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Slim person in an overweight person's body?

This sounds like something Eddy from Absolutely Fabulous might claim to be:

Edina: what you two don't to realise is that inside of me, inside of me, there is a thin person just screaming to get out.
Mother: Just the one, dear?

As deluded as Eddy appeared to be in that scene, having the identity of a slim person regardless of your size is really important. In fact it is possibly the single most important factor when setting a weight loss goal because we all have an image of who we are in our minds and whatever that image is shapes the decisions we make and how we behave. This is because as human beings we have a great need for psychological consistency. This means we need for our beliefs, values and attitudes, all to align with one another. If we have a certain identity and a set of values and beliefs that align with that identity, when we experience something that is at odds with this identity we feel deeply uncomfortable about this difference.

For example- if I think about myself as a caring and generous person but then I'm stopped in the street by a charity fundraiser, listen to their pitch about the needy children but refuse to donate any money, I will feel bad. As a result of this discomfort we will seek to act in a way that confirms our view of ourselves and avoids anything that might prove it to be wrong. So let's think about what that means for losing weight.

Just the one dear

Just the one dear

Person A

Thinks of themselves (and talks about themselves) as a 'big person'. They say things like "I've always been big, I was a big child , I was overweight as a teenager. It's just how I am"
What identity does this person have about themselves? What beliefs are they likely to hold about being overweight? Therefore-what decisions do you think they make?
This person has the identity of a 'big person' and therefore will feel very uncomfortable with anything that challenges that identify and those values and beliefs. They will set out to prove themselves right. Not consciously of course. Consciously they will be thinking " I want to be slim" but subconsciously they will act in a way that confirms what they believe about themselves. So imagine what happens to this person as they lose weight. When they start to notice that the image they see in the mirror doesn't match how they feel, they become uncomfortable with this mismatch and will act in a way that proves themselves right. They will usually 'sabotage' their slimming efforts and afterwards get great comfort from saying "see-told you I was right. I'm just a big person". Somehow congratulating themselves for being right about not achieving their goal even if it's making them miserable.

Person B

Thinks of themselves as a slim person. They say things like "I've let myself slip a bit this isn't how I'm supposed to look. I should be a size 10, that's what I really am".
What identity does this person have about themselves? What beliefs are they likely to hold about being overweight? Therefore-what decisions do you think they make?
This person really feels in their head that they are not how they ought to look. Therefore this person feels that same discomfort that how they look in the mirror doesn't match the image in their head. As we have already seen they will act in a way that proves themselves right. They will seek to act in a way that gets them back to how they used to be.They make the decisions a slim person makes, they will adopt the habits a slim person has and they will eat what a slim person eats. Chances are they will be kinder to themselves too.

This is important for maintaining weight too. I've seen many people lose and impressive amount of weight but in their heads they are not a slim person. This usually plays out in one of two ways. Either they seek to prove the image in their head right and gain weight again or they keep the weight off but it takes every ounce of will power they have to do it. You hear them talking about will power, self discipline and they use words like 'struggle' to describe their experience. A 'slim person' doesn't need self discipline and they don’t find keeping weight off a struggle-it's just who they are. The results might look the same on the outside but believe me when I say the experience is completely different.

So who are you?
Are you a slim person? Try saying it out loud now. Try casually referring to yourself as a slim person in conversation with others. Do you sound convincing?
If you don’t sound totally convinced, how about "I am a slim person at the start of their journey" or " I am slim person who is still working toward their goal".
If you won't allow yourself to believe any of these you might want to consider what's stopping you.

People think that when they lose weight they will magically start thinking of themselves as a slim person. They think that the body changes and the identity will follow. The opposite is true. The identity come first, then the decisions, then actions (and body) follows. To use an example of a famous person think about Madonna, when did she have the identity of a pop star? Did she wait for first record deal? Or did she already have that identity when she arrived in New York on her own with nothing but the clothes on her back and less than $5 to her name? If she had waited for that first record deal to think of herself as a pop star how would she have acted differently? Would she still have made it?

What do think? What image do you have of yourself in your head? How has it changed? Is it working for you?

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