March 1, 2011

Skin

Just a bit of warning before you start to scroll ... there's a picture in this post that may be considered mildly inappropriate. Or at least not safe for work, school, or the like. It's just me ... and some cute underpants.

A couple of weeks into the semester, one of my students (whom I also had in class last semester) came into class and asked if I had lost weight, because, as she put it, "you look absolutely amazing!" I said that yes, I had lost about 95 pounds at that point, and thank you for noticing. Then another student made a comment that threw me for a bit of a loop:
"Now we have to find you a boyfriend!"
I quickly retorted "What makes you think I don't have a boyfriend now?!" and the kid got pretty quiet while rest of the class cheered in approval. In fairness to this student, I think he was flirting a little - he had also asked the previous week if I would ever go out for a drink with a student if he or she wasn't my student anymore. *sigh* I diffused the situation with my standard response to statements like this: I'm in transition right now, and I need to figure out who this girl is before I introduce her to someone else. The answer satisfied everyone, and we went on with that day's lesson.

That is, of course, a severely shortened answer - you could honestly write a book about dating and weight loss (and I'm sure someone out there already has). I'm not sure I believe in a correlation between number of dates a person goes on and the number he or she sees on the scale - bigger people date, fall in love, and get married all the time. I've had really great sex while I was in the 320 pound range and really lousy sex when I was in the 230s. What it boils down to, I think, is confidence.

For some reason, I was much more comfortable in my own skin as a super obese person than I am now as someone who is simply obese. Perhaps it had something to do with the nature of what I sought - at the higher weight, what I wanted was to cultivate experiences with guys and make up for lost time, and it gave me a false sense of power and strength. But now, I'm seeking emotional connections as well, and that exposes a vulnerability for me. While I've done quite a bit of dating in my day, I've never been in a real relationship before, and that adds another element to an already complex and stressful situation. On top of the usual getting-to-know-yous, there's the awkwardness of being 24 years old and having the relationship experience of a preteen. I cried the first time I bought a pair of jeans at Old Navy because it was new and scary and something I'd never done before - so even the thought of being in a relationship at this point fills me with anxiety. Because it's not just the novelty of being in a relationship that I'm nervous about - there's the I've-lost-weight talk.

The weight loss journeys for people with 10 pounds to lose and people with 210 pounds to lose have many similarities, but here is one point where the paths diverge. There's a huge physical change that comes with extreme weight loss, and it's not always easy to cope with even as the keeper of the body in question. I've dreamed about this talk innumerable times - in my fantasy version I'm out with a nice guy I've been seeing for a little while, and things are going great, and we get to talking about our pasts. I slowly admit that I used to weigh 345 pounds, and his jaw drops in disbelief. That's where I snap out of it and the fantasy ends, though - because I don't know what to expect next from him, not even ideally. Is he proud? Disgusted? Curious? Nervous? What kind of thoughts are racing through his mind at this point? For most people, visualizing a 100 pound weight loss on someone totally clothed is difficult - now add in the effect of this loss on the body underneath the outfit. What does he expect from me? Will this mean the end of the great thing we have going?

Some research I did on this subject a few months back provided a few bits of advice for how to deal with this discussion - since I was looking for "dating after extreme weight loss," I found mostly post-weight loss surgery therapy sites, but the ideas are universal: what it all boils down to is that the right person will be accepting and positive about this part of your identity, and what matters most is that *you're* confident and comfortable with your new body and your new life. I've been working so incredibly hard these past few months to eat better and stay active, and in doing so I have whittled away slightly more than half of the weight I want to lose long-term. This is remarkable and exciting, but also stressful - someday, with my clothes on, I'll be able to pass on the street as just another someone completely removed from the world of the super obese. Underneath, though, the visual effect of the to-date loss is already present.

a body in transition
It's unbelievably hard to look at and feel my new body and not feel terribly remorseful for all I have put it through - and terribly nervous about how someone else will react to seeing or feeling it. I want to look at my body and see positives - realistically, I know there will be off-days or things that I will like less than others about my body, but right now, all I want is to see something. I want to see my body as more than just a reminder of how horribly I treated it for such a long time. And I hope to expect the same of the gentlemen I will date.

11 comments:

Amy said...

I'm so happy you posted this - because not only is this post so what you're about, it shows that you're making such progress (not visually - but yes, that too).

First off, you look amazing!!

Secondly, I think you're brave and an amazing person... and they're all right about finding the right guy - the right won't care (as in a negative way)... he'll love you for you, and possibly he'll relate to you.

I know I cannot relate to you on the loose skin level, so I'm not going to undermine how difficult this part must be... but I think the fact that you are trying to see it as a reminder is a positive thing. I think many women who have babies have the same loose skin that remind them of the beautiful child they created in their womb. Obviously nobody wants it, but if it's a part of you, you find a way to love it.

I really hope we hear about this new guy soon... because you totally just dropped a you had sex recently bomb in there!

In the spirit of being 100% honest... I was a virgin when my boyfriend and I started dating, and SUPER inexperienced... not only was I a virgin, I was a relationship virgin, and some little naive girl. The amount of times within the first 6-8 months I would say "God I'm such a virgin" is funny now (we didn't wait that long, but in the sense that I felt that lingered with me). That being said, he was more experienced and I'm sure the sex was pretty bad for awhile... sure it was good and fun, but it wasn't great...all it had going for it was that we cared a lot for one another. He was incredibly patient with me and now let's just say that's not a problem. So I guess what I'm saying, is even when the relationship is worth it, you can still have that awkward sex phase... and it doesn't mean you're going to have bad sex with this person forever... you just have to find your comfort and groove with each other... and then great things can happen.

Anonymous said...

I think it is important to remember that whomever you meet in the future will never have known the old you. In your mind, you worry about your body because you have memories, photos, and a lifetime of looking back to when you were overweight and at your heaviest. The men of your future will only know that person by what you tell them, show them, and introduce them to. I'm not saying hide it, I'm saying, when you meet men from here forward, they will accept you the way they see you, for who you are, and they'll be shocked when you show them the photos but because they didn't know you then, they won't have those same concerns and feelings about your body as you do.

Posting photos is brave and I'm glad you did. You look AMAZING and have done such a wonderful job. You deserve the bests things in life. I hope you find what/who you are looking for!!

Ann said...

Wow, thank you for such a wonderful and honest post. You WILL find someone who loves you - for who you were, and who you are, and who you will become. :)

Anne H said...

You really do look amazing!

He Took MY Last Name said...

There is something there, Mary. There is hard work, dedication, and perserverence. There is *you* shining through. The skin will disappear in time- remember you've been heavy for a long time, your body isn't a rubber band. It may take years to snap back, but that is okay. Also- the more muscle tone you build up lets your skin 'adhere' to something and tighten up.

Don't worry about what you see in the mirror or sex or dating, since you said that you werent focusing on that anyway. Please be proud of your accomplishments. I know it seems like you have a long way to go yet, but you're already so far into your journey.

Stay strong. (And ps? The right man will love you no matter if you're fat, thin, baggy jeans, or baggy skin. And that point comes from experience!)

Pretty Pauline said...

I am at the very beginning of my journey, and I can't thank you enough for this post~right down to the cute underpants! You addressed a lot of the fears I'm trying to wrap my head around. This visit to your blog was amazing.

~Shannon~ said...

You look wonderful, and you are wonderful - inside and out. Thank you for inspiring me to keep going everyday!

Jess said...

Wonderful post! So well written and so honest! :) I have the extra skin in the belly thing too because of being heavy and being pregnant for my daughter. I am trying to so hard to learn to "love" my flabby belly is not easy, especially when I have been told by someone whom I LOVE very much that "your stomach disgusts me". Sigh... hopefully he will learn to love it when I do.

fatgirlwearingthin said...

Mary, it is clear the incredibly hard work you've put into your body so lovingly. What a wonderful post. I can tell you that when I met my husband, he had no idea I used to weigh over 230 pounds. To this day when he sees pictures of me he says that it's like he's looking at a sister of mine that he's never met. He doesn't relate those photos to me at all because that person isn't me anymore (at least physically). You are an amazing, intelligent, beautiful woman and I'm so glad to know you :)

Meghan said...

I love this post! You look freakin' awesome. Screw loose skin. You look fab!!

Sarah said...

Argh! Had a whole comment and lost it. Sigh.

I've just come across your blog-- go you! I was about your age when I started losing weight... Years later I can tell you that the right man will not care about your skin or your weight. I often let it get in the way of my relationship (240 when I met my now husband and was already down about 100 pounds) and that was a hard lesson to learn. Although it is one that anyone who goes through massive physical change will have to process and work out for themselves.

The remorse is hard. Making peace with our body is hard. I still have skin and scars... but when I look at them they no longer scream at me "girl who used to weigh 345 pounds." They are simply me, a part of my past, like car accidents and a bad grade on an exam. Time heals those wounds. This journey (imho) takes years but it does have an end. It's called life. You are well on your way.

I really look forward to reading more.