There are many meaningful reasons people go Primal: they want to improve their fitness, increase their longevity, feel younger, reverse lifestyle conditions, heal hormonal imbalances, enhance fertility, get off prescription medications, and lose fat. With regard to losing fat, some want to lose a good deal of it—to significantly alter their body composition. This goal, while it has the power to shift one’s entire health trajectory (not to mention life experience) may also be the most likely to come with unforeseen, even undesired results. I’m talking particularly about those who undergo dramatic transformations—the kind that can leave them feeling incredible, enjoying vitality, and (in particular) looking substantially different.
To be sure, there is much to celebrate when we meet body transformation goals: the impressive discipline, the new strength, the renewed health, the added energy, and so on. But for some people there can also be an uncomfortable gap between how they saw themselves before and how they have yet to see themselves post-goal. Once the major push to the objective is done and they relax into a new normal, the striking incongruence can bring up surprisingly ambivalent or even critical feelings. How can such extraordinary success become a Pandora’s box?
I’ve heard people describe this post-goal experience in terms of everything from emotional struggle to serious letdown, from identity crisis to reality check. Some people may feel unsettled by not fully recognizing the person in the mirror anymore, especially if they’ve not been close to their new body composition in a number of decades. Others may suddenly feel they’ve exchanged body image issues, losing the fat but now noticing stretch marks or loose skin.
Some people’s stress revolves more around the social response to their transformation. Being the topic of conversation or recipient of new attention and compliments can leave them feeling uncomfortably vulnerable. Still others may struggle with an unrelenting anxiety over regaining the weight or a self-conscious, even compulsive perfectionism around body image that drains the joy out of their success.
If we take the Primal call to thrive seriously, we likely want better than this for ourselves. But what can we do when major transformation leaves us anxious or ill-content? How can we move into acceptance when “after-effects” hit? What perspectives can help us counterbalance normal struggles so we can enjoy our achievements and the possibilities they open up in our lives?