Self Image: Who's That Thin Person in the Mirror? (cont.)

One way to escape some of these problems, experts say, is to start trimming the fat from your self-image almost from the moment you commit to your weight loss plan.

"Self-acceptance is different than liking your body, and you don't have to wait until you like your body to accept yourself," says Aronson. To this end, she says, make yourself a promise to stop putting yourself down because of your weight. Instead, pat yourself on the back as often as you can for taking steps to lose those extra pounds.

"You can turn your weight into something positive if you use it as an example of your resolve and your determination to turn health and your life around," says Aronson.

Once you actually begin to lose weight, Thomas says, create a visual diary of how your body is changing. Then keep those images front and center in your mind.

"If you have a friend or family member you really trust, have them take a picture of you in a bathing suit -- and then photograph you again each time you lose 10 pounds," says Thomas. Having concrete proof of how your body is changing, she says, can help you accept the new you.

What can also help: Celebrate each significant loss with a fantasy shopping trip -- and be determined to try on everything you think you can't wear.

"Pick out a size, a color, a style -- anything you were conditioned to believe would not look good on you because of your weight -- and try it on now," says Thomas. While not everything you pick will look terrific (because the truth is, even people on the skinny planet can't wear everything they like), you may be surprised to discover how much better you really do look and feel.

And what if you're not all that thrilled with what you see in the mirror right now? Aronson says you should act hot, even if you think you're not!

"Think of how you would act or walk or talk if you thought you looked thin and gorgeous, then hold that feeling in your head as you interact with others," says Aronson. The more times you replay those positive thoughts, the more likely it is you'll come to feel that sense of confidence all the time.

Then, when you do finally reach your goal weight, she says, your mind and your body will be on the same page.

"Your new image will be better integrated into your thought process and you'll be less likely to continue reacting to your inner 'fat' cues," says Aronson.

If, no matter how you try, you still can't get used to the new you, finding a therapist who specializes in eating disorders might help you spread your wings, Thomas says.

"If you haven't been able to shake your fat phobia within a year of reaching your goal weight, then it may be a good idea to explore what else besides the pounds may be holding you back from living your life," she says.

Originally published Feb. 18, 2005.
Medically updated Jan. 23, 2006.

SOURCES: Abby Aronson, PhD, author, The Final Diet; psychologist, Woodbury, N.Y. Lisa Goezte certified fitness instructor; weight and lifestyle management counselor, Can Do gym, Edgewater, N.J. Yvonne Thomas, PhD, psychologist, Los Angeles. Frances Kuffel, author, Passing for Thin: Losing Half My Weight and Finding Myself, Brooklyn, N.Y.

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