The more things change…the more you have to face yourself
Here’s a photo from my adventures at the Botanical Gardens in lieu of the picture I probably should’ve taken of myself before I changed into my pajamas given what I knew this post was going to be about…sigh…
I looked good today. No, really. I was wearing pants that actually fit (thanks to spending a small fortune at the tailor) and a tee that was cut so it actually followed by natural curves, meaning you could see my waist. While I know intellectually I’ve lost 54 pounds (give or take that donut I had this morning), today was one of the first times I looked in the mirror and thought, “Wow, you’ve really slimmed down.” Which is all good. To a point. That point being when I start to panic as more and more people notice how much I’ve lost.
Having been through this twice before, I know that from this point on, I’ll get a lot of “You look great” and “Wow, you’re doing a fantastic job.” On the one hand, it’s a fantastic ego boost-slash-encouragement. On the other hand, I know from experience that well-meaning words can also trigger shame and guilt about what I looked like before. And shame and guilt ultimately lead to boxes of donuts with a few cupcakes thrown in for good measure.
The first time I successfully lost weight (by which I mean I did lose the weight though ultimately I was unable to keep it off), I was doing Weight Watchers with my friend Susan. We both had the same reaction once the compliments started coming in: “Oh gosh, I used to look monstrous, didn’t I?” We both wanted to encourage each other, but at the same time we didn’t want to trigger a guilt spiral. So we came up with a secret code. Instead of telling each other “You look great,” we celebrated by saying, “You look shitty,” with appropriate variations, such as “You’re looking shittier every day” or “I’ve never seen you look so shitty.” Crazy? Yep. But it worked.
The second time I successfully lost weight (with the same disclaimer as above), I had neither a Susan nor a plan. And it didn’t take too long after the compliments started rolling in for the weight to slowly start creeping back on. Part of it was, I think, overconfidence, but a greater part of it was also shame at what I’d looked like before. Not to mention, as someone who’d always used my size as a barrier against people getting too close, I simply couldn’t deal with the vulnerability.
Given those two experiences, I’ve been waiting for that panicked feeling to set in, and so far, thankfully, it hasn’t. I think part of the reason is that I’m going about this glacially. I’ve had a lot more time to get used to the shrinking me than I’ve had in the past when I lost 60-70 pounds in the space of a year. (So far I’m up to about a year and a half for this go round.) I also have learned a lot more about myself in the intervening years. For one thing, I’ve learned to accept the fact that with the extra poundage, I really wasn’t as attractive as I could be. More important, I’ve learned to accept it not as a judgement on how I handled emotional stressors, but simply as a statement of fact. Turns out when you remove emotion from your observations, shame doesn’t really have a place to get a foothold.
The other thing I’ve come to terms with, well, not so much come to terms with, but at least started to recognize, is the very many ways I actively work to keep myself apart from others, including disguising my body with extra weight, which is particularly effective against single men. There’s a whole host of reasons for why–despite the fact that I want to get married–I don’t let single men get anywhere near me, and I’ll maybe talk about in another post some day. For right now it’s enough to say that I’m working on being more open, which includes accepting the fact that I have been known to turn a head or two, and that that doesn’t have to be either threatening or scary. It’s just a fact, which I may even come to appreciate some day.
So, that’s where I am. Progress, I hope.