November 6, 2010


Yesterday, after proctoring an exam for one of my students, I sat down with a friend of mine, Lorelei, and we talked for a while. It's a stressful time in the semester for everyone, but she is also preparing her MA research for the spring, so she's really overwhelmed a lot lately. A year ago, it was totally me in that position, so I try and offer any help that I can - offering to help grade things, giving time management advice, whatever.

Lorelei is one of my best friends here in Chicago - we grew close this summer when we were both teaching intensive French courses. She is the kind of person that I feel very safe talking to, and so I tell her a lot of things. I'm very open and honest, which is very hard for me to be with people. Eventually the conversation deviated to her man problems, and then life problems in general, and then we got to talking about weight loss. We usually talk a lot about eating well and cooking, and all the new things I am experiencing seem to amaze her. Yesterday, she asked me how I was feeling, and then I spilled it:

I'm having a really hard time dealing with losing weight.

I always thought that if I lost a ton of weight, I would be the happiest person in the world, that there couldn't possibly be a downside. I'm nowhere near my long-term goal yet, but even already, there's a lot to deal with. There are the physically different feelings, but also, there's a huge emotional side I never considered. It seems as if someone who is doing so well should be full of self-confidence and constantly happy - and while I do have more good days than I ever have in the past, it's not the wonderful experience I always fantasized about. It's really strange, actually.

a softer world dot com
The fat on my abdomen is disappearing, especially the bottom part, which I learned has a medical name: panniculus. My bum is feeling toned. I look at my thinning arms, and they don't look like they belong to me. I can put my fingers around my wrists. When I put my hands on my hips, and I can feel that there are bones in there. Same for my collarbones. And as awesome and exciting as that is, it's also really, really, really weird feeling. A lot of times, I wake up feeling like I am in the wrong body. The last time I weighed this much was in my sophomore or junior year of high school - none of this is familiar to me anymore.

One of the weirdest sensations is being able to wear almost anything in my closet - and the things I can't wear are too big. My winter coat is pretty big on me now, and last year it was hard to zip - I was packed into it like a fat little sausage. I needed to retire my stretch denim size 24 jeans in exchange for the plain denim 24's, and even the plain denim ones are already getting baggy. Last night, I put on my technical shirt from the 5k a couple weeks ago, and it's already looser. That's surprisingly hard to get used to. I feel like a little kid playing dress-up in someone else's clothes.

I knew I would have to deal with this stuff. I guess I just thought I would have more time to mentally prepare for it. This is all happening really fast. It seems like a really strange thing to be upset about, but last night, wearing the race shirt, I cried. I get a lot more emotional lately, and over really ridiculous things.

I've been thinking about grief lately after continuing to watch episodes of "Ruby." After getting from 479 pounds to under 350 in about six months, she is thrilled, but also terrified. She's extremely hesitant to get rid of the dresses she wore at 5, 6, and 700 pounds, and so she goes to her psychiatrist to try and work it out. He understands, but tells her she needs to get rid of the dresses since that part of her life is over now.i want pink boxing gloves too! She's very emotional at this point, and tells the doctor how much she has been crying lately. His response is simple: Of course you're upset. You're grieving. He clarifies by adding that even though the grief is for lost weight and related lost restrictions, she's still grieving a loss.

It's really easy to see weight loss as a strictly physical journey, and that is simply not the case at all. There are so many changes that come with weight loss - the loss of fat and the strengthening of muscle, but even beyond that. There are still challenges, they're just different. There are things you can do physically that you couldn't do before, but also, there are emotional barriers you have to break through. It's a whole new kind of life.

I still have a long way to go on my journey, but it was really kind of comforting to hear Ruby talk about her emotional weight problems and know that I'm not the only one who is crying a lot through all of this. With grieving, sometimes the best thing you can do is just let it happen - take a few minutes and bawl your eyes out. Embrace it, and then let it go. It could be just what you need.
"Society teaches us that having feelings and crying is bad and wrong. Well, that's baloney, because grief isn't wrong. There's such a thing as good grief. Just ask Charlie Brown."
- "The Office"


Anonymous said...

It's a very strange thing to lose a large amount of weight, especially if you've been carrying that weight for a long time. You feel like a completely different person, but still exactly the same person all at the same time. So many things are different and amazing, but it's still you. You still process things the same way. You're still the same person. On my "About Me" page on my blog I describe myself as a fat girl living inside of a thin girl's body, because I think that is always how I will self-identify. I want to be healthy to live a long and active life with my husband, children and (one day) grandchildren. But I will never identify with naturally thin people who have never had a weight issue. After basically 2 1/2 years at a healthy weight, I have adjusted, but I totally understand what you are saying. Hang in there!

jayme @ Losing Half My Weight said...

thanks for this, mary. i think you're totally right that we forget about this part of it all. i know it's lurking back there for me as well...but it hasn't shown itself fully just yet. but i too have always grieved change and this will be no different, i'm sure.

will be thinking of you as you work through it all!

btw, i really like that ugly duckling graphic.

Retta said...

"With grieving, sometimes the best thing you can do is just let it happen - take a few minutes and bawl your eyes out. Embrace it, and then let it go. It could be just what you need."

You're right... a loss is a loss. Yet you are also wise enough to know you need to embrace it, grieve it, then LET IT GO. To not get stuck in it.

For that getting stuck part is a choice. Only you decide how long you need to process this, and grieve it, then let it go. And then, embrace the new healthy you. To accept your new identity, with gratitude. And to feel proud of yourself for doing it!


Anne H said...

I cry like a baby girl sometimes
I felt overwhelmed, too.
Still do, at times.
Love the Ugly Ducking quote!

Amy said...

This is sooooo true.
When I lost weight in high school I really struggled with this.
Having people tell me that I looked good or "Have you lost weight?" "You've lost so much weight!" felt so strange and embarrassing.
I hated it. I was ashamed of what I had been. This was from a 30 pound weight loss... so I can't imagine how you feel.
I think acknowledging it is so important. I think talking about it is equally as important.
You have only known yourself as obese. As you lose weight your identity is changing, and along the way you have to define who you are.
You're doing SOOO well and I think everything you've experienced thus far is normal, and you're dealing with it in an extremely healthy way.

I love the ugly duckling quote too!!

Jessica said...

I love the ducking strip!