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A Thin Line

Most of my life I’ve been a fairly out-of-shape guy with low self-esteem. I wouldn’t say I was obese but always a bit soft and awkward. About two years ago, I started working out, and it has been so life changing. I’ve lost a lot of weight and become a regular at the gym, where I have made lots of buddies and have attracted attention from men since toning up. The only challenge is that I can worry loads about gaining back the weight, and I do get embarrassed about all my diet restrictions when I’m out with friends. The other day my pants were ever so slightly tighter, and I panicked. A couple of folks have expressed concerns, but I just feel focused on living healthy and want to stay that way. What do you think?


Dear Felix:
There’s no doubt that you have worked hard to lose weight and sculpt your body—and you can certainly be proud of your achievement. The only trap is when too much of your self-esteem is in the hands of something like your weight and muscle mass. It seems like your poor self-image has been hanging around for a while, and it’s worth considering how that all started for you.

For a lot of folks who wrestle with body image, there can be a more generalized feeling inside of “not enough-ness” that ends up getting projected onto the body. That way we have something tangible to control and “fix.” Clearly, your fears of losing your firm bod signify that the weight loss hasn’t completely healed the poor self-esteem. Along with that chiselled torso and smaller waistline, you have also inherited an anxious relationship with food and a fear-based obsession with staying thin.

While it doesn’t seem so bad right now, this anxiety could snowball and become more crazy-making than you could imagine. Take your friends’ concerns as caring (not judgment), and see this as a chance to prevent the anxiety from taking over. Can you imagine enjoying food without obsessing about your pants the next day? Can you consider that your desirability isn’t based entirely on your size?

You’ve been enjoying getting peeped by other gym bunnies, and I don’t blame you. It could be that you’re only getting noticed now that you’ve slimmed down. But there’s also the likelihood that you only feel good enough now to notice and invite flirtation. So long as you assume that your entire world and self-esteem would crumble if you put on a few pounds, you’ll be imprisoned by your weight loss. The gym might become an even more pleasurable place once it stops being a venue that confirms or dismantles your overall worth.