Still See My “Fat” Self in the Mirror?

I recently came across the following email in my inbox from a blog buddy named Tom:

This year I grew tired of being obese decided to make a complete lifestyle change. The weight came off very fast. I am now nearly 60 pounds lighter, and I am enjoying and have embraced my new healthy lifestyle. I am very close to my personal target weight. My friends, family and co-workers all comment on my new slimmer me. How come I am having trouble seeing that person? I am well aware of my weight loss and that old clothes do not fit me as they once did so how come I still see a fat person in the mirror? What can I do to help see the new me that everyone else can?

Having struggled with my weight for many years during childhood, I immediately related to and understood Tom’s situation.

I sent Tom’s question to Diane Petrella, MSW, my good friend and contributor to The Davey Wavey Weight Loss Program. Diane is a renowned psychotherapist, author of The Inspiration Diet and a weight release coach – and I knew that she would have some great insight and recommendations.

Diane noted that, for Tom, the weight loss was rapid:

That’s great on one level, as seeing rapid results inspires confidence and motivation. At the same time, our minds have to “catch-up” with the changes made to our bodies.

According to Diane, Tom’s experience is not unusual. And, speaking from personal experience, I can attest to it; even after losing weight, I continued to see myself as chubby.

Diane continued:

Many people see themselves as “fat” even when they release a significant amount of weight. This is because the inner images we hold of ourselves are very powerful. Even when there is concrete evidence, as in the numbers on a scale, our mind can distort that reality to fit our self-perception.

To move forward, Diane recommends a strategy of recording your success in a weekly log. By keeping track of your weight, changes in clothing sizes, compliments and other improvements, you’re able to use these as evidence of your new weight.

Moreover, Diane encourages people like Tom to make new affirmations:

When you catch yourself saying, “I’m fat”, tell yourself, “Stop. That’s an old way of thinking. I release that thought. I am healthy and fit.” When you first say this, it may feel contrived. That’s OK. Say it anyway. Act “as if” it is true, which, in fact, it is as confirmed by the physical evidence you have. After a while saying these positive affirmations, and seeing yourself as thinner, will feel more natural.

Like so many things in life, it takes time. Diane recommends a prescription of gentleness and patience, noting that “it takes time to change your thoughts and beliefs to support your new self-image.”

If deeper issues are involved, such as trauma or abuse, professional support may be necessary. And if a distorted self-image becomes emotionally crippling, such as body dysmorphia disorder, seek out professional treatment.

Can you relate to Tom’s experience? If so, let me know in the comments below.

About Davey Wavey

Davey Wavey is a certified personal trainer and YouTube sensation with more than 250 million video views. For Davey's fitness tips and secrets, sign up for his free monthly newsletter - or download any of his affordable and effective workout programs.


  1. Steve Dougan says:

    Having just recently dropped 30lbs, I know *exactly* what this feels like. It’s a serious mental shift to see Skinny Steve where Chubby Steve used to be.

  2. I too was an overweight child. In 2001 at the age of 20 I lost 80 pounds. I am now a solid athleticly built 143 pounds at just 5’4″. I STILL see myself (at times) as being over weight. While I agree with Davey and the good Dr., I think that surrounding yourself with positivity and complimenting yourself is a great way to draw attention away from your body image. I set personal golas…step by step. I used to be afraid to take my shirt off at the pool even after I dropped the weight. So one day I decided to…and BAM right away a guy asked me “Hey man, how do you get that “V” shape in your torso”? That killed that fear right there. Just take it day by day and know that you have accomplished something so good, and stick to it! You are an amazing person for dropping the weight!!!

  3. Albert Santeler says:

    Ohh I can relate!!! When I was just a lad ..I’d become a bit of a “chunky monkey” at age 11..not awkwardly obese ..but what would be considered fat at any rate. I’d had enough of hearing other kids’ snide comments (and kids CAN be cruel..) ..with my parents’ support, thankfully, I put myself on a diet and lost the fat. I remember the positive feedback I would get and vowed to NEVER EVER be fat again!!! Over the years ..I’d notice a bit of weight gain, would freak out ..and lose it before I’d need to buy new clothes. I’ve since fallen into a good eating regimen, with regular exercise and I feel even better than ever. Even so this very day ..I will see fat on myself where others see thin. Some have threatened to fatten me up ..NO TAR!!! Not on my watch, you don’t!!!

  4. I can absolutely relate! I’ve struggled with my weight for years. Well okay… Decades! Now at 30 I’m finally done with the struggle. Im slimmer and more toned than ever but I still struggle with my own body image. After nearly 30 years of self esteem and self confidence issues it’s a tough and long road to put that behind me. Slowly but surely and as I reach my new fitness goals I find myself finally being proud of my achievements and allowing myself to “like” the way I look in the mirror. Tom you’ll get there! I have no doubt!

  5. I’m 20 and my weight became a problem a for me when I was about ten or so because of certain traumas but I’ve finally gotten over the things that happened to me. So I lost 45 lbs this past summer and I know exactly how that feels. Everyone says they see something different and I get that it’s different but it’s hard to SEE it. In my head I’m still the old me and when I get hit on I feel terrified, like I’m being used or something awful is going to happen or they really just want to laugh at me and then I don’t know how to respond. So I completely understand. Everything in this article was completely relevant lol

  6. During my senior year of high school I was 6’0″ and weighed 170-ish pounds. I was involved in so many extra-curricular activities that I usually only ate one meal a day. I ended up losing almost 40 pounds through the course of the school year. Now 2 years later I am 6’2″ and weigh 140 pounds. When I look at myself in the mirror I am always afraid that I will gain weight and see the 170 pound me staring back. Now true, I was never really “fat”, but I didn’t like myself at 170. My father is a large man at 6’5″ and weighing 300+ pounds. I think because he is so large it makes me nervous that I will get large as well. People always comment about how thin I am and about how I will gain weight at some point when my metabolism slows down and I honestly am dreading that day. I am proud of my thinness which also makes me wonder if I don’t have a small bit of anorexia because I do skip meals sometimes and feel guilty and disgusted with myself after I eat a lot.
    I am not sure why I am even writing all of this, but I guess that the answer is no, I don’t see the 170 pound me in the mirror, but the 140 pound me is always watching the weight, just in case. Now, the goal, I just need to get muscle definition and I will be completely happy.
    Thanks for everything you do Davey! 🙂 <3

  7. I can totally relate to this article, I lost 110 lbs over the course of 2 years so wasnt rapid but gradual so in that respect i dont agree with the doc. I was big (obese actually) for many years and it took me a couple of years to adjust my thought process to the slimmer healthier me. I still have setbacks on occasion even after 4 years but have finally learned to accept compliments as well. It’s a tough road in all respects, best advice i can give is keep a positive mental attitude and it helps get past still seeing that fat guy in the mirror.

  8. Dale Rodgie says:

    I’m 47 and a third of the way though losing 120kg (265 lbs). I find myself looking in the mirror trying to pick the changes to my body so far. Other people see the change more than I.

  9. Although changes are welcomed when they are for a healthier choice in lifestyle, one of the things you can try is to ask one of your best friends to swap clothes with you… …as at times, we identify how our body looks with what we’ve seen before.

    If you start wearing a sweatshirt that you know is your best friend’s sweatshirt, then you’ll concentrate on the fact that it’s YOU in that sweatshirt, and not your friend and start noticing the differences inside the clothes and how they fit, especially if you never used to fit in them before.

    Changing up your workout helps break out of a plateau, try it with your clothes to break out of a state of mind.


  10. christopher says:

    im getting to my goal-if lost now 85-90 lbs—-38-40kg.i do sometimes feel fat.because i know everything i eat-has consequences-i look at myself-and see im not quite perfect-just yet.patience patience patience.i know im doing well-people i see everyday tell me i am doing so well.the proof is there for all to see.they know it-i know it.the temptations are all around pizza pizza-i cant stand it-those matter what-i will resist these temptations.then i go to Walmart-what do i see?Hydroxycut staring me in the eye-for 19.95.i simply cant afford to buy it.i just keep plugging away at the obsessed-im convinced i will succeed-and my goal will be such a food-nazi-my workout plan is made for tomorrow-no fail.tell me-tell me-im doing the right thing.the reality is that im a few pounds/kilos overweight-thats all.

  11. I can totally relate to this feeling. I went from 240 (after being overweight my ENTIRE LIFE) to 135 and stayed there for over 5 years. 2 years ago I dropped more weight (amazing how a new job away from a desk can do that!) and got down to 104 (I am 5’2) and finally felt “skinny.” However, I was told every single day I was “too skinny” and needed to gain weight. Due to another life change, I have gained back to 135 and feel fat. Mind you, when I was at 135 before, I felt sexy and curvy but now, not so much. My mind cannot keep up with the changes… neither can my wardrobe. 🙁

  12. I can totally relate to this as I’m living it as we speak. Over the past few years I’ve gone from overweight with essentially NO muscle to speak of, then loosing almost 5 inches off my waist, play water polo 3 times a week and aiming for a triathlon in the next few years as well.
    I’ve worked really hard and not unlike Adam who got a compliment at the pool, it took some outside prodding by some surprising compliments about the definition I have in my lower abs, that sorta V shape just above your underwear/swimsuit, to start knocking me out of my daze.

    Not totally confident about the new look yet, but certainly starting to learn to love myself again 🙂

  13. What helps:
    Stop looking in the mirror! Close your eyes and FEEL your body!
    Feel it when it’s moving, feel how clothes lie on it, feel it with your hands.
    that’s the most effective way to “see” the change when your eyes are deceiving you

  14. Hi there

    Very interesting to see a lot of male perspectives on this – I thought only women had this problem! I’m 5’4″ with a very hourglass figure (24 inch waist, 32C bust, 35 inch hips). I have gone from a size 12 (US 8)and 147lbs which wasn’t fat exactly – I had a BMI of around 24 – to a size 6 (US 2) and 115lbs. I’ve always been a little bit too heavy for my height but not so much that the weight loss has made a massive difference. I still focus on the “bad” bits like my large hips and bottom, rather than the “good” bits like my small waist and slim legs and arms. Everyone says how good I look but I just can’t accept the compliments – I still feel slightly overweight even though I know that objectively speaking this is ridiculous. Today I made a big change – I offered all my larger sized clothes to friends for free on facebook. They cost thousands of pounds new and I really like some of them, but that’s not the point. That is the old me, and although I am giving away two thirds of my wardrobe I hope that it will help me to see myself as a slim woman. I would encourage others to do the same – I feel better just for sorting them out from the things that fit, and I am having some friends over to pick over what they want and the rest will go to charity. I’d say don’t sell them unless you really need the money, give them away and be happy that you no longer need them. By selling them it subconcionsly suggests another motive (this is just my personal view, I’m a lawyer not a psychologist!). Besides, when you lost weight you tend to look better – I actually buy far fewer things now I’m slimmer because I’m not constantly looking for things to make me look better.

    Sorry for the long ramble, but I found the article, the Dr’s comments and the shared experiences so helpful I wanted to share my thoughts. Well done to everyone who has posted – whether you have reached your target weight or not it’s a massive achievement, and remember that even if you see a fat person in the mirror, that’s not what other people see. If someone said you looked a little heavier you’d obsessive about it (or I would, at least), but if someone says you look great and slim and healthy it’s so much harder to believe! Start listening, people rarely say these things without good reason.

    Good luck to everyone,

  15. I can relate to this! At the age of 14 I was Bulimic for about a year. After going through all of that I started to love food! I’m now 40 years old and want to live a healthier life..In a year I have lost 86 pounds but when looking at myself I still see the fat me! I wish everyone the best of Luck!!

  16. I’ve recently lost 120 lbs through dieting and hard work, I’m still far away from my target, I went from 320 to 200, pants size 48-34 from XXXXL shirts to L even medium at some, the change is obvious and people who had not seen me in a while are amazed about my and dramatic candling, and if I’ve been told that now I look hot, attractive, handsome, etc… Not just by family and friends but by people who I would’ve never given me a second look before. My problem is that I stj suffer from low self-esteem and I don’t see the same person everyone else see, I don’t see myself fat just not what they see, I still see the same old fat ugly guy that I was before, not sure what to do..

  17. So i have a bit of the same problem, i used to be 300+ lbs in highschool and since (now in college) l have lost over 100 lbs and put on alot of muscle, i know ive been looking better because my boys always tell me i get the baddest girls, and all my girlfriends have been 9/10, 10/10 and thats what all my boys say, i have girls tell me ur sooo cute, ive had many say “omg your so fucking hot” and i workout 6 days a week not just because i want to look better but i just love to workout and blast my tunes. My problem is no matter what when i look in the mirror all i see is my old fat self. I feel like everythibg im doing is a waste. Even though all my workout, lifts, weight have went up alot! And people do stare at the gym at the weight i put up. And im not one of those chunky guys that can lift alot im an athlete. I just can never say wow u looking good john. Instead i think i look good and next day i look at the mirror and get angry at my self. Anyone else got this problem?

  18. Celestine Nwachukwu says:

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  19. Rikschac3 says:

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