Sunday, May 29, 2011

Up In Arms

There's a lovely woman out there who has been blogging about losing weight for quite some time and she recently started talking about an issue that is now also a matter of some concern for me. This woman is so well-known that once you know the topic, you'll know who she is if you're even marginally involved in weight loss blogging reading. The issue is flabby upper arms. Yes, I know, it sounds small and silly in the scheme of things, and it is definitely something I never considered until recently when I finally gave in and bought new shirts.

I bought the shirts on-line without the ability to try them on, and when they arrived, the sleeves were shorter than I expected. Since I bought them to work in during the hot summer months, the way in which I appear in them is more than trivial. I have to make a positive impression, and my upper arms, which are amply revealed in the new shirts, look like this:

Bear in mind that I've been doing modest arm toning exercises for well over a year. You can see the definition of a much thinner arm with some muscle tone within the sack of saggy, wrinkly flesh that my upper arm is. This hasn't happened because I haven't done any work on my body. It has happened because that skin is stretched out and has lost elasticity and isn't going back. I'd have to build up professional body builder level muscles to take up the slack, and that really wouldn't be any better.

While it is possible that it could retract a little bit through time, I'm not holding my breath. I've lost weight slowly over the last two years so this isn't the side effect of rapid weight loss. The soft flabby part has relatively little body fat in it. It's largely just skin with some shrunken adipose tissue. It's so flimsy that I can practically fold it around my arm like a thick blanket. No amount of effort is going to change how my upper arms look and I have to accept that.

I've written before that many people lose weight and expect to come out the other side looking toned and gorgeous, and that that is completely unrealistic no matter how hard you work unless you are young, lucky, and haven't been very heavy for very long. The picture above is the reality of weight loss for many women.

So, the question is, "what of it?" I'm not embarrassed by my arms, nor necessarily afraid to show them in public when I'm out living my usual daily life. People can gawk and stare all they like. They can whisper about my big, floppy, wrinkly upper arms. I'm not happy about this, but I am used to it. People still stare at my belly (which also has impressive hang despite being quite a bit smaller).

However, in a professional setting where I have to "sell" myself and present an appearance which makes being with me appealing to people, I have to cover this up. The bottom line isn't how I feel about my arms, but rather how they do. If it makes them uncomfortable, even if their feelings are shallow and indicating a lack of maturity and tolerance, it is irrelevant to this question. I can crow bodily acceptance all I want, and maybe even decide to love my big, floppy arms (which I don't, I'm resigned and indifferent to them), but it won't change the fact that others aren't going to subscribe to my thinking and it will affect how I'm perceived at work and possibly reduce my earning potential (the "customer/client" can choose who he or she deals with without giving a reason).

As much of my body as you'll probably ever see. You can see how my upper body looks pretty much to be of a normal weight, which makes those arms quite a contrasting shocker. And, yes, I intentionally blurred what was on the T-shirt as it might give too much away.

So, I've got a bunch of short-sleeved shirts that are inappropriate for my work and I'm making the best of it by buying the sort of jackets and sweaters which don't hold in much in the way of body heat but do cover my arms. Anyone who is paying attention will still see how big they are, but they won't see how stretched out and flimsy the flesh is. Considering how little of my face and upper body betray my true weight, this is all for the better.

I once made a list of good and bad reasons to lose weight, and listed "appearance" as a dual-edge sword reason. In terms of longevity of maintaining your losses, beauty is really a hard one because there are always going to be things you can't overcome which short-circuit your ability to become "beautiful", and my arms are ample illustration of that. Short of plastic surgery, they're never going to look good no matter what I do, and I can live with that because beauty was never one of my motivations.