Last night, in between bouts of watching Portlandia and trying to fall asleep, I watched a Youtube video in which the girl discussed what it’s like to live after losing a significant amount of weight. It’s, obviously, a subject that hits close to home with me.
It seems as if everyone believes that once a person who is overweight loses a vast majority of their extra pounds, they’ll automatically be happier. As if all at once, everything is okay. Everything is normal.
But, nothing’s normal. Everything is turned upside down.
Before: pain. Insecurity. The thought that everyone everywhere looks at you and laughs, laughs, laughs, because of how you look. Disgust. How could you get this way? What happened along the way? How did you get this way? Anger. Pity. Depression.
After: confidence. Insecurity (“you should lose more; it’s not enough”). Elation. Pressure. The inability to recognise the figure in the mirror. The inability to recognise why people might be interested in you. Surprise when someone “out of your league” flirts with you (why would he flirt with you?) Doubt.
Some days, you’re happy. Some days, you tell yourself that what you’ve done isn’t enough. Not yet. There’s more to do.
Some days, you wonder when you will think you’re good enough.
Losing a significant amount of weight leads to one hell of an identity shift. Especially if it’s a weight you’ve carried for a long time. You’re you, but you’re not at the same time. It takes time to adjust to the changed reflection in the mirror. You think you recognise your body, but suddenly new curves and muscles appear, sculpted out of hard work and dedication.
I’m still not used to what I see in the mirror. I gravitate towards sizes that have been too big on me for months. I’m still surprised at what I fit into now. This is a double-edged sword, though. Because when something doesn’t fit, when it’s a different style or cut than what I’m used to, I automatically judge myself harshly. “You’d fit into this if you worked harder. You should be here by now.”
I don’t want to, but I’ve gotten used to tell myself what I should and should not do or be based on a set of social rules I shouldn’t have to confine myself to.
It’s a weird experience, at least for me. I’d love to be able to say that I accept myself more, but I’m still not there yet. I’m not where I want to be. I love what I have, but I still want it to change. I don’t love it enough. And I should, because it’s gone through a lot.
It’s been a struggle to figure out that acceptance doesn’t just happen when the weight is gone. The mind still believes what it believes. It still takes everything it sees and internalises it, forces it into a box. Into a body it can never be.
Happiness doesn’t just appear, either. I spent a ridiculously long time telling myself daily contradictions. “You’re pretty, but probably not pretty enough for him.” “You’re getting there, you’ve made such progress! It’s still not enough.” “You look so good!” “You could stand to lose twenty more pounds.”
It’s an issue I still face. Not necessarily in terms of clothes and fashion, though I do get incredibly upset when something that should (re: is the size I’m in) fit me doesn’t, as happened with some clothes I recently ordered online. I let it eat away at me, let it convince me I haven’t done enough. But, overall, I wear what I want to wear whether or not someone of “my size” should be wearing it.
But, when it comes to my relationships with other people, specifically men, I still get caught up in all the old worries and body-shaming that I used to have. I thought that with my weight loss, I’d understand how to better navigate the waters of dating and courtship. I was wrong. I still tell myself that certain individuals could never find me attractive, because I’m “not in their league.” I question everything. I doubt everything.
At the end of the day, there’s a part of me that still doesn’t feel I’m good enough. Logically, rationally, I know I am. But, my mind doesn’t always agree with logic and reason. I don’t know how to make the two coincide. But, I’m trying.
Trying, sometimes, is half the battle.
You close the bathroom door, remove your clothes. You inspect yourself. Poke places that still contain an “excess” of fat, like your thighs or waist. Turn to the side and think about how small you are in comparison to what you were. You press down on your collarbones, your hip bones, the groove of your back. You wish you didn’t have stretch marks, even though you know they’re a perfectly normal thing to have.
You criticise, but then you take the moment to appreciate the muscles in your calves. The way your arms move in motion with the rest of you, stronger and better equipped to hold you. Your legs better equipped to carry you. You think to your lungs which expand to allow oxygen into your body, your heart that keeps beating even when you feel like everything around you is ending.
You’re stronger for what you’ve gone through.
And maybe, just maybe, you will be happy here.