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It Seems Like There Should At Least Be Confetti May 11, 2015

Posted by J. in Genius.
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3 comments

I suppose a lack of fanfare is to be expected when one moves the finish line a couple of miles before the end of the race. Or decides that there’s really no finish line at all and to just stop running altogether.

Wait. That’s confusing. Let me start again.

I decided yesterday–somewhat tentatively, mind you–that I’m done losing weight. I have, for all intents and purposes, reached my goal weight.

Thank you, RuPaul. That's more like it.

Thank you, RuPaul. That’s more like it.

I say tentatively because every time I say it out loud, I feel like I’m cheating. I feel like I couldn’t get to my goal, so I just moved the goal. The last couple of miles were too hard, so I dropped out and declared myself the winner. I cannot achieve Thin, and have decided to settle instead for less Less Fat. It doesn’t feel like a victory to declare that 180 pounds is the best I can do; it is way more like a crushing defeat to me.

The truth of the matter is that I’ve been hovering within 5 pounds of 180 for more than 6 months now. I have dieted and exercised like an insane person, counting every bite of food that went into my mouth and only managed to get down to 177 pounds. But I’ve had weeks where I’ve not written down one thing, not counted one calorie, eaten more than a few “naughty foods” that I shouldn’t have, and only gone up to 186. And all I have to do to slip back down to 180 is have a couple of good days of smaller portions and better food choices.

The bottom line is that maintaining this weight isn’t that hard. My body seems to like it here. And the longer it goes on, the less it feels like a plateau and more like true stabilization.

What’s been eating at me is the fact that my body has stabilized about 40 pounds shy of the end goal. So I reevaluated my goal and said there’s nothing wrong with being 155 pounds instead of 140. If I could get to there, I would no longer be labeled as overweight. As it is, at 180 pounds, I’m still labeled as obese.

I DON’T WANT TO BE OBESE ANYMORE. I DON’T WANT TO BE OVERWEIGHT. I WANT TO BE NORMAL.

*sigh*

But the fact remains that my body has ideas of its own, and I have come to realize that it had those plans all along. It’s all well and good for me to pick a weight or pick a dress size, or get a mental image of what I’m going to look like, but when I was 360 pounds, I had no idea what was going to happen to my body as I lost weight. I didn’t know, and couldn’t know, what I was going to encounter along the way. It stands to reason that I should give myself permission to make adaptations to my expectations, as the reality unfolds.

I’ve had to reevaluate the labels that I put on myself, and that others put on me, and consider how realistic they actually are. For starters, I still think of myself as fat. Referring to myself as anything else seems like a weird lie. Even when I’m dressed and looking in the mirror for lumps and rolls and flab and not finding any, I’m not believing that they’re just not there. When I put on a size 12 dress and it fits, I assume it’s vanity sizing, or perhaps it’s just been mislabeled. Maybe it’s just the way it’s cut or a forgiving fabric or something.

I have had to convince myself that I am actually a size 12. It still seems weird to me. It doesn’t seem possible. And yet I have the tags to prove it. And here’s the thing: when I was 300 pounds, I remember saying more than once that I’d cut a bitch just to be a size 12.

And here I am, and I have no idea what to do with it.

I was saying as much to my mother at dinner last night. She said that she hoped I wasn’t trying to lose a whole lot more weight, because she felt I am on the verge of looking too thin. Particularly from the waist up and in my face. Granted, I still have an ample ass and thunder thighs, but she said I could thank Grammie Aline for those. My sister and I have long resigned ourselves to the fact that we could weigh 100 pounds and still have a fat ass. It is what it is, man.

I said I wanted to be a size 8 and that there is really no reason for me not to be a size 8. It’s not an unrealistic size.

She asked me why I wanted to be a size 8. “You can’t be much more than a 12 now.”

She looks at me and sees a size 12, tops. I look in the mirror and see a size 16 or an 18. Someone a whisper away from having to shop in the fat section of stores again. But I confirmed that yeah, I’m a size 12 or so.

“Well, what’s wrong with that?”

…Um…I don’t know…?

I’m still not sure I have an answer for that. Maybe because I still feel too big. I fear my mind has not caught up with my body. The progress has outpaced the process, as it were. I have been a fat girl for so long that my head can’t seem to see anything but a fat girl. It won’t acknowledge anything but a fat girl.

Sitting there at the bar, a little voice in my head said, “You know, that has to stop.”

Mind you, the little voice had been drinking bloody Mary’s, so I took the advice with a grain of salt, as one does when one’s inner voice is in its cups.

There is nothing wrong with being a size 12. It was a size I chose randomly as being a nice, smallish size, but not too small. Not eat-a-sandwich-for-the-love-of-Christ small. I’m not sure why at some point I decided that smaller was better. I suspect because at size 12, I still see a fat girl, but I’m thinking that there’s no way I’d consider a size 8 fat.

I can’t even say with any certainty that would be the case.

I suspect a lot of it has to do with those damned labels. I am still obese; ergo, I am still a fat girl. So it stands to reason that I must not be a nice, normal size 12, but I must be fatter than that. If I could maybe get to 170 and just be overweight? Damn it, why can’t I just get to 155?

This makes me pout. I occasionally stomp my feet and shake my fists towards heaven.

Fucking labels.

I know that logically, part of the reason I’m still overweight and will be for the foreseeable future is that I have a bunch more skin that the average body. Like, a whole bunch more. The people who came up with the weight charts used a normal body as a baseline. Two arms, two legs, a head, regular sized organs, average muscle tone, and the necessary amount of skin.

Bodybuilders don’t fret about being overweight in the least. The charts don’t allow for a metric fuckton of solid muscle. Doesn’t make them unhealthy. Doesn’t make them fat.

Dear God, it's disgusting. I'm sorry. I should have put a trigger warning on that.

Dear God, it’s disgusting. I’m sorry. I should have put a trigger warning on that.

The charts don’t allow for what could be anywhere from 15 to 30 pounds of extra skin, either.

But when I remove math from the picture, and think in terms of intangibles, it becomes easier. Consider: if I lost both my legs in an accident tomorrow, I’d lose a shitload of weight right there. Would I then be dangerously underweight? Well, of course not. The charts would no longer apply to me.

lightbulb

Is it possible, then, that I set goals for myself at 360 pounds that have proven to be unrealistic?

I didn’t know 180 pounds ago what body was under here. What I pictured and what emerged didn’t reconcile, and embracing what has come out has been a huge struggle. And it’s a struggle fueled by the idea that I’m just not there yet.

But what if I am there? What if there is now here?

dawn

What if I crossed the finish line 6 months ago and didn’t even know it? And what if it’s because I fell into the mental trap of thinking there was actually a finish line, when there are merely new stages of development and progress emerging and unfolding all the time? What if I kept fighting and struggling towards goals that were unattainable because I was unable to see that they were unrealistic?

Explosion_mushroom_shaped

I am declaring to myself and anyone who cares to listen that there doesn’t need to be any end point, or goal weight to be achieved. For now, 180 pounds is fine. The extra weight I carry isn’t fat, and it isn’t causing me any health issues. I am healthy by all measurable standards. Even my size 12 “not-too-skinny-but-just-right” size is affected by the surplus of skin. And if and when the day comes I can bid that skin farewell, I’m going to drop a few more sizes and a few more pounds. And what is realistic will change again.

And since I am now under the thumb of my own declaration of independence from labels and charts, I’m working on coming to terms with the fact that changing my goals and expectations of myself based on new information is not quitting. The part of me that has learned to be goal-oriented and driven to see results and refuses to say “can’t” is going to have to adjust to focusing on things that are harder to quantify. I’ve never had to maintain weight loss before and I’m in uncharted waters again.

I feel I have quite a bit of work ahead of me before I’ll be ready for any skin surgery. Part of me feels that even if a big, fat bag of money was to drop into my lap right now, surgery would not only fail to resolve my body image issues, but might make it worse. If I can’t see now that I’m not a big as I think, I could wind up in dangerous territory in a smaller body. Ultimately, I’d like to get to the point where I am able to reconcile what I see with my eyes with what my brain perceives, so that when I have the surgery, it’s more of a finishing touch and less of a hurriedly applied bandage.

And I want some time to work on new ways of dealing with food. I haven’t touched my food journal in over two weeks, and my weight has stayed put. I know what healthy portions look like, and I know good food from bad. Much like slacking up on the reins when it comes to pounds and inches, loosening my grip on the calories has caused my brain to think more in terms of intangibles as well. A good day is one where I’ve practiced good eating habits and made good choices. It’s a good day if I go out to eat, enjoy my meal, and don’t make myself a nervous wreck thinking that I blew the whole week because I ate too much, or ate the wrong thing. It’s a good day when I run 4 miles because I felt like it, and not because it burns a lot of calories and pleaseohplease let that show up as a loss on the scale.

I know I couldn’t have lost the weight being this relaxed about the process. At the same time, I don’t think I could be as relaxed about it now if I hadn’t worked so hard on mastering the process all along. I may have achieved my weight loss goal some months back, but it’s only now that I’m ready to accept myself as I am now, and let this phase of things unfold as it will.

I always thought of a goal as the end, but now that I’m here, if feels much more like a beginning. I had to make new habits and establish new thought pathways to come this far, and it’s time to do that all over again. Honestly, I have no more idea what I’m doing now than I did two and a half years ago.

But I reckon I’ll figure it out.

Goal? April 9, 2015

Posted by J. in Genius.
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3 comments

I have occasion to direct people to my blog when they find out about my weight loss and want to know what the what is up wit all dat. They ask for advice, and honestly, I have no idea where to start. I probably should come up with something, because working at a gym, I get lots of questions in that particular vein. I tell people I learned to eat less and move more, but that’s such a cop-out of an answer. It’s the short, small-talk version of “I didn’t have bariatric surgery, if that’s what you’re asking.”

The actual answer is so much more involved, and when the conversation is a more in-depth one and seems to head off in the direction of lengthy explanations and anecdotes, I tell them I changed my relationship with food, that it’s an ongoing process that I’m still working out, and in lieu of a facile answer, I direct them here.

The adage is that losing weight is 90% diet and 10% exercise, but that is just the physical part. It’s 100% mental, and I realize the math on that comes up to 200%, but math isn’t my strong suit and I’m not sure it can be quantified anyway. If there’s one recurring theme to all my posts about losing, it’s that there’s an awful lot of shit going on in my head, lots of it ain’t real pretty, and there are times I feel very much like I’m falling to bits.

I’m currently picking myself up off the ground after the last knock-down round and dusting off.

I had my first meeting with a plastic surgeon, just to get the lay of the land of what the next part of the journey will be.

After a lengthy exam in which he kneaded my abdomen like a cat and took careful measurements of my skin suit, the verdict was that I’m an excellent candidate for abdominoplasty, which is the fancy word for a tummy tuck. He said that what is left there, and under my arms is all skin. There’s no fat left there, so no liposuction would be necessary as is sometimes the case. He said I did that all with diet and exercise. He was a little less enthusiastic about my thighs, but it was because (as he explained) that legs aren’t his area of expertise. It’s a lot more involved and he’d refer me to someone who specializes in that particular area.

He’s confirmed what I had suspected from reading weight loss forums about results following skin reduction surgery, and that is that I’m probably carrying 20 pounds or so in excess skin that’s not going anywhere. As a rough estimate, mind you. But considering his years of experience, I’m going to assume his ability to eyeball such things is pretty darn good.

Now, I say it’s not going anywhere for two reasons. In the first place, I can’t diet or exercise skin away. He confirmed that the skin of my lower abdomen was shot, it was mostly stretch marks from hip to hip, and that the slack there was permanent, unlike the healthy, resilient tissue of my upper abdomen. Same with my arms and everywhere else. It’s not something that can be tightened up, and while healthy skin will shrink some, mine is mostly stretched past that point.

The other reason it’s not going away is that it will require surgery, and my insurance company does not approve claims for skin reduction after weight loss unless there is a medical necessity, and the only thing he said he’s seen them cover it for is in the case of a brittle diabetic with skin ulcers that would not heal. And even then he said they only covered a partial procedure to excise the extra skin and not the full procedure that basically resculpts the skin of the abdomen into something resembling a healthy torso. The tummy tuck alone is an $11,000 procedure, which puts it well out of my price range. That doesn’t include the upper arms or the more involved legs.

I’ve had a lot of well-meaning advice about how to get it covered, but in truth, insurance companies aren’t flexible, and plastic surgeons aren’t philanthropists. And I knew that going in. He pulled no punches about how my particular insurance company rejects claims for this particular procedure like it’s their job (which it is) and while I’m sure there are doctors who would maybe give a girl a break on some work if there was a true hardship, I really don’t have any hardships other than “I don’t have the money for this.” It’s nice to think about, but I can’t live my life with unrealistic expectations of the outcome. I’ve done quite a lot of that so far, and I’m trying to cut back.

So now I am at a point where I’m forced to sort out the ramifications of what that means for me, and where I go from here.

I should add that back in February, I sat down with my food journal and after bemoaning that I was “doing everything right” and still not losing weight, really took a good look at what I was doing back when the weight was coming off and found out I was WAY off track. I did manage to take it back to basics, and lo and behold, the weight dropped off. I had set 179 as a temporary soft goal to reach, and I met it. So now I’m down 180 pounds and have lost more than half my body weight. Which is a big accomplishment and being able to get to this point feels great.

As I sit here at 177 pounds, and factor in the loose skin estimate of 20 pounds, I actually weigh around 157, which is only 2 pounds over the high end of a healthy weight for me. I feel I still have fat left to lose from the waist down. My abdomen and arms might be all skin, but my thighs and ass are where the fat seems to want to hang on, and it won’t hurt me to continue to try to lose that fat.

Not being able to get rid of that skin means that there’s a sort of discrepancy between the two realities of my body, and I realize that this shit is all in my head. But in truth, all of this whole process has taken place in my head. My body is just along for the ride.

A long time ago, I spoke of picturing myself in a fat suit. There’s a skinny girl inside me trying to get out (I ate her), and all I have to do is take off the fat suit a pound or so at a time and she’ll emerge eventually.

11091497_10205886798078799_2784792768890149397_n

I don’t know to whom I should credit either the photo or the sculpture, but I love it very much.

I guess I didn’t really bank on the whole suit not coming off. I pictured what you see there: tight, flat abdomen, perky boobs, thin arms…I bet she’s got some amazing quads under that fat suit, too.

The reality is not that at all. I imagine I have a six pack of abs. I can feel them, but they’re still buried under the folds of loose abdominal skin.

I have an impressive set of biceps. Unfortunately, the four-inch long flap of skin that hangs from it is what you see first.

I have runners quads. I also have loose, ripply, wrinkled thigh flesh that sags over it and hangs down and partially obscures my kneecap.

I am seldom without a pair of control top nylons or a pair of Spanx. I do not wear anything sleeveless except to exercise, and short sleeves must come to my elbow. Skirts cannot hit above my knee. I am not at all sure that I will be donning a swimsuit this year.

I understand that I’m not much different than most women, and I’m sure more than a few men as well. Everyone has body parts they hate and do their best to disguise or hide with clothing. I know women thinner than myself who won’t wear shorts because they hate how their legs look. I know women who won’t put on a swimsuit for love or money even though I look at them and go, “Bitch, you cray.” I get it.

I guess when I thought about taking that fat suit off, what I pictured the thin person inside to look like was an actual thin person, not just a less fat version of myself. I’m pretty good at figuring out what looks good on me most of the time, but I’m not sure why I resent having to shop for camouflage.

I suppose it all has to do with unrealized expectations I mentioned, and coming to terms with the fact that my expectations may have been quite unrealistic to begin with. I expected that I would be able to get down to 140 pounds. Or at least 155. The skin is most likely going to keep me from ever seeing those numbers. I need to figure out how to let that go. I’ve always been so reliant on the numbers as a concrete measurement of how I’m doing. For me even to assert that my weight is in the 157 range feels like a lie, because the skin counts. It matters, even though I’m the only one who decides if it matters or not. I feel if I say I weight less than I do, that I’m lying. But at the same time, including the skin seems not entirely honest either.

Even my back-up tape measure lies to me. I can lose another 20 pounds, but my upper arms still won’t fit into a size medium shirt, even though the rest of my torso does. I’d love to shop for single digit sizes, but the skin is going to always be in the way of that. And the skinny me is under there. If I had a big, fat bag of cash, a good surgeon could find her. He could strip away the last of my fat suit and get me to my goals.

As it is, I feel like in some ways, I’m at my goal. I have done what I set out to do. Even though the number on the scale is still high, allowing for excess skin, I’m at a healthy weight for my height. Or I should say I’m not carrying an unhealthy amount of fat for someone of my height and gender. That, of course, is another drawback to the extra skin in that there’s no way to get any sort of an accurate body fat measurement because what I’m measuring is empty skin, not fat. I’m proud of what I’ve been able to do. No surgery. No pills. No fad diets. I have done what I have always thought impossible, and as much as I struggle with many, many parts of this process, nothing takes that away from me.

On the other hand, I feel robbed of my actual goals. Part of me has always been uncomfortable with even rounding my accomplishments up. “This is Jen, she’s lost 180 pounds.” I always stop them. “Well, no. I’ve lost 177 pounds.” I get looks, and a series of “pffffft”s, but it’s hard for me to take credit for something I didn’t actually achieve. So lopping off the skin weight like it’s not there feels like cheating. Like I’m throwing myself a bone. Or taking credit for something I haven’t done. I know it’s weird. It’s not that I’m unhappy with how I look, I just thought I could do better. To look at myself and know that this is really as good as it’s going to get…it is a little disappointing. I won’t lie. Some days it’s a lot disappointing, and if that’s vain, so be it.

I know logically that it’s up to me where I stop. There’s no one setting goals for me, or even advising me that yeah, you can and should lose another 20 pounds. I’ve not reached the point where my most trusted friends are ready to tell me that I’m too thin, or that I look unhealthy.

If I decide right now that it’s enough, then it is.

I’m on the cusp of making that decision. I don’t know in the grand scheme of things why it would be so much better to be 20 pounds lighter and maybe a size or two smaller, if the skin will be there fucking it all up anyway. It seems like it might be a lot of unnecessary work, you know?

I’m thinking that maybe it’s time to stop concentrating so hard on the straight and narrow that I have to follow to lose weight and shift my mental energy towards coming to grips with my body as it is. I don’t see it getting measurably better any time soon. I don’t see any reason to change what I’m doing, necessarily. If more weight comes off, great. I can afford it, still. I need to not go up at all, and staying where I am is going to be hard enough.

I still turn to food when things get rough. After seeing the doctor, I got through Monday okay, but woke up Tuesday fairly despondent. If it had been only one thing, just the disappointment of seeing this door close for the time being would have been sufficient unto itself. But life has a way of tossing extra shit in sometimes, in the when-it-rains-it-pours phenomenon. Or as April Winchell of Regretsy fame once pointed out:

Burning House

So I spent a few days wrapped in the embrace of Easter candy and toast dripping with peanut butter and marshmallow while I licked my wounds (and fingers) and sorted some shit out in my head. And talked some stuff out that needed addressing. And did the things that were needed to heal. The toast didn’t help much, but when life gets to be more than you can bear, you get through it however you can with the skills you have.

A weight-loss guru would have pulled herself up by the bootstraps (or shoelaces) and gone to the gym to exercise out the frustrations. Especially when she’d normally outrun her demons, only her new running shoes are still backordered and she’s just healed up yet another IT band issue and doesn’t want to screw that up again with being impatient.

Stupid body breaking down at the most inopportune times.

But then I’ve never claimed to be anyone’s guru. I’m human. I have a binge-eating disorder. I self-soothe with food.I eat my feelings more often than I care to admit. I’m far from perfect and most of the time I feel ill-equipped to advise anyone about anything.

I think if I focus hard, I can learn to be more accepting. I feel pretty certain that I can let go of the disappointment of not weighing what I thought I should, or being as small as I had planned. I know it’s all up to me, and I need to try to see myself through other people’s eyes more. I need to try to gain a bit more objectivity about something that is so painfully personal, and that’s a tall enough order.

The hardest stretch will be learning to love my body as it is, folds of wrinkly, ugly, stretched out, floppy, flabby skin and all. So far, it’s been the most difficult thing to handle. Knowing that I’ll probably never see the beautiful muscle tone I work so hard for is something I am going to mourn. Like food, or more accurately, the ability to eat whatever I want whenever I want in whatever quantity I want, it’s going to take work to get to a place where that doesn’t make me sad. It’s a genuine loss, and I have to allow those feelings to happen because no matter who invalidates them or how hard I try to shove them in a closet, if I don’t deal with them, they’re just going to come rocketing out of nowhere and knock me on my ass forever.

I’m going to mourn the loss of cute sleeveless dresses, or a pin-up bathing suit because I just don’t have the body for them. It will be okay. I have the body for lots of things that other women don’t. Fitted tops and tight sweaters. Pencil skirts. High heels. Turtlenecks. You know how many women can’t pull off a wrap dress? Lots. I can, and I look smashing.

One of the hardest things, and something that knocked me on my ass out of nowhere recently is seeing other people lose weight right past me. Hearing a friend say she bought clothes in the size I currently wear, even as she self-identifies as overweight, and is herself losing weight, made me realize that she is going to be thinner than me. She will find the success that I won’t see because of this stupid skin.

Knowing that she has a lot less to lose than I did is only a bit helpful. Being told that she is in the first mile of a 5K while I’m on mile 24 of a marathon was a bit helpful. But sweet bleeding Jesus did I begrudge her that victory. And I hated myself for it! I wanted to be happy! I know I’m an inspiration to her and a lot of people, but seeing others find success where I feel I have failed is hard. I think it’s part of why giving up on my original goals is so hard. I feel like a failure. I feel like it’s quitting or copping out. Or dropping out of the marathon at mile 24.

Before you jump in my shit for this, I know I haven’t failed at anything. I know it’s not a race or a competition. I’ve succeeded beyond my own hopes and dreams, and I think past what most people thought I could do. I have made other people consider that maybe they, too, can figure out their own relationship with food and make changes that will last. But I am learning to let go, and to be accepting, and meet myself where I am. And that’s going to be a hard slog.

This is all part of the work. No one tells you about it, but there it is. So if you find yourself in a place like this at some point, hopefully you won’t be blindsided by it like I was.

Maybe someday I will be able to afford the surgery and I’ll find the thin girl that I ate all those years ago, with a few new long, purple scars. Maybe I’ll never have the surgery and I’ll come to love the thin girl who’s just got a bit more meat on her than I thought she would. Maybe I’ll see a thin girl in the mirror who wears the remnants of her fat suit as a badge of honor and with pride of who she was, and what she’s transformed herself into.

Maybe it’s time to let go of goals, and accept that there’s no end. The only thing to work towards is happiness.