If you don’t like what you see in the mirror…

…maybe you should try getting a new mirror!

I have purposefully refrained from describing my physical appearance in this blog. But I think it’s fair to say that my body has changed dramatically over the last three years.

Just to put it in perspective, I’ve gone from a size 12 to a size 6 on most days (and a size four on others).

But when I look at myself in the mirrors at home, I tend to see the same old me – that is, the size 12 me.

I think this has something to do with how our memory and brain work; we have an idea of what we think we look like and that gets transposed over reality. Maybe that’s why most people hate the way they look in pictures. Not because they look bad, but because the image doesn’t match their expectations.

My theory on this is that when you look at yourself in the same mirror, in the same lighting, at the same angle, you don’t really look. And when that happens, your mind fills in the details. Depending on where you are in terms of past weight versus present weight, that may or may not be a good thing.

Notably, on the rare occasions that I do notice substantial shifts in my appearance, it’s usually not at home. It’s also not in the floor to ceiling mirrors that I routinely change in front of at the gym.

Instead, I tend to notice differences in my appearance in other people’s bathrooms or, like this morning, in hotels.

I remember the first time this happened like it was yesterday. Not because I looked all that different, but because the experience itself was just so shocking.

I was in a strange house – at a party. I had gone into the bathroom and after I finished using the toilet, I stood up and caught a glimpse of someone in the mirror.

My first thought was, literally: oh my God, I didn’t close the door!

But I had closed the door. I was seeing myself – perhaps for the first time in a long time. I just wasn’t recognizing myself, because the face in the mirror didn’t match the face in my mind’s eye (or even the image of me that is reflected everyday in the bathroom mirror at home).

This morning, I had a similar experience.

The bathroom in the hotel where I am staying has three mirrors over the sink, all off set from one another – making a shallow half hexagon. There was something about the three way interaction of the mirrors that caught my eye as I peeled off my sweaty workout clothes.

What caught my eye was that I looked thin!

I mean, even with my belly pooch (which has gotten substantially smaller, btw), I looked pretty damn good.

There was something about the side angles that really showed that all of my post holiday efforts had apparently paid off. I was thrilled. Flabbergasted, but thrilled nonetheless.

But wait! It got even better.

As I leaned in to turn on the shower, ruminating on how thin I looked, I caught another glimpse of myself – this time a full-length image from the back that was being reflected from the aforementioned mirrors. (Note: I hadn’t even noticed the full length mirror on the bathroom door, which was – at that very moment – capturing my backside in full “glorious” detail. In fact, it was so surprising, it took me a few minutes just to figure out how that particular view was even possible).

I stood there, literally transfixed at the sight of my back, the turn of my waist, my hips, my thighs, etc.

And do you know what? I have a very nice ass.

And do you know what else? I had never seen it before.

Nor had I seen the fact that I have a waist.

Nor had I realized that the back of my thighs are actually quite shapely.

Moreover, I had never fully appreciated how it all fit together. I mean, how could I? I’d never seen it.

Because prior to that moment, when I looked at the mirror at home, I only looked at my face and (when the occasion forced itself) my belly.

And on the rare occasion that I did look at my thighs, I only looked down at them – usually while I was sitting (which only highlights their bigness).

It really was amazing.

Not to overstate the momentousness of the occasion, prior to that moment I had absolutely no idea what I looked like.

And these aren’t the only two times this has happened.

In fact, whenever I see myself unexpectedly in a strange mirror, I have this reaction.

A little less than two months ago, for instance, I actually tried to go around a woman who was walking directly towards me. (Luckily I recognized that she was wearing my scarf before my face actually hit the glass!)

Though I am no psychologist, I really believe that when we knowingly look in the mirror (especially a mirror that we routinely use), we have such a strong expectation of what we’re going to see that we actually see it. But when we see ourselves out of context or unexpectedly (or even from just a different angle), we actually get a glimpse of the way we really are.

So, if you’ve been working out or you’ve changed your diet but you think you’re not seeing any changes, you may not be.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that changes aren’t being made.

Try looking at yourself in a different mirror, in a different room – or even in a different house. Or, if you’re more of a homebody, but you don’t think you’ll be able to trick yourself in your own home, have a friend or partner rearrange the mirrors in your house while you’re at work. Or, if that’s not an option either, try just looking at your body in different ways, from different directions, in different lighting.

I think you’ll be surprised. Hopefully it will be a pleasant one.

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