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Life after RNY

Accepting The Perfectly Imperfect Me

slenderThe concept of being your “perfectly imperfect” self was first introduced to me by one of my heroes Heidi Powell. [ You can read her original article: I am (still) Perfect here]

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.

It took Chris Powell telling me to get off the scale for me to stop obsessing and start trying to get back to me again. [ See related Facebook post here: July 22, 2013 ]

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.

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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.

My Fitness Tracker is a Watch

October 12, 2014

Photo from October 12, 2014

I just looked at my watch and it’s nearly approaching 10:00 a.m.

My watch is supposed to be much more than that. That’s why I bought it.

My watch was supposed to do all sorts of things for me. It was supposed to track my activity, tell me when I’ve been sedentary too long, tell me how many calories I’ve burned in a day, what my heart rate is when I am exercising and how many more steps I need to take to achieve my daily step goal.

I bought my Garmin Vivofit ( It’s the spiffy looking teal band in the picture to the left. ) as tool in my weight loss toolbox, but much to my disappointment, for the most part it’s just a watch.

On the plus side, it does have what I now refer to as the “Red Bar of Inactivity.” A little red bar of dashes that gets longer and longer when I have been inactive for too long that reminds me to get up and get moving.

But as far as an activity tracker, then device is extremely inaccurate. I’ve had days I have run half marathons that it’s calculated at nearly 8 miles more than I actually ran. I’ve had days I ran 8 miles and it’s tracked me at over 13 miles.

When I was in Orlando for the RunDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon last October I had the opportunity to speak to a Garmin Vivofit representative at their booth at the Fitness Expo. I asked specifically about the alarming inaccuracy in distance and was told that the device wasn’t meant to track running, it was meant to track activity. Needless to say I tilted my head to the side for a moment.

As a Fitness Instructor and Weight Loss and Wellness Coach, I do understand the difference between exercise and activity, Activity is considered the little things we do in a day that put our body in motion. Motion of any kind creates a caloric burn. Our body expends energy with every step we take. Activity is walking from the car to the door, doing housework, window shopping at the mall. Exercise is when we purposely get our heart rates into much higher zones to burn calories. It’s our time on a treadmill or elliptical, an hour of a step or kickboxing class.

Now if I had known that the Garmin VivoFit was only intended to monitor low intensity activity I probably wouldn’t have purchased it. When a device has a heart rate monitoring feature and asks me to spend even more money purchasing the additional heart rate strap that allows it to monitor my heart rate I expect it to utilize that information a bit more efficiently.

Let’s just be blunt here. If I am going to go the trouble of strapping a heart rate monitor under my chest which is the equivalent to me of wearing a small-scale torture device, I expect it to actually ascertain my heart rate and use that information to decide how vigorous my activity is and how many calories I am burning. The VivoFit does’t even really give me a true heart rate reading. If I set the screen to display my heart rate I get a reading of 0 – XXX where the end number is the highest heart rate it’s registering at that given time.

Last week I was doing a H.I.T.T. training workout on a treadmill where my heart rate was well into the 170s at times and it never registered my heart rate above 70.

According to the Garmin website the VivoFit “You can also pair vívofit 2 with a heart rate monitor during fitness activities, such as a run or a cardio class at the gym, to record your heart rate and zone data and get more accurate calorie burn information.”

Sorry, I’m not believing them.

The distance discrepancies on my device while annoying are also understandable. Everyone has a very different stride when they run. Many devices ask you to set your stride, the distance you take between each step in order to more accurately calculate your total distance. If there was a way to change that setting or actually calibrate the VivoFit it would probably be more accurate, but it failed to provide that feature.

So if my heart rate is being calculated wrong and my distance throughout the day is completely inaccurate, then I can pretty much bet that the daily step goal as well as the daily calorie burn count is also incorrect and thus when I look down at the $130 dollar device on my wrist and wear that $60 heart rate band, my first thought is, “I spent $190.00 on a watch that tells me when I’ve been sitting down for too long.”

All in all, if I wanted a device that told me the time and reminded me to get up and move I would have set movement reminder alarms on my smart phone and called it good. Lucky for me I bought mine at REI who let’s you exchange any purchase you’re not happy with within a year of purchasing it so hopefully I can find the packaging it came in and take it and trade it in for something more along the lines of what I was looking for and not a product that bills itself as an activity and fitness tracker and ends up being a decorative watch on my wrist.

 

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 Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is a  Cooper Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies and Motivational Speaker and currently works as a Fitness Leader, Weight Loss and Wellness Coach in Wilmington, NC
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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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