Who's That Thin Person in the Mirror?

How to let go of your old image and learn to love the new you

By Colette Bouchez
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD

You've been dieting for months, and you're close to your goal weight. Still, when the invitation to your high school reunion arrives, you toss it without a second thought.

Your best friend suggests you celebrate your weight loss with a vacation at a beach resort. You scoff, and wonder aloud why anyone would even suggest you go somewhere a swimsuit is required!

You've lost the weight and now the shopping fun begins. But while your eye is immediately drawn to a rosy pink sweater, you walk by it and head straight for the "black rack."

If any of this sounds familiar, you may be one of many dieters who just can't shake the old image of themselves. For many folks, experts say, shedding the pounds is easy compared with losing their mental picture of the plus-sized person they used to be.

"Losing the fat is sometimes only half the battle because the baggage is not only the weight, it's tied into what you felt like when you were heavy -- and sometimes it's tied to the whole reason you got heavy to begin with," says Abby Aronson, PhD, a psychologist specializing in eating disorders.

What's more, says Aronson, the longer you have lived with your plus-sized image, the harder it may be to ditch behavior and responses that had become automatic.

"If you continually avoided certain situations fearing humiliation because of your size, you unknowingly created a pattern of thinking that, over time, gets imbedded in your brain," says Aronson, author of The Final Diet. "It can be hard to let go of this kind of conditioning, even after you reach your goal weight."

In Search of a New Self-Image