Fat Girl Wearing Thin

Life beyond the loss.

   Jul 17

Mind Adjustment Needed

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?

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  1. Norma says:

    Well, your situation (threats to your success) is a lot different than mine or most people, as I and most have not had to recently undergo major surgery and its resulting complications…and (again, knock on wood) I haven’t sustained a debilitating injury or anything that interferes with my physical health and mobility. The threats to my success are all within my control: the dietary and exercise choices that I make. Any temptation is usually warded off by a quick glance at the photo of my 215lb self that I carry in my wallet at all times…hasn’t failed me yet. Constant vigilance. In in a situation like yours, where you don’t get the option of being active and can’t control your belly being bloated, I am sure I would have torn out every strand of hair on my head by this point. So I think you’re doing pretty well and staying as sane as possible whilst you weather the storm!

  2. I wish I had some wisdom to impart to you, Ellen. I think the most important thing is that you take care of yourself and your body. You know how to do that:) Eventually it will settle back to your comfortable place. Healing takes time.

  3. Hanlie says:

    I really think that it’s going to take time to adjust – on many levels. We’re all different and we experience things in different ways. As long as your doctor is happy that there’s no infection or surgical issues, I suggest letting your body adapt in its own pace. Many people would be tempted to fatten up with unhealthy treats, but it sounds to me that you’re wise enough to know that you need to be nourished now so that your body can heal.

    You will get through this even stronger and wiser. I know that much.

  4. didi says:

    My boyfriend tries to pick me up sometimes, and my reaction is always to jerk and fidget away while cringing on the inside. What’s worse- me breaking him in two, or me remaining firmly on the ground because I’m too damn heavy? Even thinking about it makes me feel extraordinarily uncomfortable.
    I’ve never been underweight in my life. It sounds as though even though you are underweight you are having a “fat” day. I know it might not help hearing this, because your morning has clearly been full of frightening thoughts, but everything is working out beautifully and you need to take it slow. You had major abdominal surgery, and you are still in that “body shock” stage. Part of your brain has adjusted to what happened and you are on the mend, but it has been six weeks. You’re wanting to be done with healing and get back to your life, but your body isn’t ready. You physically can’t get in as much exercise, so the thought of gaining weight is terrifying. If the weight gain starts, when will it end if you still aren’t able to jump back into taking long walks, riding your bike, and doing yoga?
    Go easy on yourself. Healing is your priority right now. Keep your mind still and ask your body what it needs to get better. Maybe what you need is to allow yourself to gain a few extra pounds right now. At some point you WILL fully recover and be back at one hundred percent. When you are back in action a little bit of weight won’t be so tough to deal with. You are the woman who lost over a hundred pounds. You are the woman who embraced her fears and learned how to ride a bike. You’ve got the strength in there- it just needs a bit of rest before it comes bursting out again.
    I think what you really need is to do something extra special for yourself to stop all the shitty fear based thoughts from bogging you down. Do something nice for you, and feel beautiful instead of feeling like a shaky girl standing on the edge of an abyss.
    It’s all a matter of perspective. It’s not an abyss, it’s just a dip in the road and you’ve got to step right the hell over it.

  5. E. Jane says:

    I had major surgery many years ago, and reading this post reminded me of what happens to the body afterward. Your abdominal swelling is normal, and there’s not much to do about it except wait it out. Your body is working hard to heal, and you’re doing a good job of taking care of yourself.

    Someone once told me that it took a year to really recover in every way from major surgery. In many ways that’s true. Besides the physical recovery, there’s the emotional recovery.
    I had a very serious injury 14 months ago, and my body responded very much like it did when I had major surgery, and it has taken even longer to heal. Be patient with yourself. It sounds like you’re eating in a healthful way. You will heal, both mind and body. You’re on the right track.

  6. This is where practicing being okay with being uncomfortable (mentally, physically and emotionally) comes in…with understanding that there are some unknowns and you’re just going to have to muddle through until your body heals and you get clarity.

    I saw this recently and am taking it to heart: “A changing body means a changing diet. You have not had just one body in this life – you have had many – and each of these bodies has called for a different way to eat.”

  7. debby says:

    You got some good advice up there in the comments already. I had to think about it for a while, but then I remembered when I would watch surgery as a nursing student, and think about what a giant thing they were doing to a body. Think about a little cut you get on your finger. It swells up, and then sometimes it seems like it takes forever to get back to normal. Now magnify that like 10,000 times (a surgical cut.) Of course your abdomen is swollen, working hard on healing itself. Still, I really related to your feeling of being ‘fat’ because your abdomen is big. I’m experiencing that myself right now. Partly because I am overweight right now, but also partly because as I age, weight is shifting more and more to the middle.

    I don’t think you need to worry about being a little thinner than usual, unless you are truly very underweight for your height. As long as you are eating healthy nourishing food to heal, you are good to go. Take it easy, and tell those people to go away LOL.

  8. Vickie says:

    I think it takes about a year to get past these type of things. And there is a psychological and physical component to the changes. Where you end up will be the new normal, you will not go back to where you were.

    People get in habits of what they say to us. This happens frequently in weight loss. The only thing to do, is not let people set the habit of discussing your body. I realize that it is normal to discuss your body in detail before, during and after surgery. You will just need to sweetly change the subject so they get out of this conversational habit, in my opinion, or they will drive you crazy.

    I am feeling very puffy myself with all this heat.

  9. Cindy says:

    From my perspective here on the outside, you are managing beautifully. I’m always so impressed with how you think through these issues and come out better at the end. I think it’s the failure to admit the fear and manage it is what dooms so many of us. The fact that you continue to put your health first over just putting on pounds to get back to your previous weight shows that you are making great decisions for yourself. I think you are on the right track.

  10. Beth says:

    Just wanted to let you know that I read your blog because I love you :)

  11. Kyra says:

    I think you have to work on the inside out. It’s not just your body telling you where its at, it’s about your… soul? telling you too. You’ve hit a huge patch of change and flux, and that’s OK. It’s sort of a like a whole NEW journey, not so dissimilar to the one you took to lose the weight in the first place. It’s just that this time it’s about you, and your body and weight are simply experiencing the side effects of everything going on.

    Big changes, big stress, big opportunities.


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