I have an inaccurate self image, like reverse anorexia. Anorexics typically see themselves as much fatter than they actually are. Even when their ribs show through their flesh, in their heads they still think they’re fat.
In my case, even though I am morbidly obese, the image that I have of myself in my head is normal weight. If I were to draw a picture of myself, I’d probably make myself skinnier than I am without really even noticing it. In the movie The Matrix this is called “residual self-image.” Even though the character of Neo has a closely shaved head of hair in the real world, he has his full head of hair in the matrix. I’m fat, I know I’m fat, yet if I were to enter a matrix I would be thin.
This image gets shaken whenever I see photos of myself or the worst – a video. For my junior year of college, I took a speech class where all our speeches were taped. We then had to review our performance and critique ourselves. This was excruciating for me. The round, obese girl on video was in dichotomy with the image of myself in my head. I did not move like that. I did not look like that. I would only watch a couple seconds at a time, then fast forward through the freak show.
Even though I can see the difference in the mirror or on a tape, these moments of clarity last less than a minute. The majority of my day I do not look at myself. I look at other people. I suppose I am like a cat, raised by dogs who then thinks she’s a dog. Most people in the world are an average weight or only mildly overweight. Finding someone 300+ like me is rare. Being surrounded by people of this size makes me think that I myself look like them.
Even when I work with other fat people, I disassociate myself from them. I worked with an overweight diabetic middle-aged woman at one job who would trudge slowly from the door to her chair. On some level I knew that I could be her in 20 years, yet I would also bar her off from myself in my mind. She was not like me. I was not that fat. I did not look like that. Though most likely I did.
This erroneous self-image is partly what prevented me from acknowledging my weight problem. Even as the pounds kept piling on, my self-image remained skinny and allowed me to live comfortably in denial of the problem creeping up all around me.