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The Me vs Her Perspective

May 2013 336I have a lot of photos of myself from days long past.

Photos of myself at an extremely unhealthy weight.

Photos of myself at a time that I was eating as a way of dealing with my emotions.

These pictures represent a time in my life where I was constantly sad, constantly depressed. They represent a time when I felt completely unworthy. They are pictures of a woman who put on a fake smile to hide all the pain inside.

They capture a woman who felt like she was drowning in the co-morbid conditions that the disease of obesity had brought her too.

I was full-blown diabetic, I had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, severe edema and severe depression. There were days that I was simply non-functional.

I knew that my weight was causing these medical issues and truthfully, I didn’t care. I had given up on life, love and the pursuit of happiness. I very consciously made the decision to not care about what my lifestyle behavior choices were doing to my health and to my body.

Pandora420lbI had a lot of days that I really wished I wasn’t even there. I was very aware that I was digging a grave with a fork and a spoon. In fact, if I am being completely honest, that was very much my intention.

These photos portray a woman who truthfully didn’t love herself. A woman who didn’t believe that she was worthy of being loved.

They portray a woman who was still very much caught in the survivor mentality of life. A woman who had grown up a survivor of physical, sexual and verbal abuse. A woman who was psychologically using her weight as a way to build walls and keep people out.

PandoraChildhoodObesitySometimes I post photos of my transformation, a before-and-after photo of myself and I look at it and I think “Oh my god, who is that girl?” or “I don’t recognize that woman anymore.”

Almost instantly someone will see my photo and tell me that I was just as beautiful then as I am now or that I have always been the same person.

I very rarely respond to these comments because I really don’t know how to explain. Really, that’s your interpretation, not mine. I don’t need you to qualify my beauty and I don’t need you to diminish the celebration of my transformation.

Pandora400PlusLet me pause here and clarify something – if you have ever been one of those people who came on to my post and made a comment like this, I am not spanking you. I realize that you’re trying to be a positive voice in a negative world. I realized that you are trying to be supportive and kind and I appreciate that. I try to do the same and there are far too many people out there that are willing to tear each other down rather than to build each other up.

What I am trying to do is maybe get you to see the situation through a different perspective. I’m trying bring light to the fact that sometimes what we think is positive and supportive, if contrary to how someone feels about themselves, really isn’t.

november11 009Sometimes I think we are so busy trying to make sure that those that are dealing with obesity do not feel shamed or stigmatized that we forget that obesity is a very complex disease and that it can be caused by many different things.

If I was a recovering drug addict and I posted a before and after photo of myself with a tourniquet around my arm and a needle in my vein would you tell me that I was just as beautiful then as I am now?

May 2013 335I am one of the first people to stand up against weight bias, weight stigma and weight discrimination. Nobody should ever have to experience those things and I spend a lot of my free time trying to help educate and raise awareness to fight these societal intolerances.

I am also the first person to stand up and say that obesity is not healthy. Obesity isn’t a pretty disease. It is as unkind and ugly as any other deadly disease. Just like you can’t look at a photo of someone and decide that the reason they struggle with their weight is because they make poor lifestyle choices and over consume food; you also can’t look at a photo and assume that it’s not.

NKOTBCropAs a recovering food addict, someone who used food to feed my feelings and someone who was purposely and systematically killing herself with food, when I look at a photo of myself and say “I don’t recognize that girl anymore.” — I don’t need someone to tell me that they do.

I’d much rather see my transformation acknowledged in a way that doesn’t focus on looks but rather on the accomplishment. “Way to go! What an amazing transformation.” “That’s awesome, congratulations on your health accomplishments!” “What a great job. Look how far you have come.” There are a ton of ways we can acknowledge before and after transformations without using beauty as our quantifier.

May 2013 339As someone who has very openly discussed body images issues after weight loss, I can honestly tell you that when someone tells me I am just as beautiful then as I am now I have to remind myself that they are talking about on the inside. Because just a couple of years ago a comment like that would have me standing in front of my mirror wondering what I needed to “fix” about my body to make it noticeably different.

When I look at those before photos and all they represent, I don’t think I was beautiful then. I think I was suffering. I think I was in a very dark place and I think my obesity was a very physical symptom of that ugliness. I’m relieved everyday that I was able to bounce back from it.

I look back at those photos and I am thankful that I have managed to find a way to maintain my recovery from obesity and food addictions in a world that is food centric. I look back at those photos and I am grateful that I wasn’t successful at trying to end my life via obesity.  

Some people look at those photos and think that I hated myself because I suffered from obesity. The truth is I suffered from obesity because I hated myself. The moment I learned to start loving myself and finding myself worthy, I started making healthier lifestyle decisions.

I am not the same person in those photos. Not on the outside. Not on the inside. I have successfully navigated a lifestyle transformation. If I was the girl you see in my before pictures, you likely wouldn’t have the pleasure of knowing me today, my friends would have been shopping for a casket by now.

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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 studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer.

A PR at the #BIGASSMEDALS Series : Race Recap

BigAssMedal1

Last Saturday I had the privilege of running in the Run Oak Island event, the first of four events in the Big Ass Medal series that I wrote about last week.

Let me first clarify why I say privilege. The ability to run is not something that is granted to everyone. There are many out there that for whatever reason are limited in the activity that they can participate in. As someone who has the disease of obesity, there was a time that my disease prevented me from being able to run.

Now, as someone who is in recovery from obesity every time I am out there running at event I remember a day when my body was physically incapable of doing so and for that reason alone any running event I participate in is a privilege to me.

So let’s talk about this event. The most important thing first…I broke a personal record and ran my fastest half marathon ever by completing the 13.1 miles in 2 hours 24 minutes and 18 seconds. As a runner, achieving a new personal record is always an accomplishment and the best part is that to achieve one the only person you ever have to compete with is yourself.

I attribute this personal record to a few things. First of all the race route itself was extremely flat. There were not a lot of hills to deal with and that always makes for a much faster time. The one or two hills we did have were not monumental. The only time I saw my time coming down due to a hill was when we were coming up and over a bridge just in time to come down, turn around and go up and over the bridge again between mile nine and mile ten. Those two inclines did cause me to pull one of the slowest split times I got that day with an 11 minute and 59 second mile.

The overall environment of the route was pretty. It was a gorgeous beach town run through Oak Island and I definitely want to go back and see more of the town in the summer. The mile markers were consistent and visible and that’s always a big plus because you want to know each mile that you accomplish.

As scenic and beautiful as it was it was, nothing was going to distract from the fact that it was 29 degrees outside and one of the coldest races I have ever ran. I was wearing a top and bottom base layer, my favorite RawThreads bamboo hoodie, a long sports jacket over that and I had on a pair of gloves and three, yes three, layers on my head: a base layer, a knit hoodie and a ball cap. Until mile 5 I carried 2 hand warmers in each of my hands trying to keep my fingers from hurting and feeling numb.

BigAssMedalMoral of the story: I am not really a cold weather runner but there is little I won’t do for a really bad ass big ass medal.

The medal by far made the event worth it. It is one of the coolest and biggest medals I have added to my collection and I really hope that I will be able to collect all four of them.

When I stopped by to see Johnna Terragna with Coast Race Productions after the race and introduce myself she told me that they had also decided that since there might have been some people who couldn’t make it to this event that would regret missing the first medal they were going to open up the option of doing a virtual run to get it.

This is a great opportunity! Whether you hadn’t heard about the series or you are someone like me who really wasn’t made to run in temperatures below 50 and opted to stay in bed that day instead, you can still get the first medal in the series by running 13.1 miles on your own another day and submitting your time. That means it’s not too late to start your #BigAssMedal collection! You can do this first race virtually if you missed it and then run the other three later this year.

Because my dear running friend Ronda Rhodes owns a construction company and is familiar with the costs involved in dumping the porta-potties that they have to put on job sites, it was a little disheartening to see all of the runners using job site porta-potties that day. I’ll say two things about that – first, as runners we are not entitled to just use whatever we run across. If it’s not intended for us to use we shouldn’t use it. Second, I think that for a 13.1 mile distance the race event needs to make sure that a couple of the water stations have porta-potties for those that need to use them.

Ronda and I made it through the entire race without having to stop to use a porta-john, which is a first for me. I am confident that is one of the reasons that I was able to shave so much time off my personal record.

I can’t really say much about the after party other than I was grateful for a cold beer and a piece of warm pizza to pick the cheese and pepperoni off when I got there because and both tasted better than words can describe. The first thing I eat after running a long distance always tastes like the most amazing thing I have ever had. “Oh my gosh this is the best pizza EVER.” 

I didn’t stay at the after party long because it was still cold enough that more than anything I wanted to get in the car and turn the heated seats on.

I’m really grateful for a nice flat terrain run that allowed me to push for a personal record, for the beautiful scenery that I got to take in and for the exposure to a town I never would have known I wanted to spend more time in.  

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But if I had to thank Coast Race Production for just one thing it would definitely be the medal. The medal alone inspires me to want to run the other three races and knowing that it will be a lot warmer in June has me really excited about participating in Run Sunset Beach on May 21!

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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 studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer.
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About (Pandora) The Author

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender
Jaime "Pandora" Williams

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The kind people at BariLife have been generous enough to send me to Paris to represent the WLS Community in the inaugural RunDisney Paris Disney Half Marathon.
Please take the time to visit their website and check them out! Be sure to tell them Pandora sent you!

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