Wednesday, October 25, 2017

On Being Embarrassed

In the decades I've lived being fat, obese, and morbidly obese, I've had *plenty* of opportunities for being embarrassed. At 278 pounds, embarrassment was pretty much a daily event, at least on the days I went out in public. If I stayed at home, I could forget about it, just ignore it, or distract myself with a plate of Pizza Rolls with a side of Ranch dressing. But when I went out, it was really in my face.

When I went to the county fair and ate the fried zucchini and onion rings, I had to decide if it was more embarrassing to eat the whole plate and then walk around ignoring the grease stains on my shirt, or try to eat delicately with napkins across my chest for the drips and pretend I was not fat.

When I'd notice that my only pair of pants that fit had finally worn holes in the thighs, I had to decide if it was more embarrassing to wear them and try to keep my legs together constantly, or to wear shorts in the winter. Then I had to decide if it is more embarrassing to keep wearing those things or to go buy some more fat pants in a size 28W.

When I saw that it was a long walk from the parking lot to the beach on vacation with my family, I had to decide if it was more embarrassing to try and walk it, make it only 1/4 of the way, and sit in the sand alone waiting while my family went ahead to the beach, or to have my husband drop me off in the handicapped parking lot so I could make it to the beach and meet my family there after they walked from the regular parking lot.

When a good friend was coming into town and wanted to visit, I had to decide if it was more embarrassing to have them come and see me 80 pounds heavier than the last time they saw me, or to make lame excuses for why I couldn't have them stop by... making them feel like I didn't want to see them.

It's different now, even though I am only 45ish pounds lighter. I am not trapped in morbid obesity anymore, and I take better care of myself and make wiser choices most of the time. But I still have those times where I have to decide:

When I'm at a restaurant and am served fish that is breaded when I asked for fish that is baked, I have to decide if it is more embarrassing to send it back, or eat it and not lose any weight that week.

When I see that there are holes in my shirts because I have been wearing them for SO long, I have to decide if it is more embarrassing to keep wearing them, or to toss them and buy more shirts in a bigger size than I want, because the smaller shirts in the closet don't fit yet.

When I'm at a casual dinner with lots of other people, but the main course served is *sandwiches*, I have to decide if it is more embarrassing to take the bread off and only eat the middle, or to eat it and stay fat.

When I sit at lunch with a fellow low-carbing friend who has decided to eat the cake and cookies from the buffet and is saying how great they are and trying to get me to eat them too, I have to decide if it is more embarrassing to say no repeatedly and maybe set her straight on food boundaries, or to cave and eat it like a food addict.

When I look in the mirror and see my upper arms deflating again, hanging and swinging, I have to decide if it is more embarrassing to go places like that or to wear long sleeved shirts when it's warm outside. In fact, I also have to decide if it is more embarrassing to be thin with flabby deflated arm skin hanging down, or to weigh 240+ pounds and have that skin filled out with fat.

At some point, and maybe I am now at the point, the whole thing has to stop being about embarrassment. After all, if there were no other people around and I was the only human on earth, I would never be *able* to be embarrassed. Caring how I look to others, and what others think, used to be a lot more important to me than it is now. This summer was the first time I chose to wear my bathing suit at the pool regularly and not feel the least bit bad about how I looked. I was there to swim, not to be a model. I guess it clicked in my head that at my age I am not going to worry nor care about what some random stranger thinks when I walk by in a swimsuit. It is not even on my radar! I just want to swim and am happy to be there in the warm sunshine. And it's becoming like that about so many more things for me. What I eat isn't the concern of the person at the table next to me. In fact, they usually don't care at all, even when I pick the croutons out of my salad or eat only the insides of a tuna wrap or have fruit instead of pie for dessert. I am becoming more confident in my own choices and less concerned about being embarrassed. The only real exception to that is the loose skin. Yep, the loose skin still bothers me. It bugs me in an anxiety-driven sort of way, the same way it did the first time I lost the weight. I remember being so upset at the way the skin started to hang from my upper arms and thighs, around my knees and even under my chin. And I was so horrified when I started to get loose, hanging skin around my forearms and wrists, too! I felt so stressed out about it that I believe it triggered me to start overeating again... to subconsciously "fix" the loose skin. Yeah, I fixed it alright!! There was NO loose skin at 250+ pounds! But it is starting to come back, right now only in the upper arms, and that is one issue I am going to have to learn to deal with, to stop overreacting to, and to accept it. I don't want that one issue to derail me again.


Anonymous said...

I relate to this! I am so embarrassed by my weight that I stopped going to church. I won't go back until I lose the 44 pounds I gained recently. But it is also embarrassing having people from church calling me to see if I am sick or why I stopped going. There is no winning this. I want out!

Diana said...

Lyn, I really don't think loose skin is that big of a deal. Getting obesity related illnesses like high blood pressure and having a stroke, or getting diabetes and having an arm or leg amputated, or only being able to walk a short those are really big deals. Those make for a very poor quality of life or even worse, a death sentence. I'll take loose skin over obesity any day. It's truly the least of my worries.

One thing I've noticed this time after loosing 55 pounds and being at 163-165 for the last 3+ months - my loose skin is shrinking. I still want to lose at least 10 more pounds, but I've been maintaining at this weight for over three months. Add to the fact that I'm a lot older than you (62) the fact that my loose skin isn't really that bad, means yours will be even less drastic.

Strength training has really helped define my arms and shoulders, and I wear sleeveless tops all the time. I get a lot of compliments on my arms, but they do have saggy skin on them, on the underside of my upper arms. But it really doesn't bother me and no one seems to notice or care. Or at least they don't say anything - and they probably wouldn't dare because I'm a lot stronger than most of my much younger, stick-thin coworkers...LOL! I think you just need to get to a comfortable, healthy weight, and then maintain it for a few months. You might still have some loose skin, but I bet it won't be that bad. :) If it still really does bother you, you could always have plastic surgery. Although I've watched those surgeries on TV and OMG! I'd never be able to go through with it, although a lot of people do and seem to survive just fine.

Anyway, you're doing fantastic and I'm just so very happy for you. Don't let this loose skin thing get to you. Get healthy and figure that part out later. Either learn to live with it or get it fixed. Regardless, just get the weight off. Remember how happy you were at 175. I do. I want that happiness for you again.
Take care my friend,

Lyn said...

Thanks Diana. In my head I know loose skin is no big deal compared to all the health effects of obesity. Even when I was losing weight before, I thought anyone who worried about loose skin was just being silly. But when I saw it happening on myself, it really triggered something emotional in me. I am not sure WHY seeing loose skin on myself upset me so much. It's not a reasonable reaction and I couldn't seem to get over it. This time, I'm very aware of the emotional issue... the anxiety I may start to feel as it appears again, and am spending time actually thinking it through and trying to learn to accept it and not overreact to it when it happens. Doesn't make logical sense, but I know I have some kind of weird reaction to it, so I have to start dealing with that now and not let it sabotage me again.

I will have to follow your lead and really keep up with the strength training, too! Thanks again Diana, always great to get your insights.

PamL said...

I was just reading a list of "important things to remember" (supposedly by a 90 year old woman) to my kids at dinner last night, and one that struck me was, "What anyone else thinks of you is really none of your business." I thought that was so profound! It just reminded me that we have to be comfortable with ourselves, and at some point not really care what other people think about us- of course it's ok to know others' feelings about us, toward us, and respond to that. But if someone says something or "thinks" something cruel about us, it shouldn't bother us. Easy to say, hard to do!

I second weight training and giving flabby skin time. I've lost 45 pounds and yes, my skin was flabby, especially in the tricep area. Even a little weight training, girl pushups, and lots of time (like 3 years) has aided in that clearing up. So try to be at peace with your body changes! It will take time to get used to, but it will be so much better than being obese!