how small I was to what I am now.

  24. I have been dealing with this for awhile and reached a good place for awhile but recently found myself going back into a dark place. I personally have not found anything to particularly help in those moments. I definitely feed the negativity. I’m working on it though.. Good luck to you!

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