Saturday, January 7, 2012

Making peace with the body

In my home, I do not have any full-length mirrors so most of the time I have been seeing my body in fragments. When I started a new job at the end of last spring, I started working in a place that has an enormous mirror across from the toilet. It is virtually impossible not to see my half-naked body without a supreme effort to look away. The mirror takes up half of an entire wall.

In clothes, you can't really see, but I'm a disaster underneath. This was in a fitting room when I tried on this shirt. It was the only way to get a picture of me in the mirror since I don't have a big one. You can see that I definitely have not lost any hair along with weight loss. I've got plenty. 

When I first started using that bathroom, it was very hard for me to look at what my body had become as a result of weight loss. Little blobby side-cars of wrinkled flesh hang on my inner thighs. My stomach is still very big, and hangs down like a crinkled semi-full sack of potatoes. When I sit, it rests on my lap like a floppy, thick blanket. My breasts hang like an old grandma's. They are slack and lacking in fullness. When I cram them into my C-cup bra, it's mainly extra skin rather than breast tissue threatening to send me back to a D. Even my calves have wrinkles on them where the skin has slackened and is creasing. 

My husband, bless his sweet, loving soul, sees the state of my body as a sign of success and never flinches, criticizes or shies away from touching or looking at me. I see it as a vast collection of  battle scars from a war with food that I've fought for many, many years. This war has resulted, not in victory, but in a peace treaty that is better than an all-out win.

I never expected to be toned, taut and gorgeous at the end of all of this. In fact, I expected something not too dissimilar to what I have. You can't stretch out skin for that long and expect it to snap back, not even with very slow weight loss such as mine. No amount of exercise will change how I look without my clothes and I know that. There will likely always be sheets of extra skin hanging from my body, adding both weight and crepe-like wrinkles. I will never be thin, and I know that my weight will always be higher because of all that extra skin.

Despite the fact that I hardly expected to come out looking like a beauty queen, I have found it difficult to accept my body in its naked state. I feel like I've abused it physically because I suffered so much emotionally. Rather than feeling that my vanity is suffering because I lack bodily beauty, I feel sad that years of psychological difficulty have left these marks. For that, I forgive myself, and I have learned not to be sad at the state I'm in. I'm learning to see my stretched out and wrinkled body in the mirror and feel that it's okay. I'm starting to see that slack, wrinkled flesh the way my husband does - as a trophy of my success in repairing my relationship with food. I'm not there 100% yet, but I'm on my way. 


-Maura said...

BRAVO!!! Having gone about losing weight in an effective (but dangerous on many levels) way that didn't address the issue of sagging skin except to mention surgery, I somewhat know the feeling of seeing that skin. I didn't do what you did though, I didn't make peace with it. Now that I've put about half the weight back on, I realize, that not making peace with the excess skin was just one of the many doors to weight gain that I left ajar.

I "hear" so much self-compassion in this post and that is one of the areas I'm addressing in my quest to be at peace with food and my body. Thank you for showing me a way to practice it while staying real.

screaming fatgirl said...

Hi, Maura, and thank you for your comment.

I very much appreciate that you understand where I'm coming from, and I do think that making peace with a damaged body is incredibly important in order to keep ones focus on behavior over outcome (one of my mantras all along has been about looking to behavioral and mental changes as the barometer of my success, not numbers or appearance). It's not easy though. We are all conditioned to keep our eyes on the prize. I'm just trying to redefine the prize as something I can control rather than things I really can't.

I hope you will apply compassion to yourself and find your peace. I know how hard it is. It's a road I've struggled down for a long time, and continue to stumble on and have difficulty with (though less frequently and with less pain as time goes by). It's a long and winding road with a lot of bumps. That's something I've been making my peace with as well. :-)

Thanks again, and best wishes to you.

Jackie said...

Dear SFG,

I just have to say, you look absolutely lovely! :-)


screaming fatgirl said...

Thank you, Jackie! I'm lucky genetically to be a pear and not to have lost so much of my breasts during weight loss. I take no credit for this whatsoever. Honestly. :-)