There was a woman I went to graduate school with, whom I generally found to be so stupid, I frequently wanted to beat her to death with a socket wrench when I talked to her. But the sun shines even on a dog’s ass every once in awhile, so it’s not surprising I found a paper she wrote in a class we shared to be wonderfully inventive and disarmingly insightful.
It was called “The Rhetoric of Mirrors,” which, don’t reach for that Back button just yet, hypothesized that our own gaze, when reflected back at us, altered our behavior in the same way as when we know we’re being watched by others. We perform for ourselves, and we attempt to impress the person on the other side of the mirror, even though we are ultimately alone with ourselves and needn’t put on this absurd façade.
She compared getting out of the shower and the state of being “naked” versus coming upon herself in the mirror and how she was no longer naked, but now “nude.” Reading those words on the screen, think about how each one makes you feel, and how different your reactions are to each. Her posture altered, her actions became much more intentional, and she worked to emphasize her best qualities while obfuscating or minimizing her less desirable ones.
This is all a roundabout way of saying I think this weight loss has given me some mild body dysmorphia.
It’s been six weeks since I wrote “Maintenance” and from where I started at 193 lbs, I weighed in yesterday morning at 188 lbs. I’m basically on schedule (or perhaps one pound behind) to hit my goal of being back down at 185 by St. Patrick’s Day. That’s great. So why am I still so paranoid?
I think it’s because the novelty of my body change has largely worn off and I’m used to seeing the new me nude in the mirror every morning. I used to marvel at how non-fat I now was and beam at how when I squeezed my gut between my hands like that Jon Reep joke, I had a bagel, and no longer an Angel Food Cake.
But now it’s been 6 months, this perception has normalized, and I’m back to being critical of myself. These last couple weeks have seen me eat like shit (but not nearly as bad as when I packed it on), so I was afraid (again… ugh) of getting on the scale. On a whim yesterday morning, I stepped on the scale, and bam! 188 lbs. Alright! Maintenance!
I genuinely had no idea what that number would be. Anywhere from the magic 185 (for reasons I couldn’t explain and probably just fantasized) all the way up to 195 were in the realm of possibility for me. Yet it was 188, just like it was two weeks prior when I got on the scale the last time.
When I was in the throes of losing weight, I could probably tell you every morning what I would weigh. I could pick up tiny fluctuations based on the previous day’s activities and foodstuffs. It was an obsession, and now without a finish line to cross – even though I’m well aware I claimed that wasn’t the goal, which it basically wasn’t – I’m finding it difficult to stay as driven as I once was. Attaining the seemingly unattainable will push you to move your ass like you’ve never moved it before.
Working to maintain the status quo is much less glamorous, and remaining within that 3 lb. spitting distance makes complacency easy. And appealing!
But I find flaws now where I once found exhilaration. Nitpicks where I used to stare in wonder. Fear where I once inspired hope. The journey of weight loss will make you euphoric. Once that wears off, the same cynical bastard who used to think all his problems would disappear if he just shed some of this fat ass is still there ready to find any number of faults that may or may not exist.
Granted, I still have my tether to reality. I still fit comfortably in size medium t-shirts, which was a fucking revelation since I previously hadn’t worn a size medium since probably middle school. My pants haven’t stretched in any weird ways. My face remains non-bloated looking in pictures.
Overall, I’m keeping this weight off, and I never want it back.
Never leaving however, is my self-critical eye. He can fuck right off whenever. But I don’t think he ever will.