brave-ish

A few months ago, after hearing my tale of woe as the struggling fat girl turned weight loss success story, the woman I was speaking to sat, mouth agape, finally saying “How brave!”

In my memory of this afternoon I cocked my head like a dog does and she clarified “to go through all of that, just to be happy in your body, that takes bravery.” I smiled and shrugged so I didn’t comment in a fashion that seemed ungrateful for her acceptance, or her pat on the back.

Brave is hardly the word I would use to describe my experience. Without sounding like a poor me, self-deprecating kind of gal, I have never walked into a burning building to save anyone, battled cancer or worked in a job where I put my life on the line every day in a way that would show some kind of bravery. I was fat and now I’m not, I don’t think there’s anything brave about that.

I forgot about this instance until recently, in two separate conversations with other losers who have also had plastic/skin removal surgeries, I admitted that not only did I not feel brave about the whole thing, but in fact, kind of sad.

Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled to no longer be battling a weight nearing 300 pounds, or questioning every piece of food I put in my mouth. I don’t weight myself two and three times a day after eating or going to the bathroom, I’m more comfortable in my skin and body than I have ever been but I don’t see that as an act of bravery. Necessity, maybe. Cleaning up a mess, definitely.

In one of the conversations where I am talking about my occasional lackluster feelings toward my arm scars (and maybe, depending on the day, the results in general), I say – that in my frustration about this, I am more mad than anything. Mad that I was even in a position to need all the things I’ve done or had to do to have a “normal” body. Mad that maybe it could have been prevented some how, mad that obesity is a thing that happened, or I let happen to me. Mad that in the last four years I missed a total of  14 weeks of work to recover from surgeries. Mad about how many hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars disappeared from my bank account to fully cover one of those surgeries, and part of the others, and co-pays and pain pills and protein bars and vitamins. Mad when I think about what things and experiences could have taken place in those weeks off or with that money.

Maybe, swimming in my usual sea of unpopular opinions, I don’t think of the word grateful to describe how I feel now, but that doesn’t mean I am not. I see other weight loss surgery patients, or people who didn’t have surgery agonize over their loose skin and how they wish they could afford it, and I know that I am lucky I was able to do any of these things. I have gotten messages from people asking about the process for weight loss surgery itself, for the future, because they don’t have insurance right now, or a job that allows them time off.

I know that I am fortunate.

I revel in my size medium shirts, my ‘normal’ store clothes shopping, my belly fat and floppy arms not holding me back from things. I still do a double take when I see myself in photos taken by others or see my reflection in something new. I am proud of my transformation and the correlation between my confidence and accomplishments is not lost on me. The life I am living now feels like the one I always wanted to be living and I am in awe of that all the time.

I’m more than happy to field emails and phone calls from other patients going through the same program at my hospital, and I tell them in no uncertain terms that I would do this again and again to change my life for the better.

I don’t regret the decisions or the results, in any way. I just sometimes wish it wasn’t something that even had to happen. Who knows, maybe there’s a little bravery in admitting that.

super fat.

I have been fat my whole life.

It’s not an exaggeration; I was an almost eleven pound baby, and according to a recently consulted baby book I was eighty-four pounds when I was six years old.

I come from a family of celebrators; someones birthday or a holiday, expect a gathering, with more than enough food, invitations extended beyond the family and of course a dessert or four.

In the happy and loving upbringing I have had, the main negative is just that I was fat. Not counting that pesky obesity gene I was predisposed to, there wasn’t any one thing or person that made me that way either. It was just who I was and I (mostly) accepted it.

I accepted it in that way that you know something can change, but you’re not sure how to do it or what the outcome will be but you try until it’s too much. Like when you string all the lights up on your Christmas tree and two strings don’t blink, or light up at all. You want a beautifully lit tree, and you have the equipment for it, but it’s out of sorts so you unscrew a bulb here, or there … then you unplug the strings and re plug them into other ones … you google it, you make three trips to two different stores for new strings, you dismantle the whole thing and start over and finally, eventually it works and you have your lit tree. Or maybe you say “Fuck it, it’s my tree, this is how it is” and accept it dead bulbs and all.

I lived in a hazy sort of middle ground between the two.

I was obsessively counting calories, taking fat burners or prescription diet pills, cutting out entire food groups, worrying about how I looked, counting points, weighing myself twice a day, overthinking how I looked, how I felt or feeling bad about something I ate or sorrowful over something I didn’t …. or none of that at all.

When I reminisce about fat me, or refer to my former self as fat, or obese people scoff. When I share a comparison photo of an obviously morbidly obese me next to a normal sized me, people say things about how pretty I always was, or how hard I am being on myself. Comments like “You were heavy, but you were tall” or that laughable “…but you have big bones” or just brushing it off as though I only carried around an extra twenty pounds.

I assume it’s because people don’t want to hurt my feelings, or come off sounding rude, but let’s not ignore the elephant in the room. I’m not woe as me, I don’t think I was ugly, or useless, and I’m not looking for compliments, I’m just telling it like it is.

When people look back and say “I was ten years old” or “When I lived in California” or “That was in high school”, it’s the same thing to me. I was large.

Sometimes it makes me feel like I’m crazy. Like I am the one who is inaccurately remembering myself.

I am two or three glasses into a bottle of wine, half eaten tortilla chip in one hand while my other hand is knuckle deep into some goat cheese with a cracker. I am siting across from one of my favorite people telling her a story about I don’t even remember what, but I say “I mean I was a super fat miserable bitch back then, so…” and she cuts me off.

“No way, you weren’t a miserable bitch…” I lick cheese off of my hand as she continues “…super fat, definitely, but…”

We erupt in laughter. She goes on … “What? You were … (she motions with her hands)…super fat. But also, super cool, super funny and I instantly loved you.”

She popped the rest of a cracker in her mouth and took a swig of her wine. She shrugged as if to say “just the facts, ma’am” and we peppered it in to conversation for the rest of the night.

I kept bringing it up and feigning hurt feelings. Honestly though, of all the conversations I have had with people about my weight, of all the the times I have referred to my former fat self and been reprimanded for using so called “bad” words to describe myself, this time was the most refreshing. It was the first time anyone was like, ‘Yea you were, but you were also X, Y and Z’. She didn’t try to talk me out of it, or pretend it wasn’t that way – she just reminded me that it was just a part of who I was.

Maybe I leave that out sometimes, maybe I come across as though I forget who I was, or maybe it seems like I think I was just a fat person with nothing to offer or that I let that define me.

I don’t. I know that I have been many things to many people.

I know who I am; I know I have always been smart, and funny and well loved.

I’ve been kind and nurturing and crass and creative.

I’ve been happy and supportive and a dozen other adjectives, and if we’re all being honest; one of those was super fat.