hashtag two accounts.

When I was starting the process of bariatric surgery I didn’t really know anyone who had had it, and was quietly scouting the internet for information, and support.

I found myself on a website called Obesity Help and responded on a few posts, which actually lead me to becoming friendly with a girl who was in my orientation group at Tufts, and making friends with another girl, who three years later is one of my closest friends.

I found myself on Instagram, looking through before and after photos, scrolling through dozens of photos under hashtags with the abbreviations “vsg” and “wls” included in them.

I eventually made a “secret” account because, I was ashamed in a way I suppose, and wasn’t going to be shouting my plans from the rooftops. I “met” hundreds of people just like me. Well, just like me in some ways.

I started posting more, commenting on people’s posts and interacting with people all over the country (world, really!) who were on their own  weight loss journey.

I became comfortable as my fat self, as my thinning self, as my whole self. I shared photos of my floppy fat, I posted screen shots of my weight tracking app, I shared products that I tried and liked, tried and didn’t like.

I shared everything.

But I didn’t share it everywhere.

I created this dichotomy where I was essentially showing two different selves to the internet world. I mean who gives a shit, it’s the internet, but still.

One day, after losing about eighty pounds, after a few months of recovering from my panniculectomy, I took a photo in my bathroom in my bra and underwear.

For me.

I oppened my photo collage app and put it next to a similar photo taken the night before my weight loss surgery.

Holy shit.

That was me.

They were both me and they looked totally different.

If I’m going to be true to myself, I can’t be two different people.

I posted it on my non weight loss account, shared to Facebook with a blurb about changes I made.

I went from being almost three hundred pounds and not letting even my boyfriend see much of my bare skin, to a person who shares pictures of themselves in their underwear on the internet.

If that’s not a damn transformation, I don’t know what is.

I’m totally different and exactly the same.

Unfortunately there’s no way to merge the two accounts now that I’m this weight loss surgery mentor – shout it from the rooftops – before and after photo posting gal. Maybe that’s a good thing, who can say.

Sometimes one account gets more attention than the other, sometimes I post the same thing on both of them and the photos are liked by both accounts of people like me, people with two sides to their story.

There will always be before and after pictures, there will always be before and after me [with regard to things beyond my weight, too].

We are all constantly comparing some aspect of our life and our experiences to another time.

That’s human nature.

We also all do it differently, so if being true to yourself is counting days and months until something or since something, do it.

If being true to you is not talking about your journey [whatever that journey is!], do it.

If being true to you is telling every person you meet your life story, do it.

Being true to you, is living YOUR best life and nobody else can tell you how to do that.

I’m almost three years out from weight loss surgery and I’m not obsessed with every piece of food I put in my mouth, I don’t feel guilt or shame for eating things, I don’t worry about fitting into some mold, or outfit. I celebrate non-scale victories,  scale victories, make correlations between my weight and previous experiences.

I don’t live in the past, but I don’t ignore it either.

Without those before photos, those “pre-op” snapshots, today wouldn’t be as sweet. I wouldn’t be as content, as happy to be in the moment and live my life without the frustrations of my body. I really believe that, because I know me better than anyone.

I’m happy to leave fad diets behind, let insecurities and preconceived notions about anything and everything fall by the wayside and just be.

But, I’m also happy to always throw it back on Thursdays, show my transformation on a Tuesday and reminisce about how I got here in the first place.

I’m always gonna be a work in progress.

 

 

 

going for it.

I have been obsessed with writing for as long as I can remember.

Brutally truthful things, pieces of fiction, poems that rhymed perfectly (more that didn’t), a collection of sarcastic thank you notes to people who did me wrong or hurt me that I was building into a book.

I mean, anything and everything.

When I was in elementary school and stayed home sick, I would take a stack of loose leaf paper and “work on my book”.  Scrawled in purple pen (that may have smelled like grapes!) I would get about a chapter in throughout the day. Always the same story about a girl who falls in love with her best friends brother and the details of them all hanging out after school.

Sort of a ‘Saved by the Bell’ meets ‘90210’ before either had been a thing.

[Sidenote: I’ve never had a friend whose brother I was interested in.]

[Uh, actually, now that I wrote that I remember it’s not true. Hi, Nicole!]

Anyway, my love affair with writing and chronicling things has gone on since I could properly hold a pen. So, it’s not surprising that in 1996 when I went to college I chose Journalism as my major.

I was going to write books. I was going to publish things. I was going to have my own line of greeting cards. Online diaries and blogs weren’t a thing at that point, but I’d come to have them, too.

So, here I am in the writing studio of my [first] college in New York and I just wasn’t into it. I didn’t want to write what I was told to, or how I was told to, I just wanted to do it. I was only a semester into it and I knew it was my hobby and I shouldn’t make it a career, I should keep it “my thing” and let it evolve organically.

I was also only seventeen and probably didn’t know shit about shit, but I was mostly right about this.

I had some friends and surveyed what they were doing and decided to take a psychology course the following semester as an elective.

Three chapters and a half a dozen assignments later I was hooked. Dr. Heath, who, in my memory looked like Ned Flanders and wore argyle sweaters, was the best. For me, his class was sort of like the feeling you get when you eat for the first time after being hungry all day. He served up the tastiest look at the world around me.

People are ridiculous. People are wonderful. People are assholes. People are selfless. People are fascinating!

I ended up transferring to a community college back at home where I piled on the Psychology electives. I was enthralled; I was diagnosing people in my head, in conversations with others and of course my usual introspection was in overdrive.

When my family moved to Wisconsin and I started school there, I declared Psychology as my major. I had an awesome advisor (Hi CB!) and he guided me to the right path for finishing my degree in a reasonable amount of time (I was ready to “get it over with” it’d been a several years long process at this point) and resources to pursue Psychology after I graduated, with the goal of becoming a therapist.

I love therapy.

I love talking, I love dissecting, I love analyzing.

I love ah-ha moments.

I love self care.

I love the process of unraveling our thoughts and feelings and putting them back together in a neater, but sometimes temporary way.

I love change, I love personal growth for me, for you, for whoever wants it.

I was going to be a therapist.

Oh, wait.

I was someone who wears the same black blouse every day with jeans because it’s the only outfit that feels comfortable and “looks good”.

Who was going to listen to me?

Seriously, if you went to a hairdresser with a bad ‘do, are you letting them near your hair?

Dentist with snaggly teeth? Tattoo artist with shaky hands?

I decided it wasn’t going to be a good fit after all, and decided to embrace a previous path I had considered; law school. I batted it around, took the grueling admissions test and wasn’t accepted into the programs I’d hoped.

More consulting with my advisor. Went for graduate work in Criminal Justice, to boost my applications; to show my stuff, to prove myself. I was going to reapply to law school after that.

It’s 2008, I’m reviewing application requirements. I’m over it. I’m tired, I’m waitressing, I’m fatter. I’m not going to stand up in a court room and be in the spotlight like this, I have minimal confidence (though I don’t show it much).

I don’t know what I’m going to do, who I’m going to be.

I’m just gonna live my life.

I’m a waitress. I’m a nanny. I’m a girlfriend. I’m a daughter. I’m a sister. I’m a friend. I am many things to many people.

I’m nothing.

Not all ‘woe is me, I’m nothing” but I’m not contributing to the world in a specific way. I keep saying to people that I want to be something.

I’m up and down for years soul searching, trying to figure out who and what I really am.

As I lost weight, I gained perspective.

When I’m just a few months post op from my weight loss surgery, I attend a support group. I am the most upbeat person there, I share everything, I offer insight to others, I am fully me.

I walk to my car ten feet tall, I feel better about me, I helped people feel better about them.

The group leader asks me to keep coming because my “energy is good for others”, so I do.

Then I am asked to partake in a heath expo at the hospital and speak as part of a panel, I jump at the chance.

I’m invited to join the mentor program; I am contacted via email and text by pre and post op patients picking my brain, asking for tips and guidance.

I’m encouraged by my medical team to be as involved in the process which others as I can. At my two year visit my surgeon asks “What next?”

I think for a second, “Dream job? Hang out at the hospital and talk to people about their lives, surgery or not. I mean, that’s not a job, but that’s the dream”

Turns out, it kind of is a job.

And I’m going to make it mine.

In a little over a month I’m starting my first round of classes toward my degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

I’m excited.

I’m nervous.

I’m finally doing the damn thing.

 

 

silver fox

Nobody tells the truth like kids and old people.

A few years ago I was taking care of a devil kid and put him in time out, when I turned my back to walk away he said “You look like a big blueberry” which would have meant nothing if I wasn’t dancing around the high 200’s and wearing a blue shirt.

He was calling me fat.

He was 4, but he knew what he was doing.

Steve took me out to breakfast last weekend and as we were unlocking the door to our building someone pulled up in front of the house.

I know about nine other people in the whole state, so I didn’t even turn around.

“Hey!”

Steve turns around “Oh hey! How ya doin’?”

I turn to see who he’s talking to and don’t recognize the car, or the person.

“Hey, where’d all your weight go?”

Uhhhh.

I look at Steve and the guy in the car says “It’s okay if you don’t recognize me, I only recognize you because you’re with him!”

Steve laughs and I’m still not sure who this is.

“Really? It’s Silver Fox”

Silver Fox is an old(er) guy who used to live across the street from us and his name is actually Mike. He used to talk to almost everyone and know all the neighborhood happenings, he also dressed in shorts and polos; I always joked about him being a ladies man.

Anyway, we walk over to his car and he tells us where he’s living and what he’s been up to, asks about us. He keeps circling back to me, ‘you look different’ and ‘my brother said you dropped a ton of weight’.

Finally he says  “So really, come on how’d you lose SO much weight? I mean you had to have lost a lot”

“What are you trying to say man?” I say, laughing.

“Well…” He looks around “Uh…Yea, you were big”

Steve and I laugh.

“You’re not wrong” I say.

“Really, I mean …” arms stretching out a bit “You were, heh, you were fuckin’ big”

 

 

skin(ny) jeans

I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve been on some kind of diet for like, eighty percent of my life.

Sometime in 2003 I’m thinking, it was another repeat Induction phase of the Atkins diet. Baggies of pepperoni slices and cheese cubes in my bag for summer classes, flavored seltzer in addition to my water and all the bunless bacon cheeseburgers and sides of broccoli I wanted before and after my shifts at Chili’s.

Chili’s, where I worked more hours than I wanted to but had some good times for sure. I also met some great people, some of whom I’m still in touch with. Chili’s is also where I met my friend Lindsay. Petite, blonde, super smart, runner’s body Lindsay.

We spent countless Friday nights going on dates to the movies and Panera and talking about everything from philosophy to celebrity news. She didn’t have my same boyfriend troubles, or diet woes but she always followed along and offered her advice.

On this particular summer day I am down about thirteen pounds and wearing bright colored plaid capri pants, sitting at a back table at work eating a burger before my shift.

Lindsay walks in, also early with an armful of jeans.

“Hey, I brought you some of my old jeans to try”

I stare at her, replaying the sentence in my head, because she couldn’t have said that.

“Come on, lets go try them on”

“Hah, uhhhh they’re not gonna fit me dude, but I’ll take them home and try them if that will please you” (followed by an eye roll and a laugh)

“No, were both here early, you have to change anyway, let’s just try them now”

I finish my lunch, and bring my plate and cup into the kitchen, Lindsay in tow.

Before I know it were in the bathroom. Me in the stall, Lindsay outside of it, handing me a pair of jeans over the top of the door.

Thirteen pounds down or not, that stall was not conducive to me using it as a dressing room; toilet paper dispenser jutting out of the wall, dark paint, low light, the whole thing is so dramatic feeling.

First pair.

“Dude these are like a size 4, are you crazy?”

“Just try them, they’re stretchy”

“Stretchy enough to fit a size 16?! I don’t think so”

I get the one leg on, up to maybe, my kneecap.

“Nope”

“You’re not even tryyyyyyying

She was right, I mean, I wasn’t. I couldn’t try to stuff two hundred some odd pounds into a pair of jeans that had spent their life being worn by someone seven sizes smaller than me.

It doesn’t work that way.

I fling the jeans over the door “Are you satisfied? They’re not gonna fit”

No reply.

Rustling.

The jeans disappear from the top of the door.

“Linds….?”

Another pair of jeans is flung over the door.

“These are definitely stretchier, try them!”

I don’t grab the pants, they slide a little further over the door, I know she pushed them, so resisting is futile.

This pair, okay, I got them up. To, ya know, the bottom of my thighs.

I shimy.

I shake.

I’m practically Ross in that friends episode with the leather pants.

Sweat is pooling on my forehead.

On my shoulders.

The pits of my knees are hot, moist.

They’re stuck.

This fucking pair of jeans that I have no business trying on are stuck.

My poor ham hock calves are having the life squeezed out of them by “stretchy” denim.

They’re like skin.

Melded to my actual skin.

I don’t know where they end and I begin.

“Oh man”

“Yea, they fit?”

“Noooooooooooooo. Good God no”

She laughs.

“But I think I’ll keep them”

“Oh yea?”

“YEA BECAUSE THEY ARE FUCKING STUCK AND I’LL HAVE TO CUT THEM OFF TO EVER BREATHE AGAIN SO I’D RATHER THEM BELONG TO ME WHEN I DESTROY THEM”

Laughter.

So.

Much.

Laughter.

My sweaty hand tries to grip the wall, while I use my other hand, and foot to peel the now damp denim down my body.

Scratching my skin all the way, it peels down, rolling over on itself.

Slowly.

Soooooo slowly.

One leg down.

I’m so hot.

I mean, I’m getting a workout here in this 2×2 box.

My legs are pink. No, red, and puffy.

I change into my work shirt and my actually fitting size 16 jeans that I brought along from the safety of my own home. I wet my face, blot every part of me dry and still laughing, we go out to clock in.

A group of our coworkers are standing near the computers.

“Oh I thought I saw you earlier, I wondered where you went” one of them says to me.

“Yea, I came after class and had lunch, and then Lindsay wanted me to try on a few pairs of her old jeans”

Silence.

Slow eye movement spread through the group.

Each trying to determine if her jeans would in fact fit me, knowing in their hearts there was no damn way.

“Come onnnnnnnn” I say “Seriously?!”

A final eye roll from me and we’re all laughing.

 

 

 

 

 

$5

Apparently everyone is spending $5 a day on coffee, every day.

I mean, I’m not. But that seems to be the assumption of some businesses and multi-level marketing companies.

I see people on my Facebook or Instagram feed almost daily, touting some health or diet based product or routine. The story is always the same; “Yes, it’s whatever dollar amount, but if you skip your daily coffee, you can easily afford it”

Well, no. I buy my coffee whole bean, by the pound, so my daily coffee, even if I have 2? Is like 34 cents. So. Not me.

Or “You don’t want to invest $5 a day in yourself but you’ll give it to Starbucks/Dunkin’ Donuts, isn’t your health worth more?”

Ya know what? Maybe some people’s health depends on that coffee – that break, that stop, that self-care savoring moment. Mental health is equally important. So let’s not diminish that.

Most of the people I have encountered or know, who sell these products are good people, nice people who have seen the results first hand and I appreciate that you believe in a product and use it yourself and want to share it with others. Hell, I used to sell Jamberry and I was probably so annoying about it. Everyone deserves to make a living or some extra cash however they see fit.

Everyone also gets one life to live, however they see fit.

Whats bothersome is the pressure it presents. And the subtle shame. Like, Oh just stop drinking coffee and you’ll lose weight, or get healthy, or be fit like me. People who have $5 a day to spend daily on coffee likely don’t need to “budget” for your products. And they either want them, or they don’t.

It’s a bit condescending.

Maybe it’s true – some people who really want to try something but claim they don’t have the funds could cut something out; but if they really wanted to, don’t you think they’d find a way themselves? Don’t you think they’d already be like hey, if I stop spending money on blank, I can have/get/do/go to blank.

I mean, that’s how I think about things.

Maybe when they say they can’t afford it they really can’t and are already scraping by, maybe they don’t want to afford it and are just trying to be nice and still supportive of your venture.

What’s a priority for you, is not a priority for everyone else.

And honestly, while the cost of these things usually does add up to something like $3-$5 a day, that’s not how you pay for them. You know? It’s a lump sum.

And what if they hate it? What if they just need time to think it over?

A few years ago I joined a new gym nearby. Brand new, bright, tons of equipment and a nice looking pool. Early sign up rates on enrollment and monthly fees.

I joined and being about 65 pounds down at that point, I was psyched. Couldn’t wait to take classes, couldn’t wait to maybe have the nerve to try lifting weights, and honestly, couldn’t wait for my “free personal training assessment”.

I got up bright and early on Saturday in December; workout clothes, water bottle and a positive attitude.

The “assessment” was about twenty minutes of an extremely fit, condescending woman bossing me around on things I had never done before. I tried to ask some questions along the way, she talked over me; she wasn’t so much “assessing” or “training” me as she was playing drill sergeant.

I might have still been interested, I was there to get information, to see if this was in fact something I could do. We walked to her cubicle and now we were going to talk about the cost. Obviously nothing is free, and I expected something like $50/session like I had seen at another gym a few weeks before.

I can’t tell you the exact cost but it was in the hundreds per month, upper threes at that. You also couldn’t just pick a few, it was however many times a week, and the cost was pretty similar regardless of the amount.

I listened and spoke honestly.

“I’m job hunting, next week is my last week at my current job and that’s just not in my budget right now”

“Well what if I can reduce the blah blah blah fee”

“I think it’s still too high for me, I’ll think about it though, thanks!”

“Well the offer for that is only good today, so go out to your car and think about it and come back in and we’ll sign you up”

“Haha, thanks, I’ll think it over”

“Christmas is coming, why not ask your boyfriend to pay for it for you as a Christmas present?”

I politely declined and thanked her for her time.

I didn’t think it was worth it regardless of who was paying it. There was another fee just to enroll in the training on top of the monthly fee which was on top of the already paid enrollment to the gym itself and why can’t anyone ever take no for an answer?

“It’s a shame, really” she said, “People always find money for the things they want”

I know that to be true, so I nodded.

She continued “It’s a shame you’d probably rather buy coffee and sweaters than take care of yourself”

I could feel my face getting hot, like I might cry, not hurt, not sad, but irritated.

“Nope, not planning to buy any of that either” awkward laugh “Thanks again” and I start to walk away.

“It’s okay, I get it, you just don’t want to invest in yourself”

I held my gaze straight ahead and kept walking, out of the building, out to my car and cried. A little pms-induced, maybe, but crying just the same.

I cried all the way home.

I got over it, because that woman, in 20 minutes or thirty minutes or even an hour we had been interacting … didn’t know shit about me.

Her comment stung, and it was meant to. It was some warped last-ditch effort to close the sale and it did the opposite. I left.

I considered cancelling my membership as soon as I could talk to someone that Monday.I was mad, I was sad, I was wondering how many people let themselves be shamed into a negative bank account, or feeling badly about themselves in a situation like this.

I didn’t cancel my membership because if I was throwing a couple of bucks a day to invest in anything, it was absolutely myself.

I was incredulous that a person would be in the “business” of helping others and try and guilt or shame them to go along.

But, I mean, the key word is business.

 

 

say cheese

Fourth of July is one of those holidays that I can never really figure out. I mean, do we have to work the day before, are they gonna make you work the day after –  is anything open, what’s closed, should we go to the beach, is everything going to be packed, is it weird if we just hang out at home and eat brats and watch Jaws… ya know, what are the rules?

I think no matter what anyone does, it seems everyone goes to see fireworks. I used to go somewhere every year to see them; now my town doesn’t do them, and the surrounding towns do them at odd times or days and the last time we tried, there was a misprint so we got to any empty lot and by the time we got the next closest display, it was over and we just got to sit in the traffic for it.

The last time I actually saw a fireworks display in it’s full glory was 2009. I was here visiting Steve and we found a spot to go, headed out and decided we would go out to dinner afterward.

Except, afterward was almost 10 pm and there was practically nothing open, not a sit down restaurant, not a fast food joint, not a pizza place. Makes sense, but we hadn’t expected it, so here I am in a CVS getting some snacks instead. You’re probably surprised to find that I don’t remember everything I bought; but I remember I spent about $24 and in the bag I had Tostitos scoops and that microwaveable cheese dip they make. Hey, I’m on a mini vacation and had been eating nothing but meat wrapped in cheese for days leading up to it.

Anyway, we’re back at home, settling in to watch a movie and I put the snacks on the table, get us drinks and he sees the cheese sauce and says “That’s all you, that shit is nasty”

Blasphemy.

I warm it up and eat most of the jar, it’s so salty and gooey and warm and it just melts in your mouth. I put it in the fridge and forget about it.

The next day is our last day together for the long weekend and we go out and grab [very large] coffees and bagel sandwiches. We park next to this cemetery and eat and talk and drink our coffees before we take a drive.

By the way,  I’m lactose intolerant.

Well, I was. Somewhere between getting older and having my surgery it seems to have dissipated.

Not in July of 2009, though.

He’s driving, music playing and it is a gorgeous day. I am wearing this loose teal short sleeve shirt and black capri length flowing pants, that I referred to as my “pirate pants” and I probably wore them all weekend [read: all summer].

My stomach starts to grumble and I ignore it.

It won’t let me.

My face is getting hot and I am now anxious about it, because I’m sure I have to go to the bathroom and this relationship hasn’t been going that long, certainly not so long that it’s at the stage where I can crap my pants and we can laugh about it.

I’m gripping the door pull and probably curling my toes.

Maybe it will pass.

Maybe melty cheese sauce and caramel iced coffees go together better than I think.

Maybe throwing eggs in that situation wasn’t a bad idea.

Maybe I’m just digesting.

It’s going to pass.

A few zigs and zags later, it’s not going to pass.

I see ahead there are some stores, maybe a little strip mall.

I see a Dunkin’ Donuts.

YES!

I breathe easier.

I prepare myself to tell him I have to go to the bathroom and ask him to stop. For some reason I can’t, I’m embarrassed, or nervous, I don’t know.

I say nothing.

I feel sweat on my forehead, guts bubbling like a caldron but I say nothing.

Right as we are passing the entrance I shout

“I HAVE TO GO TO THE BATHROOM”

He practically slams on the brakes to get into the lot and let me out.

I feel hot and cold and relieved and embarrassed and of course, ridiculous.

I go in and head straight for restroom; single stall, thank you Jesus!

Everything is fine now.

Well, everything except the part where I have to walk back out to the car and explain why I’m so weird.

I open the door and before I even get in, he says “Everything come out okay? I told you not to eat that nasty cheese”

I half laugh “I just had to pee so badly, that was a huge coffee”

He let me have it, but for a few years, any time we passed it he referred to it as “your Dunkin’ Donuts” or “the bathroom you blew up”

I threw the remaining cheese out the minute we got back to the apartment. I never bought it, or ate it again.

It’s not intentional that I haven’t seen a fireworks display since then, and purely coincidental that I haven’t had a near pants crapping experience since, I know.

But, why risk it.

If you’re looking for me tonight, I’ll be drinking cocktails on my couch and watching Jaws.

picture this

I have to be careful when I share conversations between my boyfriend and I with people who don’t know him, or haven’t spent a lot of time with him.

He is, for sure, one of the most supportive people I have ever had in my life, he is also honest [sometimes brutally so] and holds me accountable to myself; for things beyond the subject of weight and wellness.

And honestly, he’s the funniest person I know. Like eyes tearing up, on the verge of peeing my pants funny.

I once told a story over breakfast to a girl who has never met him, and I was laughing the whole time I was retelling it but she sat there staring at me. She let me finish but her stare stayed, and she said “Uh, that sounds kind of rude” still laughing just thinking about the encounter itself I said “I guess you had to be there, he’s not rude at all” and I didn’t go too far on defending him, because he didn’t need it, I know who and what he is and really at the end of the day that’s what’s important.

I have since, however refrained from sharing some stories with some people because I can never duplicate his tone, or the situation or the inflection properly, and I don’t want to give off the impression that he’s some asshole.

But here’s a story that I told like eighty people because when I think about it, I still laugh.

I take a lot of pictures of myself, I think that I always have, but now I’m a little self obsessed, so it’s like I have to document everything in my life as a smaller person.

I’m working on it, but if you follow me on either of my Instagram accounts or Facebook, you’ve seen the selfies. Part of the reason, is because I like to make comparison photos. I like to see how I looked at Christmas in 2013 versus 2016, or how I took a selfie in the airport bathroom in 2011 and find myself in the same airport bathroom in 2015. I mostly make the comparison for myself, but sometimes they blow my mind, and I share them.

Steve sees me every day. He saw me every day for about four years before my surgery, and every day for almost three years since. He teases me for taking the pictures, he scolds [lovingly!] me for staring at my reflection in our new television [it was ONE time!] and he has probably grown tired of hearing people in our families or neighborhoods or friends commenting on how I look now almost every time we see them over the course of my weight loss, but he agrees every time.

He sees me, but I don’t think he SEES the difference all the time, he just sees me. Just the same person who he has always seen. I mean he’s not an idiot, he sees the difference but differently than me, or outsiders, ya know?

So here I am one day, almost two years post op from my vertical sleeve, a few months post op on my panniculectomy (this is essentially a lower tummy tuck without muscle repair) and I decide to make a side by side comparison of myself using photos from the night before my weight loss surgery, and this day. Both are bra and underwear photos taken in our bathroom, and I probably tear up a little, share them on the internet with a story about my story, with honest, real commentary.

When Steve gets home from work, I shove it in his face and instead of his usual “Wow, crazy” or something like that he stares for a minute, blinks hard and grimaces.

“Holy shit”

“I know right?”

“Holy shit you were fat'”

I laugh

“Oh my God, you were so fat”

I laugh again and now he laughs – almost maniacally

“I don’t remember you being that fat, oh man”

Incredulous.

Now we’re both laughing, him as if he just made some earth shattering discovery and me because I don’t think I have ever seen him react to anything this way.

Pacing around the living room while shaking his head in disbelief

“I’m sorry, I mean woah”

“It’s fine, I mean, you never said it before, so I get it”

“Well I never realized, WOW”

“Uh huh, yeeeeeeeeeea

“Can we just talk about how fucking fat you were for a second?!”

And of course, we do. And we laugh some more, we reminisce about things from heavier days that we didn’t see or notice, and I am grateful.

Grateful that for years of my life that I shared with another person, he never saw me for anything other than who I truly was.

While he knew I struggled with my weight, he never struggled with it.

Yet, at the breaking point of my struggle, he soothed me, he encouraged me, for me.

If that’s not true love, I don’t know what is.

 

 

 

nameless

There’s a lot of construction going on where I work right now; throngs of people in and out every day, it would probably be impossible to remember all their names, if you even knew them to begin with.

A pair of electricians show up one day; one older guy and a younger guy behind him. Both in work clothes, a little sweaty – my interaction with them is so minimal that all I can tell you is their names are Greg and Mike. They seem friendly enough; I point them in the right direction and off they go.

Oh yea, Mike is fat.

My boss returns from some errands and starts telling a story about said electricians … “So I’m talking to the fat one…” I felt my eyes widen, I felt surprised by his distinction, I say ” oh, his name is Mike” and I just assume he didn’t know and let him finish his story.

He leaves again and the guys come back past me and ask a few questions that I don’t have the answers to, but say I’ll pass them along. The next day I say to my boss…

“Mike wanted to know about moving that one outlet, if you still wanted to do that?”

“Who’s Mike?”

“The electrician….?” I respond

“Is he the fat one or the other guy?”

I just couldn’t – even though it shouldn’t have been such a surprise – I couldn’t believe an adult, a successful business owner would categorize people that way. A grown man with children, who would more than likely pass that classification on to them, he can’t be serious!

“I guess he’s overweight yea, but his name is Mike”

“What do you know him or something?”

“No, why?”

“You seem defensive is all”

“I am, I mean, if we know a persons name that’s how we should address them, isn’t it?”

Awkward staring at each other.

“All right, Miiiiiiiike and the other guy. Better?”

“Yea, sure, that’s better. It just makes me wonder how many people referred to me as ‘the fat one’ if they hadn’t known or remembered my name?”

“Haha you made your point, now you’re just pushing … you’re not even fat”

“…Not today”

This is the thing about people who only know me now, in my less uncomfortable, smaller body. They are comfortable to make judgements about other people’s bodies, to shame them in my presence and to make fat jokes without a second thought.

I’m more offended by jokes now, than I was at almost 300 pounds. I feel like a traitor sometimes to be present for them, like I somehow tricked these people into thinking I was one of “them”.

I’m getting better about speaking up. I try.

I try to speak up for the people who don’t get the chance to for themselves, the people who are unknowingly the butt off others jokes for merely existing.

I try to speak up because there are people I love, admire and respect, who are also fat. I try to speak up because I hope people have done it for me.

I try to speak up because fat is just a thing we have, not who we are.

let’s [maybe] talk

A friend of mine used to work in a pharmacy and I would tease her for fitting it into any conversation she could; Person opening a cough drop, lady at Bath & Body Works pushing hand sanitizer, cashier in a clothing store.

That’s me now.

I’m so obsessed with the way my life and my opinion of myself has changed since having weight loss surgery that I can’t not talk about it.

I have talked about it with the guys in Vitamin Shoppe, the member services gal at BJ’s, my hair stylist, a cashier at the grocery store and the lady taking my order at Five Guys.

In addition to a slew of people on Instagram, Obesity Help, Real Self and anyone who even hints at being curious. I’m a mentor for the pre-op and post-op patients for the Weight and Wellness Center at my hospital, I’ve spoken on a panel (& will again in October!) at an expo they held. I’m starting classes for counseling in the fall, I’m reading up on taking additional courses for bariatric counseling certification specifically.

I’m into it.

I wanna talk about it.

With everyone.

Well, almost.

Regardless where you went for surgery, or are considering going, there are very similar guidelines post-op. Things like no soda, no drinking while you eat, no solid food for about 2 weeks after; there are stages of eating that you go through and they’re pretty standard.

I can’t hear any more about my girlfriends boss who had the surgery a less than a year ago and a month out was “so hungry” that he had to have a cheeseburger and fries, and complained about how sick he felt after, but continued to eat that way after.

I can’t discuss our progress with a girlfriend who over lunch about a year post-op for both of us got a huge fountain soda and when I (casually) inquired about her drinking soda she said “Oh its fine, they just tell you that but they don’t really mean it”

I can’t offer any more advice to someone who questioned me to death about everything and then four days after their surgery, still healing, swollen stapled up stomach, ate six meatballs, even if “they were really mushed up”.

I sound cold maybe, but these are the people stereotypes come from.

The people who make others think this is “the easy way out”, people who aren’t committed to making changes, people who want a “quick fix”.

To be fair, some may have issues deeper than I am currently equipped to see them through, or deeper than they are even aware of. There’s some leeway there.

It’s been almost three years, but it’s a lifelong thing. On a patient and personal – not yet professional level – I’m serious about my commitment to myself, to the process, to the changes. If you are, or think you are or want to be, or are just curious, we can totally talk about it.

Everyone gets a chance; but some people are just window shopping for advice, and I don’t have time for that.

 

driving miss jae

When my family moved from New Jersey to Wisconsin in the early 2000’s, one of my brother’s and I would make the drive back occasionally to visit friends and see some family.  Depending on your route, and your stops, it could be done in about 12 1/2 hours.

We would usually leave after 10pm, and drive through the night, getting to our destination by early the next afternoon. If I was driving the first leg of the trip, it was more like an ankle. We would get from my parents house, maybe to the Indiana line, which was about two hours, before I would be yawning myself to tears. After busting my chops for a few more miles I would eventually swerve a little too much for his comfort and he would take over the duration of the trip.

EVERY. TIME.

Rightfully so, he teased me for years. He also assumed that I just didn’t want to drive and did this to get out of it. I wondered if I did, too, but really I felt exhausted from driving.

Years later, when I’ve moved to Massachusetts, Steve and I are making the drive to Wisconsin for that same brothers wedding. The trip is about four hours longer, and we agree to leave around 9 and split the driving. I’m sure you can guess how that went. Barely into NY and I can’t keep my eyes open, so we switch seats. He needs a break so in the morning I’m driving again, until I all but doze off behind the wheel and he shouts, demanding I pull over.

I promise you I never made a connection between my weight and endurance on a long car ride; but again, in retrospect I find myself sort of piecing it together.

In 2015, just under one year post-op, we once again are driving from MA to WI for my other brothers wedding. We talk about flying because the trip is a lot for one person to drive, and we know that’s what happens, but we have a suit and a dress and favors and camera gear so we decide to drive.

I start the trip off driving and drive for almost six hours straight, without a break or, oddly enough, a complaint. We switch on and off for the rest of the trip and we joke about what a fluke that was, and I brag to everyone like I’d achieved something incredible.

After that, he’d “make” me drive more places we went, joking that I had recovered from my “driving apnea”.

I’d forgotten about any of that until this weekend when I was attending my girlfriends bridal shower about three hours from here. I was considering the logistics; would I go down the night before? Should I be local the whole weekend to avoid the driving all at once? I ultimately decide to drive down the morning of, and then home afterward. When I tell steve he laughs, “Who are you, me?” since he has on many occasions spent 8-10 hours in the car for one photography outing with friends. We laugh, and I don’t think about it again.

I did it; I drove something like 325 miles, with a several hour break in the middle full of mimosas and delicious food and socializing, and never got tired, or felt like it was too much. In fact, I got home, made us a late dinner and then watched some tv before going to bed at my usual time.

You might roll your eyes like “okay, losing weight made you able to drive longer distances? that’s a stretch” and ya know what, maybe it is. But in losing weight, I gained some things too, one of which was clearly increased energy and stamina, so let me have it 🙂