Non-scale victory: I finally think I look thin in a photo!

Picture of Dr. Jen Kerns

Dr. Jen Kerns

My Non-Scale Victory (#NSV) was a doozy this week! I had a new pair of plaid pants and a new scarf that I had received from Stitch Fix, and I wanted to get a more objective idea of how they looked on me before deciding whether to keep them than I get from simply looking in the mirror. Somehow, looking at myself directly in the mirror leads to a distorted view of how I look – often actually making me appear thinner in my head than I might perhaps appear in real life. Anyone who is overweight might relate to walking along a city street and suddenly catching a glimpse of an extremely fat person in the reflection off of a glass building or door, only to realize in an instant that that fat woman is ME and feeling somewhat shocked that I was that big, even though I had looked at that same body in the mirror just a few hours prior. Or seeing a photograph of yourself in which you feel shocked and think, “WHOA… am I really that big?” So in my 45 years of life, my experience of catching sight of myself in a photo was always a surprise in the “I though I looked thinner than this” negative, disappointed kind of way.

So back to my Stitch Fix outfit. I have an #EchoLook which is an Amazon Echo product that takes your photo and has several different features, including just taking the photo (or a quick video if you want to turn around and see the back of your outfit or see how the fabric flows), having Alexa give you advice on how you look and what can be changed about your outfit, submitting two variations on an outfit (or even two totally different looks) that will be compared by Amazon’s style staff to help you choose between them, etc. So, because I always seem to get a more objective idea of how I really look when I see myself in a photo as compared to the mirror, I stood in front of my Echo Look and asked Alexa what she thought. The shocker was my instant impression when I looked at the photo that popped up on my iPhone: “Holy crap, I look THINNER than I thought I was!!”

People, seriously. You don’t understand. I. Look. Thinner. Than. I. Thought.

What a surge of the feel-goods that gave me! It was quite literally the first time in more than 4 decades, in my entire life, that I had ever been surprised by a photo of myself in that happy direction rather than being surprised at how big I am.

before & after weight loss

It felt great, and it brought up many thoughts and feelings for me:

First, some low level shame that I am feeling vain and enjoying how I look. I definitely try hard to maintain a normal weight for health reasons, because I have an extremely strong family history of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and Alzheimer’s Disease (all weight-related conditions) and I myself was insulin resistant (prediabetic) at the start of my Biggest Loser weight loss journey when I weighed in at 270 pounds in 2005. My “before” photo above was taken in college when I was about 300 pounds, my highest in life (and I know my blood pressure was a little high then so I can imagine I was similarly insulin resistant even in my teens and 20s). So health is extremely important to me, more so than ever now that I have Graham to live long for. But I am not going to lie — taking pride in my appearance is an extremely strong motivator for me as well, whether that is ideal or not. I recognize that even my calling it a “happy direction” might be viewed by some as anti- #fatacceptance, which I most definitely am not. Although I fully support any human being who is happy with their appearance no matter their shape or size, I personally still feel best about myself when I am in the normal BMI range, and that’s ok too. Just keepin’ it real.

Second, this #NSV brought up extreme interest in how our brains interpret visual data so differently. I have not yet researched why this happens, why I think I look different in photos or surprise reflections in glass doors than I think I do in real-time mirror engagements, but there is a clear effect that my brain has on how it interprets objective data. My appearance did not change objectively from mirror to photo, yet my brain thinks it did. This is just so fascinating! Does this happen to you? Let me know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

Until next week, with love-

Oh yeah, btw, I kept both the plaid pants and the scarf! ????




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