The Struggle of a Healthy Self-Image

Writen by: Hank Wethington

Posted on 27 December 2012


I remember very clearly the day as an 8 year old kid going into Sears to buy “Husky” pants, or as I learned from my friends, fat kid pants. Growing up and even into my forties, I’ve always been a big guy. Some would say big boned, others would just tell me I’m fat. Either way, I’ve never had a mental image of myself as a lean guy, but I wouldn’t say I saw myself as fat either.

What’s most interesting to me, is that even at my peak weight of over 300 pounds, I never saw myself as particularly fat. When I looked in the mirror, I did see a guy over-weight, but would always counter with my athletic ability, or the fact I didn’t carry it in my mid-section. When I compared myself to others, they were fat, I was just over-weight. Even just a year ago at 275 pounds, I would counter with the fact I could run a half marathon, or complete a triathlon, something I would say with an air of self-importance, like those things alone made me healthy, even though I was still very over-weight. My mental image of me was not based in reality, and even worse, it was based on comparisons to others.

This last year as I’ve lost the majority of my weight (I’m currently under 200 pounds), I’m not sure there’s been a change in my mental image of myself. When I look in the mirror, I don’t really see a difference between the me of today and the me of a year ago, even though there’s 75 pounds of me missing. In my mind, I’m still me. Still not healthy.

The truth of the matter is unfortunately, it doesn’t matter the image I see in the mirror, and it doesn’t matter weather I’m healthy and fit. I can only see the changes that I’ve made when I compare myself with others. Oddly though, I can’t see it in person, when we’re together. In my mind, I’m still the fat kid. It’s only in pictures, afterwards, that I can see that I’ve changed. I’m not sure why I can’t see it for myself? Why I can’t see it when I look in the mirror? Why I must base my self-image off comparisons to others? Yeah, I probably need some counseling. 30 years of being over-weight has created some baggage, and apparently I will be dealing with it for many years.

I know that a healthy self-image is not based on comparisons, and it’s not based on a number on a scale. Now it’s time to figure out how to create a healthy self-image. To get started, I recently read this post on “5 Tips for Developing a Healthy Body Image.” Who knew the health journey I’m on would also be a mental health journey? For anyone else struggling similarly or if you’ve come out the other side, I’d love to hear from you.

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