I don’t have to turn sideways to walk down most aisles, but I still do turn sideways—out of habit.
I don’t have to worry about sitting on the bus and spilling over into the other seat, but I still do worry—out of habit.
I don’t have to shop at Lane Bryant, Ashley Stewart, or the “Women’s Plus” section of most stores anymore, but I still do go into these stores and these sections—out of habit.
Although I have lost 80lbs and currently wear the average size of American women, I still find myself doing things I used to do when I was morbidly obese. And I keep asking myself why. Although I have lost the weight, something still has not clicked, fully, in my brain.
I have been blessed to workout with some of the best trainers in this country: Dustin Maher, Abby Brockman, and Andrea “Dre” Nichols Everett. They have taught me all I know about health, nutrition, and the role of exercise in a healthy lifestyle. However, none of these trainers have ever been morbidly obese (at least not to my knowledge) and so for all the preparation and knowledge I have received regarding getting to where I am today physically, I have not been prepared to deal with this new me. Nobody told me that there would be a mind-body disconnect. What I mean is that some days I have to remind myself that I am no longer morbidly obese. While I have not reached my goals as of today, I know I no longer weigh nearly 300lbs and I will never weigh nearly 300lbs again. Physically, I know I have lost weight; I know I look different; I feel different; I am stronger. However, mentally and emotionally, to be quite honest, some days I still feel “fat.”
I feel this way because as much I would like to say I am not influenced by society, I am. And, how could I not be? For as long as I can remember, I have been treated differently because of the weight I carried. Additionally, I remain aware of how people who are overweight are treated. I see the glances given by some when a person who is overweight comes down the aisle. I hear the self-deprecating remarks. I see the despair in the eyes of those who have tried to lose weight but have been unable to do so. I have been the comic relief, hoping to deflect attention away from myself. I have been the person who preferred to go shopping alone because my less heavy friends drove me crazy going into ALL of the mall stores when there were only two “specialty” stores for me—these friends were usually oblivious to this fact. I have owned the labels “fat” and “plus-sized,” lest I give someone else the opportunity to label me in these ways, first, without my permission. I have said that I am ok in my skin, when in reality, I’ve always dreamt of being healthier and…smaller. I have secretly wished to be on the Biggest Loser show because I felt I could not lose the weight on my own. I have felt all and done most of these things in the recent past. And yet, though I have lost a significant amount of weight and dress sizes, sometimes I still feel “plus-sized.”
How does one rid herself of this feeling? Of 27 years worth of “the presence of fat=bad” from her psyche? I replace these falsities with TRUTH. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. The hairs on my head were determined before I was conceived. When God created me, God smiled and said, “She is good.” I know this. I believe this. I walk in this knowledge. I look in the mirror and marvel at the shape of my face; the complexion of my skin; the fine curls that frame my face; my one eyebrow raised in quizzical expression; and my mocha colored eyes. I am awed when I realize my physical strength: when I see the definition of my calves; when my biceps and triceps lift weight the equivalent of what I have lost; and when my cardiovascular and respiratory system propel me up 2,109 steps. And, doing these things does not make me conceited or arrogant.
I am learning to love me—all of me! Not just my intellect, or my wisdom, but also this vessel God has made me a steward over. As I learn more about the human body and all of its capacity, I realize what a wonderful opportunity we have all been given. I spent most of my life misusing and abusing this opportunity. Yet, the moment I made a conscious decision to start appreciating and honoring my body, my body responded—and it keeps on responding. I am amazed by the complexity of the human body.
I know NO ONE personally who has naturally lost the amount of weight I have. We are inundated with how-to guides, manuals, books, and new diet plans but no one has written the book on what happens after—probably because the health/nutrition industry is booming and most investors don’t really want people to lose weight—it has turned into a profit industry. And, if the problem of obesity were solved, what would people like Jillian Michaels do for a living? However, for all the information we have about physically losing the weight—these “experts” are not prepared to teach about the emotional and spiritual ramifications of weight loss. Perhaps, that’s why most people re-gain the weight they lost. Though the pounds have disappeared, the pain is still present and most are not adequately prepared to deal with this.
So what do you do?
What do I do?
A= accept who and where I am. Accepting who and where I am allows me to honor myself in my present moment. To do this I reflect on where I have come from and the lessons I have learned. As I am a perpetual planner, I tend to sometimes live in the possibilities of the future. However, I am learning to be in the moment and appreciate the joy and importance of each moment I have been given.
C= create healthy communities of support Close friends who believe in and who remind me of who I am when I have forgotten help me grow. They also push me to go beyond myself and seek help when I need it.
T= tell my story This has been difficult because I am an intensely private person. I don’t volunteer personal information about myself. I can let an entire conversation go by without volunteering my personal experience—although I never fall short on giving advice or doling out an intellectual perspective. I am beginning to feel comfortable talking about my past and my current life journeys. I know my walking in power and freedom will help somebody else to do so. Despite how hard it is; I keep putting one foot in front of the other.
So what happens when the “fat” girl is no longer “fat”?
She rids herself of society’s falsities. The definition of “fat” is an ever-changing, media-driven, social construction. Defining oneself by this term can only lead to emotional crisis.
She replaces false constructions with TRUTH.
She hopes, prays, and tries to make this world a place where being overweight and/or obese does not wreck havoc on the mental and emotional well being of those who live with this condition.
Most importantly, she CONTINUES to loves herself, all of herself, unconditionally, knowing that despite the new position in which she finds herself, the essence of her spirit, GOD, has remained unchanged.