Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What a dollar a day bought me

A lot of women who plan to lose weight relish the idea of taking "before" and "after" pictures. They also preserve one pair of their pants from their largest size in order to do the cliched picture of themselves at a smaller size standing in one large leg of their trousers. Personally, I find that approach to weight loss disturbing.

The reason that this troubles me is that it trivializes the entire process and skips over the hard parts. It focuses on the beginning and end, and skips over the painful and difficult middle. The pictures of the skinny person in the fat pants that is often used is a mimicry of advertising for diet aids that used to be quite common in the 60's and 70's. There's nothing that belittles the process like aping something designed to exploit your pain and insecurity. The sad part is that people don't even know what they're copying.

Because this wasn't some game to me, nor an exercise in superficial change which I would hold out to the world with a triumphant expression on my face, I never took a "before" picture in June 2009 when I made the decision to lose weight. I did have my husband take one picture of me in October of 2009 as an experiment for tracking my visual progress by using photos (as I was not using the scale). At that point in time, I had already lost between 30-40 lbs. That is the only photo I have at a high weight as I avoided pictures like the plague. I didn't continue with progress pictures because I couldn't look at them and my husband couldn't tell any difference looking at pictures taken a few months apart. This frustrated me so I gave up on tracking by photo.

I'm putting a comparison of what I looked like then and what I look like now on my blog not as some testimonial to my success nor as an inspiration. I'm doing it because I think there are some people who read blogs in which fatties talk about trying to lose weight and believe it's for vanity, societal approval, or some other vapid reason. I want people to see what I was and realize more clearly what it meant to be that person.

Being the size I used to be meant crippling back pain every time I walked or stood for more than a minute. It meant being mocked and tormented by strangers every time I went into public. It meant being unable to shop for clothing that wasn't the largest size and stretchy (and only shopping by mail order). It meant difficulty having sex and diminished pleasure for both my husband and I. It meant never going out to restaurants, coffee shops, movie theaters, or other public areas knowing I wouldn't fit into the seating and even if I fit, I was at risk of breaking the furniture. It meant difficulty moving, heart palpitations, and having my hands go numb and my back ache when I slept because of the compression of my weight. It meant not being able to fully hug my husband or have him fully hug me. It meant digestive issues, IBS, and fatigue. It meant I was afraid to get on a plane, train or bus and would not travel far.

Losing weight for me hasn't been some "hobby" that I indulged in in order to look hot or something I used to fill an empty life with talk of diets and exercise. It's something which had to happen in order to obtain the same minimal quality of life that others take for granted. In order to understand how diminished I was, it's important to know what I was before. That is why I'm putting up a picture. My "before" body, the one 30-40 lbs. lighter than my true starting weight in the photo above, was extremely hard to live in. No amount of effort to love and accept myself was going to change that reality.

The picture is very painful for me to see. It's not because I'm so huge and I disgust myself. It is because I'm afraid I could go back if I'm not careful to continue doing what I've been doing and I remember all too vividly how hard life was to live at that weight. When I talked in a previous post about dealing with food metaphorically as if I were living on a dollar a day instead of ten dollars, I was saying that that change has bought a better life for me. It didn't buy me beauty, approval, or bragging rights. It didn't give me the upper hand in some coffee klatch discussion about weight with the girls. It bought me a normal existence in which I could walk, go outside and not be afraid or tormented, and have physical contact with my husband without my body being a barrier. It also didn't buy me instant happiness or solve all of my problems, but it did bring me a lot closer to feeling "whole" again.

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