June 2, 2011

Identity

Something I knew when I started to live healthier was that with weight loss would come major life changes. What I didn't fully realize, though, was the extent to which pretty much everything would change.

For example: I knew my pants would be smaller - but I didn't think that my sneakers would be, too. I knew my collarbones would surface - but I didn't think that the bones in my hands would as well. I knew my body parts would all be worked harder than ever before - but I didn't think that my brain would become the most active of all.

I find myself in a constant state of self-reflection, trying to make sense of the new facets of my smaller life that I need to quickly adapt to and attempt to understand. It isn't always easy. After wearing the largest sizes available for so many years, I still instinctively reach for the hanger at the very back of the rack when I shop for clothes. Because the extra space has only recently appeared, I still turn and shift my body while standing on the bus even though there's more than enough room for someone to walk past. Despite running 3-4 times a week, finishing races, and breaking personal records left and right, I still find myself choking when I say "I am a runner" because for the longest time, I was the girl who barely moved, who'd let her train pass by and joke that she'd only run if she was being chased. It's so new that it almost feels like lying.

Many of the words and phrases that I use to define myself are recent additions - I was-and-still-am smart, funny, and interesting, but now I'm also active, healthier, and truly happy - and saying these things out loud (and even writing them sometimes) is kind of like wearing an outfit for the first time. It's probably lovely, but you feel a little out-of-balance and not quite used to the way it feels yet - though you're likely the only one who can sense the awkwardness.

To be honest, I feel that way about my body a lot lately, too - when I walk down the street, can anyone tell I used to weigh 345 pounds? Can they sense that this body is new to me, that I'm not really adjusted to it, and that this feels really strange? The 345 pound version of myself is physically gone, but she will always be part of my identity, alive in my memories; so many of my life's experiences were had by a person that I can no longer see in the mirror, but who is still essentially me and who's very much alive inside my heart. So it's strange to think that the people I will meet in the future, whether passersby on the street, friends, co-workers, etc., will not have any knowledge of my bigger self, at least not at first sight. Even if they learn about my past as a super obese person, the girl they'll be getting to know isn't entirely the same person they would have known had they been there for the downfall, the rock bottom moments, the decision to change, and the transition.

The other day, Munchberry referenced a post of mine on her blog, and since she is a new reader, she described me in a way that caught me a little off guard:
... back when she was fat.
It really got me thinking, because even though I am starting to see progress when I look in the mirror, I am also still very focused on how much work there still is left to do. And I started to wonder at what point on my journey would I no longer self-identify as "fat." Is it a number on the scale? My BMI? Or is it a feeling? Will I ever feel comfortable enough to say "I am not fat" and truly believe it?

I turned to my generation's Magic 8 Ball for answers; I didn't even have time to get the whole question out.


It bothered me a little, for a few different reasons. First: I knew I was fat at size 28, and at size 12 I'm wondering when I won't be - but somewhere, a size 4 is asking the same question. And second: it's really disconcerting that our society consults the Internet to check and make sure our bodies are acceptable per the definitions of others. I'm the only one who will truly know when I am at a healthy weight because it will feel right for me, the only one it matters to - no need to check Google and make sure the world agrees.

And to be completely honest, I don't like to say "I am fat." Or even "I was fat." Because I am not, and I was not. My body may have been, but I am much more than the sum of my parts. I am made up of skin and bones and muscles and tissues and, yes, fat - but less than I used to be. I am a million more things than the physical makeup of my body, and more than anything, I'd like to be comfortable with some of *those* identifiers.

15 comments:

Ann said...

Have you ever noticed your glasses are too big for your smaller face? Just an observation. I totally understand this post and think its a true journey - mental and emotional.

Amy said...

When I read your tweet last night I was like, there is no way that is actually what comes up when I hit "is size"... and was actually blown away!! I tried it myself. So very sad.

As someone who felt fat all through high school and lost a significant amount of weight and was wearing size 6 comfortably... I have to tell you that unfortunately, if you think you're fat... no matter what the size you're wearing, the number on the scale says... the BMI - nothing will let you look in that mirror and feel happy. That's why this is as much an emotional journey as it is a physical one.

I look at pictures of myself at my smallest and remember looking at it and thinking that I was crazy to think I looked fat... or all the pictures I could have because I deleted them thinking I looked bad.

Very recently I had this moment of clarity. I was looking at pictures and realized people never look at pictures of me (unless they're REALLY bad) and think - "Wow she looks fat!!" They look and say, "Aw there's Amy!" - it's all what we feel on the inside.

I hope you look in the mirror and realize how beautiful and amazing you look - because that's exactly what you are!!!

SlimKatie said...

I can identify with this entry so much! I *still* cannot say that I am "thin". When talking about my weight, I always say that I am "thinner" or "smaller" or "after losing weight". I cannot bring myself to say that I am thin. However, I have no problem saying "I was fat" or "When I was fat".

"...my generations Magic 8 Ball..." <---LOVE it! I never thought of it that way, but I definitely turn to Google for answers way too often ;)

Maude said...

Did you ever watch that show Extreme Makeover? Where they did ridiculous amounts of plastic surgery on people? I always wonder how in the world those people were able to go home and live their lives. Physical changes are so much bigger than we realize at the time. Adjusting to them is as much of a process as making them happen. I'm a size 8 for the first time in my life and it took months for me to even be able to pick out clothes in the right size because I just didn't believe they'd fit.
Eventually your head will catch up with your body. You'll feel like yourself inside and out. I'm rooting for you!

Kelliann said...

I can identify so much with this... I am still not where I want to be on my weight loss journey, but regardless, I have lost 150lbs, and yes, I still walk into the plus size stores, and sometimes my husband will say "um, why are you going in there?" and I realize... I still see myself as "big" and when someone refers to me as "small" or "skinny" I simply can't believe them yet...
Your Google search is quite disturbing. Where does the questioning end? Is someone out there really wondering if a size 4 is fat? Frightening.
Love your blog! Thanks for a great post!
http://lifeincareer-sis.blogspot.com/

Maia said...

Wow, you just perfectly described the exact same mind set that I've been going through.

I used to think that once I started losing weight I would never look back, but I've slowly realized that I need to look back. My overweight self will always be a part of who I am.

Greg said...

You are very inspiring, and I really like reading your blog because it always helps me to refocus. I'm not even close to where you are in your journey but I'm looking forward to not realizing how small I've gotten someday. From that perspective its not so bad. You look great btw.

Big Clyde said...

Wow, you look great! This was a great post and I always appreciate how contemplative you are about your journey. I think I need to do that more often, so that I can avoid the ups and downs that I experience.

Congrats to you on the new physical body that you have worked so hard to attain.

Hyla said...

This is an awesome post and you look fan-freakin-tastic!!!!

I would never guess at your 345 lb past if I saw you on the street!! How do you tone your arms and abdomen? Those are the two areas I am so freaking out over as I kick the pounds to the curb. I jogged for the very first time this morning, I really need to do a post on that.

Really you look fantastic! Great job!

Anonymous said...

Oh. Let me tell you that the very last thing I would want to do is to say anything hurtful to you. I think you are amazing and truthful and strong. We are a lot of things we no longer are... good or bad (in our own eyes because those are the ones that matter). The thing that separates you from the pack is that you saw something in you that was killing you and had the courage to face it and fight it and get real with it. So when some person like me hurts you with a comment about previous you, know that it WAS a part of you, not all of you (what part of us is ever all of us?) and that the evolving you may be a little disconcerting to you as you get to know it, but that outsiders see the now you.

Hugs.

CarolineC said...

I think I will always identify as "a fat girl". I have been a healthy weight now for three years, but I still think of myself as the big girl in every situation. I referred to myself that way once and an acquaintance remarked, "I would never think of you as a big girl." But I do. There are many people I have met in the past three years that never knew me as a fat girl, and I sort of feel like they don't know the real me. It is a very strange thing. Having been that large is such a huge part of who we are, of our personalities. It will always be there. And I love that fat girl, so that's okay with me I think. I just don't want to actually SEE her again :)

Ellie said...

You are completely right. I still think this, sure ive lost a lot and I am no longer what most people would consider overweight, but when I look at myself I see so much more to lose.

I wonder when I will fell content with how i look. I suppose that parallels my thoughts on wearing a bikini.

But I do think you are 100% worth it to wear a swimsuit this summer. Who knows, maybe feeling so "bare" in public will help you make even more realizations about the new identity you have gained!

Anonymous said...

Wow! What an eye opener post. You put into words things that I couldn't find words for. Our starting weights may have been different, but the process of losing any substantial amount of weight brings similar feelings. That awkward feeling of who is walking in this new body. I love how honest you are. Thanks so much for taking time to put your feelings and thoughts and heart into this post.

timothy said...

it's so tragic that we (people)always key on what we consider flaws. even those who are sterotypically beautiful aren't satisfied. i was watching pretty hurts and these fabulous looking fit people are injecting themselves with cow poison (botox) in desperation to look "better". i'm not doing that. i'm not gonna color my hair, use wrinkle creams, rejuvenating potions ect ect. eat healthy, live a good life, and just be happy.
you look wonderful , my only quibble i want to see a HUGE smile on you're face. you're a beautiful girl with a great life and so many options. enjoy it, revel in it! unleash you're ferocity on an unsuspecting world! xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

Sarah said...

I am new to reading your blog and I know this entry is old, but I hope you will still see this comment. I love the last paragraph of this entry so incredibly much - I cant even put it into words. I absolutely hate when people use the word "fat" as an adjective, or call themselves fat, worst of all!