I’m unsure as I write if I’ll post it. I try not to put too much negative self talk out into the universe anymore.
I’ve struggled with feeling “pretty” lately.
People tell me I am pretty all the time and yet, I rarely see it unless I catch a selfie at a good angle.
My weight has been bouncing around on the scale between 159 and 165 lately. That’s awesome. 165 is my maintenance weight. Every single time I get into the 150s though this instant panic sets it for me.
I’ve started to gain more muscle again. People have started to notice. They ask me if I’ve lost weight and tell me I look great. I thank them even though my heart palpitates with fear.
You might be asking why I would be afraid to lose more weight right?
For me to achieve a “normal” body weight on a BMI scale I would have to get under 150 lb. According to a BMI chart my “ideal body weight” is somewhere between 127 -156, So really I shouldn’t be afraid of losing a few more pounds. Not that I adhere to the standards of a BMI chart. I’m from the BMI Is Bullshit Club truthfully.
My ideal body weight has to be ideal for ME. But those are the statistics. Those are the magic numbers provided to me and I really should not be afraid to be somewhere in these numbers. Yet the idea of being anywhere in those ranges really does sort of terrify me.
I’ll tell you why.
Last night I sat on the couch and as I put my leg up to rest on something I looked down and noticed this area behind the back of my right knee. It was that area right behind that amazing calf muscle that training for and running eleven half marathons earned me. It was a patch of loose skin. Not quite the trophy I was after.
I’ve already had four major reconstructive plastic surgeries after massive weight loss. I even had two little procedures after that to try to fix my right arm. That damn little crease in it STILL drives me insane. That was the ONE thing I wanted fixed more than anything during my last round of reconstructive surgery. It didn’t work.
I look amazing compared to my before and after photos both from a weight loss perspective and from a reconstructive plastic surgery perspective.
But I still look in the mirror each day and see spots that my body hasn’t been reconstructed that bother me. Nobody else notices them, unless I point them out. Just me.
Most days I reason myself into accepting my flaws and strive to accept the perfectly imperfect me.
Some days it’s harder than others.
I hate that noticing a new area on my body that is now affected by excess skin deters me from wanting to lose anymore weight.
I hate that the terror of making anything on my body looser after putting myself in bankruptcy to get where I am today is a legitimate fear of mine.
I’m disturbed that at 5am on my day off when I could be sleeping in, this is what keeps me awake.
I’m disappointed in myself that I can’t see what others see when they look at me.
I get resentful when someone says to me “You don’t look like you weigh 165 pounds.” – I realize it’s an attempt at a compliment. But really, implying that I don’t look like I weigh as much as I do is something that I have heard my whole life. “You don’t look like you weigh 420 pounds!” – I just want to look at them and say, Gee, thanks, I’m glad I wear my weight so well.
I’m perplexed by the fact that when I see a number lower than 165 on the scale — without even realizing I am doing it — sometimes I start to self sabotage any further weight loss.
Yeah, those two pieces of pizza last night that made me feel like I was overdosing on carbohydrates and fats and sent me into a food coma is a good example.
Yes, even I make some really bad food decisions when my head isn’t in the game.
I’d consult with a plastic surgeon about getting the areas of my body I am still not happy with fixed if I didn’t know that the price tag on doing so would be way beyond anything I will ever be able to afford again. True story.
I detest the fact that when it comes to our own mental well-being after weight loss surgery, everything is considered cosmetic and has a five digit price tag attached to it.
But most of all, I just hate that I don’t feel pretty.
I wish I had some magic mirror that showed me what everyone sees when they look at me rather than what I perceive as my own reflection. I’d make a million dollars and be able to afford all the reconstructive surgery I wanted if I found a way to make that product.
Sometimes I just have to take a deep breath and remind myself that this too shall pass.
Some days I just have to take a few of those positive emotion moments that I have stored in my emotional savings account, withdraw them and remind myself of all the things I am proud of.
Sometimes I have to think of all the things that make me feel good and tell myself that it’s okay.
Some days I just need to work on that positive self talk with a little more determination than normal, remind myself that my feelings are valid and that the long list of things about myself that I am proud of make me beautiful on the inside and that is all that really matters.
My father used to tell me that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That’s awesome, I wish I had the beholder’s eyes.
But since I don’t have their eyes or a magic mirror that reflects what everyone else sees back to me, I’m just going to have to go back to sleep and hope that when I wake up my head is in a better place than it did at 5am this morning.
Maybe I’ll do something crazy and sleep well into the afternoon, waste the entire day away and then get up and spend a little “me time” by taking a bubble bath and reading a book. Maybe I’ll take a bike ride to the gym and spend a little time sweating in the sauna.
Whatever I do with my Sunday off, it’s going to be something that makes me feel good so that I can attempt to wash this negativity off my skin. I just don’t like the smell of it, it’s far from my signature scent of positivity.
Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is a Cooper Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies, a Motivational Speaker and Exercise Instructor at a women’s only fitness facility in Wilmington North Carolina.
One of the biggest things I have struggled with post-weight loss is body image issues. The picture to the right is one of my favorite photos of myself. I feel like I look fierce, strong, happy and proud of what I have accomplished. But there are days I don’t feel like any of those things.
At my darkest moment, I was having a nervous breakdown after reconstructive plastic surgery #4 in Dallas, Texas when things still were not looking perfect and the numbers on the scale were reflecting my swollen body weight and not the numbers I was used to seeing in weight maintenance.
The truth is the hardest thing you will ever tell someone. The truth is really scary. It makes you vulnerable, because once you put it out there, no mater what anyone has to say, it is your truth.
But the truth is what I have promised you from the very beginning. So the truth is, there are still things that I don’t love about my body. There are still flaws that I pick out and can beat myself up emotionally over.
The excess skin on my hips and lower buttocks area still causes me skin and rash irritations.
The skin that hangs right above my bra line and pooches out over my tank top dives me insane. It makes me super self-conscious about wearing tank tops in public. But I force myself to do it because it’s a fear of something that I know is really only noticeable to people who are looking for it. Though I just told you all where to find it. So that ends that.
My arms still bother me. Two brachioplasty surgeries and two touch up surgeries later, I still dislike my arms. They just don’t look right and that little indentation that they keep telling me is a genetic traits that is unrelated to obesity or weight loss, absolutely drives me nuts. Every time I look at my arm I see a little fat roll. This makes me really self-conscious about wearing tank tops. But I force myself to do it as part of my acceptance of my imperfect body.
Shorts are an entirely different manner. The skin I see hanging off my thighs if I do a plank in front of one of my group training sessions in the gym is so embarrassing to me that I refuse to wear anything but capri pants unless it’s cool enough outside to wear pantyhose underneath to help shape them and hold the skin in place.
My hair is never quite the way I want it. Coloring it myself rarely comes out the way I intended. But who the heck can afford paying a stylist constantly these days? If I can’t do it myself it’s not achievable.
My eyebrows, no matter how well-groomed I keep them do this wonky thing when I’ve rubbed my face nervously.
My boobs look great in a bra. Outside of one and naked in front of the mirror I obsess over how slightly differently my nipples were placed and how I can see the ripple in one of the implants. These I am told were normal things to expect after getting implants. I’m still not 100% convinced I made the right decision on that. Lord knows after being told at a weight loss surgery convention that one of the main reasons a group of women disliked me was because I was too skinny and my boobs were too big, I really second guessed that decision. [ Read related article here: The Teeter Totter of Weight Bias ]
My stomach still has more skin than I think it should have after three different abdominal surgeries to fix it. I’m sure I have defined abdominal muscles under there, somewhere.
There are areas of my body right under my arms and along the sides of my breasts where the skin is so damaged from obesity that I get these little pockets in the skin that if I’m not watching carefully can get infected. I truly believe that we need to work on getting doctors and insurance companies to realize that the disease of obesity damages the skin and that removing that damaged skin is a part of treating the disease.
My feet are funky. I think I have a hammertoe or something. My little baby toe is pretty much deformed. Even the people at the nail salon snicker at its appearance when I get a pedicure.
When I lay on my back on a bench doing a chest press I have weird excess skin on my back right around my shoulder blades where my muscles move. Dislike.
On any given day, I can look at all of these things in the mirror and I can fixate on and pick myself apart over how something should have looked had I never weighed 420 lbs.
I try hard not to do that. I try to accept that weighing 420 lbs. was part of my story. It is part of what makes me a good weight loss coach, it is part of what makes me good at helping other people fight obesity. It’s all part of who I am, part of the imperfect life that led me to being the perfectly imperfect version of myself that I am today.
Who knows where I would be if my story had been different? Each one of us has a past; we can either allow that past to haunt us or we can decide to define our future. My story has brought me to where I am today. To a career that feeds my passion to help other’s fight obesity and find the fun and potential emotional outlet in fitness as a Weight Loss and Wellness Coach and Fitness Instructor.
During one of my major moments of body image issues, at time where I was upset that my body wasn’t perfect, a woman who I admire greatly asked me if I wanted to be an example of what most of my clients could never achieve, or if I wanted to be an example of what is attainable. This message hit home for me.
Each time that I catch myself standing in front of the mirror picking myself a part I remind myself that I am an example to my clients and my community of what can be achievable after 260 lbs. of weight loss. I am not perfect. Nobody is. But I am myself perfectly. I stay true to who I am and I am an example of my own story. That, my friends, makes me perfect at being my imperfect self. That make me perfectly imperfect.
Learning to accept your flaws and loving yourself in spite of them, and muting those internal negative voices that put your emotional well-being in jeopardy is an integral part of your weight loss journey. If you don’t learn to do that and love yourself success will exponentially be more difficult
So what is my biggest tip for battling the barriers of body image issue that can sometimes present themselves in my life after weight loss? In some of my worst moments, when my body image issues are getting the best of me and my internal voices are being unkind when I look in the mirror, I pull out some old pictures. I look back at the photos of when I actually weighed 420 lbs and would have given anything to lose the weight. I look back and the photos of all the skin that hung on my body afterward and remind myself how miserable I was and how good of a job my surgeons did with what they had to work with.
I stop and remind myself that while what I wanted was to have the body of a porn star, that wasn’t a realistic expectation. Given my story, where I have been and what I have done, the body I have today, though imperfect for all the reasons I mentioned above, is still my body. I eat healthy, I work out on a regular basis and I do the best I can at making my body a reflection of who I am today.
Never let anyone including yourself fool you. Losing all that extra weight won’t make life perfect and it won’t make you perfect. Losing the weight is the big physical part of the journey but the emotional part just begins there. From there you’ll face issues like regain, battling with the numbers you see on the scale, how you handle life without food as form of comfort and maybe the biggest of all, the body image issues that surface when you realize what your body should have or would have looked like had you never been affected by obesity.
From there, it is time to appreciate the journey. Be proud of what you have accomplished and understand that you’re exactly where you are supposed to be in your journey right now. Don’t focus on should, could or would, focus on being your imperfect self and understand that you are perfectly imperfect and that my friends, is exactly what we should be.