Saturday, August 28, 2010

where you came from, where you are

Just a few days after I posted about not being able to "see" continued weight loss, something in my head clicked over and I could see changes in my lower body. It wasn't a specific change, and I hadn't even lost more weight, but suddenly I recognized an alteration in overall shape which was reminiscent of how I looked after my large weight loss in college about 25 years ago. Since I was never thin, I never experienced a flat stomach (and don't expect that I ever will), but there was a difference in how my belly looked in terms of overall shape which I suddenly started to see emerge.

Body image is a curious thing because it is almost as if your brain is stuck on a certain look and tunes out the changes that are occurring for a certain period of time. This seems to make some sense for people who look at themselves in the mirror everyday and the changes come along gradually. In such cases, changes would be understandably imperceptible.

However, even someone like me, who has no full-size mirrors and does not inspect her body closely or often, cannot see the changes even when the appraisal is spaced out over weeks or even months. You'd think I'd see the changes more clearly because bigger changes might occur if one waits longer to look. The truth is that I have never known my body very well because I avoided getting to know it.

I think for a lot of overweight people, and especially those who become very, very fat like me, we disconnect as much as possible from our physical forms. It is more often than not the case that we "imagine" what we look like more than we might be aware. When you're avoiding having your picture taken, don't walk in front of reflective surfaces and wear clothes that stretch so that size changes are harder to detect, you don't really know how "big" you are. This means that you can't easily see how much smaller you are except by numbers on the scale (which I don't measure very often) or by rather large changes in form which take months, possibly up to a year, to come along.

There are other reasons why someone who is very big may find that they cannot see the changes well which make logical sense, such as the fact that the impact of 10 lbs. lost on a nearly 400 lb. body is not going to be as noticeable as that same amount lost on a 150 lb. body. However, I think many of us find our bodies so loathsome that we simply don't really "see" who we are when we begin to lose weight. If you don't have a really good idea of where you've started from, you have difficulty knowing how far you've come.


Baby Stepping said...

Excellent point. I know I avoid mirrors like the plague - except from the neck up. I will try and be more aware! thank you for posting this.


Sarah said...

Your posts always leave me with questions, I hope you don't mind me asking. I wonder do you have any interest in getting to know your body more know that you are getting smaller or Is it something you will continue to avoid? Do you find your own body loathsome? I get the feeling you are quite comfortable existing mostly in your head-- separate from the body you inhabit. I wonder if you hope to ever connect the two or if that's just not of interest or importance to you?

I remember very clearly in the bathroom of my last college apartment when I realized just how large I had become. I couldn't fathom that was actually my belly overflowing in front of me like that. I remember running my hands over it and being amazed that I didn't see myself getting that big until that moment. It's a memory that I don't think will ever fade... even though it is almost impossible for me these days to recall what it was like being 345 pounds. However I see evidence of it everyday when I look at my arms, my scars and my stretch marks. But trying to grasp what I looked like, moved and how it felt to be that large? Gone. In its place is happiness and joy with a body I am thrilled to be able to get to know and use.

screaming fatgirl said...

Thanks to both of you for commenting!

Mary: I don't avoid mirrors as much as I used to, but it's more of a "forcing myself" to look thing now. Even when I weighed a lot less, I wasn't much of a mirror person.

Sarah: I really don't have an interest in knowing my body more than I have to for health purposes. I do exist mainly in my head, and expect to continue to do so regardless of the state of my body. I only attend to it now because I have little choice and require some sort of feedback about my progress (and mainly, I want to see if I've reached a state where I'm no longer mockable for my physical appearance). I still find it hard to accept my body, and I know it's never going to look "good" (that boat sailed a long time ago). I'm just not invested in my appearance. I really never have been as far as I can recall.

Anonymous said...

My son-in-law once commented that I have more mirrors in my house than anyone he'd ever met before. I was surprised. I'm not THAT vain, but I do love mirrors, perhaps something about the light and the feeling of expansion they bring to a room.

Having so many mirrors has not helped me see myself more *accurately*, however. I seldom connected my unattractiveness with my size, actually; although I did not like my double chin. I felt unattractive when I was depressed or anxious, but generally paid little attention to appearance. I'm the kind of person who can leave the house with my sweater on inside out, or with clothing tags hanging under my arm pit. *shrugs*

My family is starting to make comments about my appearance. I'm okay with that. They say things like, "Wow, mom, you're really getting skinny." It's sweet, I guess. I'm not skinny. I'm obese, just much less obese than before.

Mainly, the way I can tell that my body is changing relates to what I can do, and how I feel physically stronger and more limber. I have far fewer back aches too. I had really forgotten how much I love the outdoors. I suppose I could enjoy the outdoors in a wheelchair, but I was not in a wheel chair. I was having to try and carry an enormous load everywhere, a load I *pretended* was not a burden. Psychologically, it wasn't as great a burden as some would imagine. Physically, for someone like me, it was immense.


globalmom said...

I'm really enjoying reading your blog--just discovered it not long ago. You're a really good writer, and it's interesting to hear from someone else living with weight issues abroad. Take care!