I am sure many of you remember the Snow White story where the Wicked Queen demands, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest one of all?” The mirror revealed ---to her shock---what she could not see herself. Sometimes the mirror reveals to us what we cannot see ourselves during our journeys of losing weight. For many of you, though, your mind does not allow you to see the truth that the mirror tries to reveal.
I’ve seen this many times with my patients. Your minds play tricks on you while you work hard on your journeys to lose weight. I hear you say to me, “I really can’t see any improvement." The distortion comes from what's inside of your brain. It’s called having “fat eyes.” The actual evidence is clear that you are doing exceptionally well. In fact, many of you have lost over 200 pounds. But you still don't see it because even though you keep staring in the mirror, you are looking with a distorted self-image. Even if your clothes are falling off of you, you may get excited but it's still not enough; you continue to beat yourself up over your appearance. It's so easy to become obsessed over the reflection in the mirror that you begin to notice every flaw or bulge. Being unhappy about the imperfections you see can and does negatively affect your self-image. Without a healthy amount of self-esteem, you lose the motivation to lose weight in a safe and effective way. If you continually focus on the negative, you will not be able to understand and appreciate that you may be losing that significant one pound per week and be safely on your way to achieving a healthy weight loss goal. To help to gain a better perspective of how you really look in the mirror, it may help you to have before and after pictures taken about every month to put on your refrigerator so you see your improvements.
In order to be successful, however, you need to do away with concealing the truth when talking to us during your appointments. Let me explain. Many people come and describe what they see in the mirror and are very distraught. But those people conceal the true cause of their weight gain. This leads to disaster. This past week, for example, I reviewed the chart of a lady who has come for 64 weeks. During this entire time she has lost only a total of about 35 pounds. I noticed that she would gain four and then lose three. Then she would gain six and then lose three again. For her it was a never-ending roller coaster. It took many weeks to finally get her to confess that she has a “Cheat Saturday.” Yet when we spoke throughout those 64 weeks she insisted she followed the program to the letter. What she originally concealed caused her disaster. Her common complaint was, “But I don't see any results when I look in the mirror...” I replied, “Don't you see why not?
So the next time you look in the mirror and you make harsh judgment of yourself, remember how far you've come. To get to where you're going may take you a little bit longer than the next person, however, don't continue to focus on the negative. Focus on the positive aspirations that you started with and that you are continuing to achieve on a day-to-day basis.
If you're going to look in the mirror every morning or every evening, use the opportunity to feel the excitement that comes with weight loss. Write encouraging notes to yourself on adhesive tape or memo paper and highlight them. Write down the results you've achieved so far. Keep a weekly tabulation of how much weight you've lost and retrieve it whenever you feel the need to cheat on your food program.
Here is my final thought for you from the apostle Paul who reminds us, “ Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price: therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which is the Lords." (First Corinthians 6:19 - 20.) We all recognize that God has done so much for us. It should be our delight, and indeed our privilege, to obey his commandments to take care of our Temple. So the next time you look at your temple in the mirror, praise God for what you see. Remember, you are not where you started; you are further down the road than you ever thought you would be.
Blessings to all,
Chuck Shaffer M.D.