September 27, 2010

How it feels

My participation in Saturday's race was almost entirely due to my friend Ellen telling me about it. I knew it was in Chicago and saw the ads all over the city buses, but it wasn't anything I had seriously considered. start - and the lovely sears tower!But she told me that her boyfriend's family puts a team together every year and that they're always looking for more people to join, so I quickly signed up.

I met Ellen in 2008 when we were starting our French lit MA program together; after we graduated in May, we were both hired as lecturers, so now we share an office. She's one of the sweetest, most adorable people I've ever met - she used to teach kindergarten, and I think that's one of the best ways to visualize her temperament. Out of respect for her privacy, I'm not going to post a photo of her, but I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said she weighed a third of what I used to.

As we were walking together on Saturday morning, we were talking about how I've been doing and I mentioned that I feel so much better already even though I still have a long way to go, and that I could physically feel a difference when doing certain things, such as when I put my hands on my hips. I also said that since trying to get more active, it has been really amazing waking up without any aches or pains - and that seemed to really shock her. She paused, and then she asked me a really interesting question:
"What does it feel like?"
I've been obese for so long that I don't remember what it feels like being anything else. I have expert knowledge of what it feels like - both physically and emotionally - to gain and lose the same five pounds. But the day-to-day? I'm not sure I've ever actively thought about describing what it feels like to live in a body like this. Mostly because no one's ever asked, and because the people I tend to surround myself are in the same shape as I am - not to the extent that I am, but not as tiny as Ellen is - so they have a general idea.

So what *did* 345 pounds feel like? I read once about some thin actress or model wearing a "fat suit" and going out in public to see what it was like to walk in the shoes of an obese person. Socially, she felt some of the effects, but I wonder how much the suit weighed. Obesity is much more than emotionally painful. Carrying around an extra two hundred pounds makes every single day a challenge. Every task is difficult and more painful when you have to carry excess weight on top of it all. I still had to wake up and shower, occasionally run to catch the bus, stand in front of my class to teach, sit in my lectures and take notes, grocery shop, prepare meals, clean the apartment, and everything else - all while weighing as much as 2.25 baby beluga whales (or 2-4 baby cows) (or 115 baby piglets).

This summer was awfully hot, even for an average-sized person, but I had an extra two hundred or so pounds I was lugging around. A great deal of my weight is on my stomach, where there are two distinct sections I usually refer to as "the top fat" and "the bottom fat." This picture is from when I was in Connecticut this July:

at or around 345 lbs., 9 july 2010 - never again
I'm smiling, but I'm not happy. Between the heat, poor eating habits, and general inactivity, my bottom fat was starting to hurt. For the first time, it felt difficult to sleep because it got in the way (I'm a stomach sleeper). I tried sleeping on my back so it wouldn't hurt, but it felt like the fat on my chin and neck were affecting my breathing. It devastated me. My dad has to sleep with a special machine to help him breathe at night, and I didn't want that to happen to me. Even things like showering and going to the bathroom were becoming difficult and awkward because of my size. I had to do something - I'm only 23, I shouldn't need help with basic life functions all because I can't control what I am eating or how physically active I am.

When I returned to Chicago, I sprung into action. Now, a few months and nearly forty pounds later, that picture is starting to not really look like me anymore.

same shirt!same shirt!
My face is thinning out, my arms are developing some tone, and both the top and bottom fat have shrunk. I'm more flexible, I have better balance, and I can conduct my daily business with ease. I sleep without stomach pain and I wake without back pain. It's amazing, and I love realizing how much better I feel with every day. Best of all, I'm getting back to smiling and meaning it, which is incredibly worth it.

(Side note, yes, I know my eyebrows are a disaster. My 50 lb. weight loss reward is going to be a haircut and eyebrow waxing - no more awful bushy brows for me! At least for a few weeks anyway...)


Katie Warren said...

i love reading your blog! it always makes me wanna work harder and keep going =) i'm so glad i found you!

<3 katie

Anonymous said...

You are doing great! Keep it up and take lots of pictures! You'll want them to look back on. It's one thing to hear people say they notice your loss, and for you to physically feel your loss but being able to look at a photo of you now compared to a photo of you will mentally recognize the change and that recognition will motivate you to keep going.

Love reading your posts. Keep it up!

Jessica said...

What a great post!

Retta said...

I really liked when you said you are smiling more, and MEANING it now. That is great!