If you’re reading this blog then chances are you’re a health conscious person. Maybe you’re in maintenance; maybe you’re just beginning a plan of cleaner eating. I’ve written about many health-related issues in the last couple of years but lately I’ve been experiencing something that is entirely new to me. As in, never in my life have I had these issues before kind of new. It all began with a question that my mother asked recently:
Have you gained any of that weight back, yet? You look like you’re wasting away.
Immediately, I laughed and rolled my eyes. Without giving any serious thought to what she said, I dismissed it. For half of my adult life I’ve dealt with weight issues. Never before have I entertained the idea that I’d be considered underweight.
My response to my mother, and to several others who have told me the same thing since my surgery is a knee-jerk reaction to a mutual observation that I can’t seem to grasp my mind around. But I told her the truth – even though I’ve gained less than two of the several pounds I lost, I’m eating lots of greens and proteins so that my body can finish healing.
When I was around 220 pounds I ran into a male friend whom I hadn’t seen in a long time. He was one of those big, burly guys who gave great big bear hugs. As we hugged each other, he started to lift me into the air to swing me around. I remember being horrified by this and fidgeted to free myself because I thought for sure that one of two things were going to happen: either he was going to develop a hernia for stupidly attempting to lift 220 pounds or, I was so heavy he wasn’t going to be able to lift me at all. (Awkward) Here is the messed up part: even now, when I’m bear hugged by someone and lifted off the ground I still fidget because I’m afraid I’ll injure the person due to my weight. I’ve been in maintenance for 7 years and still have that same knee-jerk reaction.
I have dipped below my ideal weight once before. It was in 2008 right around the time Craig and I got married. No one expected either of us to marry since we’d already been together for 7 years with no engagement in sight. So, when we came up with the idea to become secretly engaged and attempt to pull off a surprise wedding, I was so busy trying to get everything organized that my weight dipped into the high 120s. After the wedding, my body adjusted itself back to the weight it was comfortable with.
Eventually I was able to give up my scale because I could rely on my body to tell me when I was gaining. For example, if my clothes were tight I knew that I needed to make adjustments so I could get back to where I needed to be.
On the very rare occasion that I happen to drop below my goal weight, my face is the first to show it, and not in a good way. I look older than my age. My facial skin becomes ruddy and I have permanent circles under my eyes. The skin on my arms and legs don’t fit properly on my frame, either. Well actually, that part I’m used to. No body lifts in my future, oddly for the same reason why I won’t give in to my desire to get my nose pierced: I feel as though I’ve passed that window where the benefit just doesn’t outweigh the action anymore. Loose skin is just one of those things I’ve mostly accepted and try to ignore, but the more I lose the more prominent a feature my loose skin becomes. Really, it’s amazing what just a few pounds can do to change one’s appearance. Even though I’m over a month post-surgery I still look unwell, and my face is the biggest giveaway.
For the past month I’ve been dealing with a different kind of body image issue. Though I weigh less than I have ever weighed in my adult life, my middle is still very much bloated from surgery. None of my shorts or pants come close to buttoning; I feel heavier even though I’m lighter. My stomach is as swollen as it was when I returned home from the hospital. I guess what I’m admitting to is this: even though I know I need to put some weight back onto my frame, I’m not so eager to do it. As I try to work this out in my head, I realize that part of the problem is that I’m not relying on my body to tell me what it needs anymore. Instead I have these thoughts of weight gain and menopause loitering around in my mind and they won’t go away. Tell me – what does a girl do when she’s not dealing with the same body she had 6 weeks ago? Hormones have changed, insides have been removed and rearranged. And emotionally I feel different as well. I don’t have faith in my instincts anymore. It’s overwhelming, and as always (typical Ellen-style) I am afraid of the unknown.
Whether we are battling to lose the weight or battling to keep it from coming back, I think we can all share how it feels when something threatens to take away what we’ve worked so hard for. How do you deal with potential threats to your success?