Sunday, October 4, 2009

You Look Great

"I am thinner than you've ever seen me," I bragged to my good friend on the phone. "I've lost quite a bit of weight." He replied, "Really? That's good. I was worried." He had never *said* anything about me getting so huge, but of course he'd noticed. When I met him, I weighed 227 pounds. I was a pretty young thing, 28 years young, and *thought* I was super-duper fat. But honestly, even at 227 pounds I always had curves in the right places and got plenty of compliments. Add ten pounds? Not so much. But right around 227, I looked decent. Like I was a "big girl" but not what a different guy I once knew called "sloppy fat." He used that phrase to refer to the point when a person's fat was starting to sort of explode off their body in an unattractive way... hanging, bulging, starting to overcome the actual *person* beneath the fat. Anyway, when he said he had been worried, seeing me "blossom" from 227 to 280 pounds, I knew what he meant. Worried about my health. Worried about what was going on in my head and emotions to make me eat that way. But he never said anything.

"Yeah," I explained, "I just got tired of being fat. I started working out. I lift weights now and I eat a lot more vegetables. I am really changing my life." He was happy for me. He hadn't seen me in over a year, and in that year I'd gone from 278 pounds to 214 pounds. I couldn't wait to see him again. I knew he would say, "Wow, you look GREAT!" because when he knew me at 227 pounds, he said I looked great THEN. So he would be awed and thrilled at the 214-pound me.

Only, I didn't see him at 214 pounds. Time went by. And by the time I saw him again, I weighed 240. Which was not, in any way, thinner than he'd ever seen me.

I didn't have time to explain; nor did I really want to. But I wonder, sometimes, what went through his head when he saw me last month. Did he think I'd fibbed about the weight loss? Did he think, "Gee, I thought she looked way thinner than THAT before" or maybe "Oh, guess she gained a lot of weight back"? I dunno. It bothered me. He didn't say anything negative, but he didn't say I looked great, either.

Such is the life of a person who loses, gains, loses weight. Time goes by; every time you go out, you see someone who never saw you "this fat" or "this thin" and depending on when they saw you last you either get "wows" or pitiful stares. If I went out today and ran into a friend from 2007, they'd drop their groceries and say, "Oh my gosh! You look amazing! How much weight have you lost?" If I came across someone who last saw me in summer of 2008, they'd wonder how I let myself go again, regaining weight that I fought so hard to lose. And if I met some friends that haven't seen me since I moved out of state in 1996, they would fall over and gasp in horror, their eyes wide with disbelief that I managed to gain SO MUCH WEIGHT.

The reactions all depend on whether they last saw me at 280, 214, or 168 pounds.

But I am the same person, at 240, getting all three reactions in one day.

How does one incorporate this into reality? Aren't we partially shaped by the beliefs of those around us? If the boss always tells us we are slow and lazy, we might start to believe it. If the husband tells us we are worthless, we might begin to feel it. If our friends tell us we are beautiful, it sinks into our psyche and becomes part of us. But if half the people we see think we look thinner and so much better, and half the people think we look fatter and terribly unhealthy, how do we internalize that?

I guess we don't.

I have to look at the big picture. In the past 13 years I have weighed 168 and 280 and everything in between. I'm somewhere in the middle now, but the *reality* that I have internalized is this:

I am thinner than I used to be.
I am fatter than I used to be.
And I am going to be thinner than I have ever been in the last 13 years.

People's reactions do not change that I have gained and lost. They don't know the whole story. And I have to grant them that it IS difficult to watch ANYONE gain massive amounts of weight, want to help them, but not know what to say. It will be so much easier on my friends, not to mention *myself*, when all this yo-yoing is over and I am stable at a relatively normal BMI.

One of these days, sometime soon, I am going to run into him again. I won't have to say anything; I won't need to brag about how much I have lost. He is going to see it, his jaw will drop, and he WILL say, "Wow! You really look great!" Because I will.


Diana said...

Yep, I know you'll do it. And he will say exactly that. :)

kelly said...

You will do it! Keep up the great work.

Friend of the Bear said...

Hi Lyn. Yes I have been through that as well. Even familiar strangers giving me pitiful, embarrassed looks, or staring at how much weight I've lost. And I worry a lot about what other people are thinking and noticing. But you're right - you have to remain focussed in your own mind on your own journey. And I'm trying to do this right now!

Best wishes,
Bearfriend xx

Leslie said...

Very interesting to view ourselves from these different perspectives. I've been through what you describe...and whether people are thinking anything or not, my head is running a commentary.

You're on your way. I feel it!

*fitcetera* said...

I've wondered what people think too.
Where I work it's possible to not see the same people for YEARS because of moving between depts.
The people who knew me when I was younger are probably in shock at how far I let myself go but the people I work with now see me losing weight.
I'll take the latter :D

Hey! We're going to be in Onederland for Jan.1st, Lyn.
I'm NOT letting either one of us off the hook!
I know there's so much stuff going on at your end but I hope you can keep focused on this goal because you matter so much and you deserve this!

100togo said...

This is so true! It's sometimes discouraging that others can see us, and think of how fat we are, but we are thinking of how we just lost 5 lbs and feel great. This is a very thought-provoking post...! Wow!

Katie said...

I long for the day when i see those people and their faces will be enough. You will get there, and hopefully so will i. :)

Sara said...

I totally agree with you on this! I mean, it's hard enough that we get the pitiful stares, but what's harder is that we don't have time to explain what happened.

But I know you will do it! And by that time the reaction you'll get will be -"Wow!"

Alanna said...

How 'fat' can be both elegant and eloquent post after post can only come from a writer who judges her own beauty from the inside out ...

Cheering you on from afar,


Greta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Greta said...

OMG...I was just thinking this exact thing yesterday! I, too..have been 160 and 253 and everything in between for the last 15 years. I totally get this.

For me....I am judging my progress this time around on fitness....not weight. I KNOW...that I was 160 or to run 5 miles in the past 15 years...until now. ( the past 42 years, really!)

I also know 160 or 253...I have never seen any actual arm muscle tone until now (even tho is still hiding a bit).

So..that is my new gage. far as people go....if someone chooses to say something nice...then I smile and thank them.

I love it...when someone says "oh my gosh..what is your secret?"....and how their face falls when I say "eating better (and less) food and exercising". LOL

It really is NOT rocket science...right? we all know....doing what we oughta do is not always easy. THAT is where the rocket science comes in. :)

My Own Two Feet said...

You said something very deep there without realizing it.

People's reactions will change based on what they know of you. But they are not there with you on the day to day. They are not there with you when you make your food choices, or workout, or the times you've fallen off the wagon.

Reactions and compliments are nice, but once you learn to compliment yourself and your own progress then it gets even better.

Although, I'm sure if once you see Dave again and he does that 'daaaaaaamn' doubletake, that'll be fun too.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lyn,
I discovered your blog a few days ago and have now read every post from your archives. Wow -- what an inspiration you are! I am so glad I found your blog. I just wanted to pop in to say something that has probably been said to you many times before (but I need to say it anyway): I REALLY hope you write a book at some point! You have such a beautiful way with words. Thank you for everything -- I'll be back again soon!

{ALL} for a Better Life said...

Oh yeah, I know EXACTLY what you are saying and agreed it will just be easier for everbody once we reach our healthy BMI's.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lyn,

I know exactly where you are coming from. I think many of us can relate. I do want you to know that regardless of where you are now, you are always trying and you never give up. That is the main thing! You are doing a great job and don't forget it!

JCM said...

I have a question: how did you get in my head? I was having this same discussion with myself earlier today.

I went back to my 20th reunion after not seeing anyone since high school. I've recently lost about 120 pounds (I'm just over 190 these days), and I've still got about 25 left to lose. Anyhow, I've been fat since I was about 1 hour old. Honestly, I have NO idea how much I weighed in HS, I've successfully blocked it out. So at my reunion I ROCKED a beautiful dress and felt so proud and confident. People told me I looked great, but they really had no idea the path I'd taken to get to where I am today.

Anyhow, I'm so happy to have found your blog! I look forward to reading even more (and keep sharing recipes ~ they always sound so good!)

Christina said...

This is honestly one of my biggest fears. That I'll run into someone from High School or the Army and I'll have to watch them try to mask their expression of horror and the torture that would feel like on the inside as I try to act like nothing is wrong and paste a fake smile on. Ugh - so many feelings with that one. Can't wait to shed this so I can let go of that fear and be PROUD to see anyone from my past again.