It’s nearly five o’clock in the morning and I should be sleeping. I’m not though. I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. It’s been awhile since I actually shared what’s been going in my journey through written word. When I started my blog that’s what it was about, sharing my journey so that other people out there that might be experiencing the same sorts of things didn’t feel so alone.
That was easy when my journey included everything about food, exercise, reconstructive plastic surgery, running half marathons and following my dreams in a pursuit of a new career. It was even relatively easy when my journey got dark and included my battle with body image issues.
The point when it started getting hard was when I began to be afraid of getting judged for where my journey was taking me.
But once again I find myself in a situation where I am experiencing an issue I think many in the weight loss surgery community face – and yet we rarely talk about it.
As I lay sleepless in bed tonight, tossing and turning I’ve decided that maybe what I really need to do is stop being scared of judgment and start being brave enough to be one of the voices that speaks out and says “If this is where you are in the journey it’s okay, you’re not alone.”
Relationships after weight loss can be confusing. Let me start there.
A few weeks ago I had to write one of the hardest letters of my life. I had to write to the man I have been married to for nearly thirteen years and explain to him that I wasn’t happy in our marriage anymore. Anyone that’s only known me since I lost my weight might be shocked to hear that I’m still married. We definitely haven’t acted like we we’re married for the better part of the last seven years. We don’t even live together anymore.
It’s been a very long time since I went through a breakup. The last time I actually voluntarily ended a relationship with someone I was nineteen years old and it wasn’t one of my prouder moments in life. I’ve been on the other side of the equation several times though, and usually when it happens, the reason that someone is ending the relationship is because of all the things the other person did or didn’t do.
A strange thing happened when I sat down to write that letter though. I figured out that the end of our marriage had less to do with what he had or had not done and a lot more to do with the changes that had taken place in me since I had lost weight.
As someone who has battled obesity since childhood, my experience with relationships hasn’t been easy. I’ve felt the sting of a lot of rejection because of my weight. Most the men I was attracted to didn’t reciprocate those feelings and for the better part of my life I felt unworthy of a man’s attention.
In my early twenties that constant rejection and feelings of unworthiness drew me to a lifestyle I thought would make me feel better. I got involved in relationships with men that wanted to dominate me. I thought that by being submissive to a man and by living and breathing to make him happy and being willing to do absolutely anything he wanted me to do sexually that someone would love me in the way I was longing for. It’s easy to get involved in a relationship where you are considered property when you have no self-worth. Being “owned” by someone actually gave me a sense of value that I had never felt before.
Living my life with the purpose of making someone else happy, with someone else calling the shots and making the rules was easy for me in the beginning, our relationship was full of crazy sexual escapades and to me, at the time, sex equated love. We went to parties where despite my weight or size I’d dress up in fetish wear, be put on display and the sexual encounters we had as a result made me feel wanted.
I think most of us want to feel loved and wanted, but for me it went deeper than that. As a little girl I felt unwanted, unloved and abandoned by my family. That’s the effect that finding out I was adopted had on me. That’s the feeling that finding out that my entire family knew that there was a pedophile in their midst and yet allowed a little girl in their care to be exposed to him evoked in me. That’s the impact that a life of teenage obesity where every boy who liked me or fooled around with me wanted to keep it a secret from his friends had on me.
All I ever wanted was for someone to love me and want me. I dreamed of romance experiences like you see in movies and read in books. I never felt like I deserved them though. When was the last time you saw a movie or read a book where the leading female role was a woman affected by morbid obesity?
When I started focusing on losing weight I didn’t really think it had anything to do with wanting a different relationship. I wanted the happy and healthy life that my Father wanted for me and in the beginning of this journey I was much more focused on the healthy part than I was the happy part.
Something strange happened though. Once I got the weight off, once I started reconstructive plastic surgery and started battling my body image issues, something changed. Without me even realizing it I started to gain back some of my self-worth, some of my self-confidence and before I knew it I actually started to feel like I deserved to be happy again.
When I look back at my marriage and the relationship that my husband and I had, I can’t really say that he has changed all that much. I was the one who had changed. For a very long time I had been settling for less than what would make me completely happy because I was afraid that nobody would ever love me again.
At four hundred and twenty pounds I was so terrified of this that I was willing to participate in a relationship that was emotionally unhealthy. I was willing to tolerate the fact that he lied to me constantly. I was willing to accept that our relationship had become completely non-physical. I could hardly stand looking at myself naked in the mirror, why on earth would I expect someone else to want to look at me naked? I was willing to accept that we hardly ever did anything together anymore. I was quite certain he was as embarrassed as I was to be out with me in public.
I felt like people looked at us and wondered why he was with me. I grew accustomed to the fact that we rarely if ever even slept in the same bed next to each other. I resolved to be okay with the fact that he never took my hand in his, that we didn’t cuddle on the couch together anymore and that the most physical attention I received was a hug or kiss in the kitchen or hallway when our paths crossed in the house.
It is astounding to me as I read my own words how much obesity held me back. It is amazing just how emotionally debilitating that disease was for me.
But as I started losing the weight I realized that I wasn’t willing to accept a relationship that didn’t make me happy anymore and once that happened, I started longing and yearning for the things that had been missing in my life for so long.
I was ready to be loved again. I wanted to be wanted again.
Once I started losing my weight I started having relationships outside of my already estranged marriage. I started to get little glimpses of the things that I had been missing and started realizing that I missed them even more than I had realized.
One might ask why I didn’t ask for a divorce then. The answer is simple. I was terrified.
I had a history of regain. I had weighed over four hundred pounds when I met my husband. The first time I told him I was in love with him I bawled my eyes out when he told me that though he loved me dearly as a friend he just wasn’t physically attracted to me. In a desperate effort to win the heart of the man I wanted I started dieting and exercising. Atkins and exercise got me down to an all-time lowest adult weight of two hundred and twenty-five pounds and earned me my wedding day.
Those first several years of our marriage things were different. But that didn’t last long. When I gained all that weight back and the scale was showing four hundred and twenty pounds again the relationship had changed completely and in my mind the only person I had to blame for it was myself. It was my food addiction and my inability to control my weight that had caused it. But even though I weighed over four hundred pounds again he stayed with me. I still got hugs and kisses in the kitchen and I wasn’t alone.
I was petrified of regain. But more than anything I was paralyzed with the fear of being alone.
I began seeing patterns in the relationships I was having outside of my marriage. The moment the physical attention and affection started to dwindle I started to panic. I started to wonder what was wrong with me and why they didn’t want me anymore. I started standing in front of the mirror scrutinizing my body from every angle. I started tearing myself apart emotionally in the pursuit of being perfect.
The fear I had of relapsing into obesity made it impossible for me to find the emotional courage to end any relationship. It didn’t matter whether or not I was happy. I wasn’t even really sure I deserved to be happy.
There is a lot of emotional work involved in life after weight loss.
It’s taken a very long time for me to get to a place where I could begin to move forward. It’s taken a lot of courage and a lot of emotional work for me to get to a place where I could look in the mirror and tell myself with conviction that I am not defined by how much someone else loves me but by how much I love myself and how loving I am with others.
It’s been a long uphill battle for me emotionally to get to a place where I can say that though I want to feel wanted and I want to have hot and steamy romantic experiences like we read about in guilty pleasure novels, that won’t happen as a result of staying in unrewarding relationships and settling for less than what I truly want.
It’s taken a lot of soul-searching to recognize that I struggle to communicate what I want and need from others without feeling insecure and uncertain about whether or not I am worthy or deserving of it.
It’s taken a lot of working on my own emotional fortitude to realize that I need to stop blaming what has transpired in my relationships on my body and what might be wrong with it.
It’s been a rough journey to a place of understanding that unless I stand for something I will fall for anything – even things hurt me and don’t give me the happiness that I want.
But I am standing at the top of that emotional mountain right now and I’ve gotten to a place where I have the emotional determination and self-respect to start fighting for the things I really want out of life.
The struggle against obesity doesn’t end when you lose the weight. In many ways, it’s really just the beginning.
I’ve talked to so many people lately who are struggling with ending unhappy relationships as they progress in their weight loss journey. It’s not an easy phase of life after weight loss by any means. It’s impossible to give someone advice at that phase of their journey because you don’t want to give them the wrong advice or lead them to make a decision they will regret later.
The one thing I can do though is share my own story and my own experience and a promise with you. If my story resonates with you and if you are finding yourself stuck somewhere in this dark part of your journey, wondering where life takes you when you finally start finding yourself again, you are not alone. There are other people who have found themselves standing exactly where you are, walking the same path and battling the same demons.