Fantasies of Thinness

From way back when I was a little girl to my early 30’s, I had a very definite idea of what I wanted to look like at my wedding. I imagined walking regally down the aisle in my tall, elegant sheath. When I actually got engaged and tried on wedding dresses, they didn’t look anything like what I’d imagined. I looked in the mirror and realized that I had failed to take into account the fact that I was only five feet tall and rather busty. Either I had been imagining that the act of putting on a wedding gown would cause me to grow 7 inches and lose several cup sizes, or I was imagining someone else in that wedding dress instead of myself.

I had to reassess myself and my body, and go find some different, less sheath-like gowns, and realize that even on my wedding day, I was still going to be the shortest adult there.

What do you imagine life will be like after you reach your goal weight? I am a huge believer in visualization, and in the past I have visualized myself at whatever weight or size I deemed at that time to be “thin.” But sometimes visualization can work against you, as evidenced by the things I seemed to think would happen when I could wear those size 6 shorts:

  1. I would spend a lot more time outdoors.
  2. I would be far more graceful.
  3. I would kayak and go camping regularly.
  4. I would be tanner.
  5. I would be happier.
  6. I would be calmer.
  7. I would be smiling most of the time.
  8. I would stand at the edge of cliffs and not worry that the wind might be pressing the dress against my protruding stomach.  (???… I think I must have gotten that one from a magazine spread.)
  9. I would be good at sports.
  10. I would look more tousled and sexy in the morning instead of caffeine-deprived and drooly.

I eventually realized that if I really wanted to kayak regularly, I should go do it now instead of waiting for some magic number to appear on the scale. Turns out I enjoy the random kayak trip, but it’s not something I even want to do regularly.

I’m never going to tan. I’m an Irish redhead. Deal with it. Losing weight is also probably not going to make me less of a klutz or make me smile all the time. And even when my mother weighed 95 lbs., she had a potbelly that I inherited, and really, how often do I stand on the edge of cliffs in filmy dresses?

Take a good look at what you imagine life will be like when you reach your goal: What parts of your fantasies are realistic (finishing a ½ marathon, having more stamina) and what parts aren’t (being so much more satisfied with your life’s routines than you are now). What’s your version of suddenly turning 5’7”?

Imagine what it’s really going to look like when you reach your goal. What’s your routine going to be like? If you’re focusing on increasing healthy habits and decreasing unhealthy ones, it should look pretty much the same as it does now. Live as if you’re already there, and stop waiting for the magic day when the scale says what you hope for. Research has shown repeatedly that focusing on weight loss doesn’t create lasting results – but changing lifestyle habits, being healthy and loving your life right now does.

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  • Beej

    LOVE this!

    What do I imagine? I’ll be smaller. That means I’ll fit better into the roller coaster seats at the amusement park. I won’t feel self conscious about my giant butt spreading over the sides of the chair when I lunch outside with office mates. I will be outside more (making TheBoy go with me on walks..climbing trees with him instead of just watching him do it). I’ll have more energy to do…stuff. My clothes will be smaller so I’ll be able to fit more of them into the drawers. I might be able to wear hose and not make that whoosh-whoosh sound when I walk. My upper arms will not wobble….as much.

    I don’t think losing weight will make me take a ballet class in a white unitard or dance on the beach wearing a filmy white dress. That only happens when you use a certain brand of tampons. (hee hee)

  • Beej

    LOVE this!

    What do I imagine? I’ll be smaller. That means I’ll fit better into the roller coaster seats at the amusement park. I won’t feel self conscious about my giant butt spreading over the sides of the chair when I lunch outside with office mates. I will be outside more (making TheBoy go with me on walks..climbing trees with him instead of just watching him do it). I’ll have more energy to do…stuff. My clothes will be smaller so I’ll be able to fit more of them into the drawers. I might be able to wear hose and not make that whoosh-whoosh sound when I walk. My upper arms will not wobble….as much.

    I don’t think losing weight will make me take a ballet class in a white unitard or dance on the beach wearing a filmy white dress. That only happens when you use a certain brand of tampons. (hee hee)

    • Beej

      I should mention that *this time* my expectations/imaginings are more realistic because I’ve been down this road before. Years ago I dropped several sizes, but that didn’t make “Mr. Right” come along (I was in the middle of divorcing Mr. Very Wrong during the weight loss). A lot of things didn’t happen that are on a lot of people’s “if only I were thin, then….” list. But that’s okay – those things eventually did happen – just not as a result of weight loss or a jean size. :-)

  • Julie Magar

    I love this post. I love this because I, too, had delusions of gracefulness and being tan…and for one red hot second I fit in my size 6 shorts and I was kind of miserable. I was so focused on fitting in the shorts that I didn’t have any fun. And then promptly gained weight and wore much bigger shorts. At my heaviest now, I started running. For the first time, I’ve not put a dress-size on my goal. I’m training for a 1/2 marathon (which, if you know me, is hilarious). I so very much agree with what you said here– if I want to do something when I’m thin, why not do it now?

    • Colleenphd

      So true! That’s great that you’re tackling the half-marathon! I also thought that running would be easier with 10 less pounds to lug around, but my running times now are almost exactly the same, if not a bit faster, than when I weighed 15 lbs. less!

  • Anonymous

    LOVE this post. Its SO true that for a long time I was sitting on my butt waiting for things to be perfect before I would do the things I wanted to do. I realized I used my weight as the end all excuse to sitting on the sidelines. No more waiting. You want to do it DO it. Losing weight and being healthy makes these things easier but waiting until everything is perfect will keep you living on the sidelines forever!

    • http://twitter.com/colleenphd Colleen Arnold

      You’re so right!

  • Lisa

    Bravo bravo bravo. I LOVE this post as it speaks to my very core. I am living my life healthier than ever and I’m tired of waiting for that stupid magic number on the scale for xyz to happen. As in, I keep thinking my running pace will get faster if I *just drop 10 more pounds*. Screw that! Hard work, speedwork and maybe some strength training will improve my pace, NOT losing those elusive 10 lbs. Great post!!!!

    • http://twitter.com/colleenphd Colleen Arnold

      Good point, Lisa – I also tend to think that running will be easier if I don’t have an extra 10 lbs to lug around, which might be true, but I’m running farther and faster now than I did when I weighed 15 lbs. less, so….

  • Lclarque

    I was at that wedding and you have always looked beautiful! Love you life now, what a great message!
    Laurie

    • http://twitter.com/colleenphd Colleen Arnold

      Aw, thanks, Laurie!

  • http://alifetimeloser.blogspot.com/ Melissa

    I really enjoyed this column. Hit home and lots to think about. Very well done!