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.

 

catalyst.

I am two hundred and seventy-nine pounds. I am wearing one of two identical pair of belly button pinching jeans I own, and a sheer black blouse with black dots stitched into it over a black tank top. For some reason I can’t tell you what the shoes I am wearing are, even though I was looking at my feet for a lot of the time.

I’m sitting in a chair that gives me enough room, mostly because it designed for morbidly obese people who cannot fit, comfortably or otherwise in your standard waiting room chair. I am a little sweaty having walked two or three times as much as I need to arrive here, since I was slightly embarrassed to stop and ask anyone for directions through my labored breathing. Even my hand is glistening and smears the words on the form. I take a sip from the water bottle I carried along, so everyone knows I’m trying.

I’m not even entirely sure what I’m here for.

Everyone is smiling and friendly though, as if they know we are fragile.

All the talking that takes place is very low volume; not in a hush hush shameful way, more out of respect for sensitive information. The first thing that happens after I complete a ream of paperwork is getting on the scale. It’s a scale large enough to accommodate a wheelchair, though not intended to.

Two-eight-two. I don’t cry, but I want to. I imagine that my already upsetting weight of two seventy-nine is still accurate if you subtract the sweat, the bracelets and watch I’m wearing to look more put together, and the forgotten shoes they won’t let you take off.

I’m okay.

This will be okay.

I ended up having two appointments that visit; one with nutrition, and one with behavioral.

The behavioral appointment is where they crack you open, figure out what your hangs up are, what is your goal for your weight, your health, your life. What your reasons are for being there, what you hope will happen as a result of this … what steps have you taken? what have you already tried? What aren’t you doing, or allowing to happen because of your weight?

Nothing. I’m cool and fun and cute and being fat isn’t keeping me from anything except being not fat.

Well …..

This appointment, this forty-three minutes is where I realize I was wrong.

“Are you married?”

“Nah, long term relationship, but, pfft, I’m not spending hundreds of dollars to put a fancy dress on this body and roll it down an aisle.”

“Any children?”

“Nope … could you imagine adding a baby to this gut?”

“What do you do for a living?”

“Went to college for psychology, to eventually be a therapist, then changed my mind and got my masters to potentially go to law school but now I’m just helping this lady run her life.”

I answered a few other questions and my answers surprised me.

And then all I could do was question myself.

Why was I still driving a dented car? Why didn’t I actively pursue different job opportunities? Why did I talk about getting a bike or going kayaking but never do it? Why did I stay in one-sided shitty friendships or relationships? Why did I abandon my end goal of being a therapist? Why did I ask my mom / dad / brother / boyfriend eighty-five times how I looked before leaving the house, then accused them of lying? Why did I get mad when I tied my sneakers for the gym and one was tighter than the other so I had a tantrum and just stayed home? I couldn’t ever say before, that’s just the way things were.

I’m always saying that the things that are different for me now, and my improved attitude and outlook are because I lost weight. You can argue that; you can say it’s because I got older or because I realized different things about myself, and that’s true, too.  Either way, I’ll never stop believing that this appointment, this weight loss surgery, and the entire experience was a catalyst for all of it.

thirty-nine.

Slept in.

Breakfast: Warmed chocolate croissant, mid-sized iced mocha latte from a cute place in town.

Went for a walk in nearby park.

Lunch: One small, and one large craft pumpkin beers, shared a jerk chicken pizza at our favorite local brewery.

Trip to the bakery around the corner for a “personal” sized carrot cake.

Dinner: Chips & salsa, one Cantarito and crispy fish tacos at a new Mexican restaurant nearby.

Wandered around World Market, purchasing only beer and candy. Mobile ordered an iced chai with soy on the way home. Comfy clothes by 10:00, on the couch with the carrot cake, and a cookie butter filled candy bar.

I spent the whole day happy and laughing and sharing delicious food and drinks with my best friend; but most importantly, not feeling one single ounce of guilt or shame about my food choices. If that’s not a non scale victory and a cause for celebrating myself, I don’t know what is.

jae birthday

 

 

hey, whatcha eatin’?

Last week I was standing in the driveway while Steve tinkered on his car. I’d been home from work only about an hour and was still in leggings with peanut butter hand prints on them and a cheap Old Navy t-shirt that I’d spilled my coffee on at least once before.

In one hand I held a bag of sliced pepperoni, and had a string cheese hanging out of my mouth, that I occasionally tugged on with my free hand. I chatted briefly with my neighbor who was getting in her car, and she said “Whatcha eatin’?” “Pepperoni, want some?” (She’s a vegetarian so she declined, and we said our goodbyes) I went right on chomping away in broad daylight for anyone to see.

You’re probably thinking “Uh, okay, no big deal, you’re eating outside” but in a teeny way, it IS a big deal.

I never ate in front of people, well not comfortably anyway. Family, close friends, sure. Out in public? Not so comfortably. I always felt like people might be looking at me, judging me, wondering why I was eating since I was fat. Like hadn’t I had my share of food in life already, why did I need more?

You’re probably laughing because it sounds crazy, but have you ever looked at someone fat out at a restaurant and judged them or commented, even briefly? I hated being squished in a booth, or God forbid the extra chair at the end of the booth. I hated sitting on bar stools with no backs, nothing to hide my size or slumping. I hated most things about eating in public, except the eating part.

I had this idea (read: delusion) that, if people didn’t see me eating, or see me with food, they might not notice I was fat. Maybe I would just blend in and nobody would see my size, or question my food choice (even when it wasn’t questionable). I would pick daintily, in case anyone was watching  – and on the trek from the table to the door afterward, I’d let someone else carry the leftovers.

Get me in line at a buffet, or to load up our plates at a barbecue and my portions are smaller than I’d like and I’m only making one trip. If I look like I don’t eat much, maybe I’ll look smaller.

I can’t be the only person who has felt this way, I mean I guess anything is possible, but there’s not a million dollar industry of diet products and meal replacements because it’s just me.

Now that I weigh less, that I feel better, and look better, I realize that nobody gives a shit what I’m eating. (Except the Instagram food police : insert eyeroll here: )

Honestly they probably never did, and if you think not eating in front of people makes them think you’re thinner than you are, that’s in your head, not theirs.

 

nip // tuck

Earlier today I was trying to figure out how many remaining vacation days I have that may pay out when my current job ends in a few weeks.

In a conversation with a friend, I say “Aside from my sick days, I’m pretty sure I only took one day off this year, the day after I drove to NY. I also took a half day when I went to see my plastic surgeon, but I stayed late a few times to make up for it.”

Possibly the most bizarre sentence I ever uttered.

My plastic surgeon.

I guess it’s not that weird, but the way it just rolled off my tongue like you would say “my mechanic”, “my hairdresser”, or “my mailman.”

I’m like “Hey, you need something nipped or tucked? I know a guy!”

I let him mark me up, knock me out and cut off seven pounds of flabby excess skin and fat on my abdomen; we have plans to do it on other parts another time or two as well.

I’ve questioned my decision a few times, as I never thought of myself as a vain person, and I don’t care so much about how I look, but how I feel.

Last year I had a panniculectomy, which removed the flap of fat that, even after losing 80 pounds still disrupted any outfit I tried to wear, got in the way when I attempted running, hung around haunting me like a scar that wouldn’t fade –  and I was damn sure it almost flung off my body during Zumba once. Add in the rashes and general discomfort and I don’t feel so so bad about it.

Now that it’s gone though? My thighs are in plain sight to me and WOOF. Doughy, flabby, hangy; a little painful and a lot keeping me from shorts and too far above the knee skirts or dresses. Slapping and rubbing together eighty percent of the time.

My upper arms have been a source of frustration, sadness and severe sweating through the summers for as long as I could remember. I think I single handedly kept the production of Old Navy cardigans going because I was always buying them, in every color, year round. As they became smaller, they surprisingly only got worse; loose and hanging, getting pinched during hugs, noisily flapping doing almost anything and I merely traded cardigans for light zip ups and jean jackets.

I’ve thought about it, I’ve put off getting the surgery dates in the books but I’ve decided I’m not vain. I’m not trying to look like anyone else, or impress anyone. I’m just trying to be as comfortable as possible in the skin I worked so hard to deflate.

CTS

I can’t remember the occasion but at some point there was a conversation with my mom where I was telling her that I was too excited to sleep, in anticipation for something the next day. She told me that a similar thing happened to her sometimes and that she vividly remembered it happening when she was growing up, specifically the night before a class trip. She was anxious that she would fall asleep and not wake up in time, and miss the trip. After that, we explicitly refer to the inability to fall asleep for fear of oversleeping and missing something as ‘Class Trip Syndrome’ or CTS for short.

The last time I remember having a bout of CTS was a year ago yesterday.

I was trying to relax in preparation for my panniculectomy the next morning. I was not allowed to eat or drink anything past midnight, so naturally I was starving with a mouth as dry as the desert at 12:01. I had to check in at the hospital at 6am – I set my alarm for 4:45, so I could shower since I wasn’t sure how many of the following days I wouldn’t be able to. When I finally was able to settle down and decided on the couch for sleep, it was going to be more like a nap and I think it was after 1 am.

I slept though.

Right through my alarm.

I woke up at 5:20, the time that we were supposed to be getting in the car!!

I freaked out, I froze. I ran into the bedroom like a maniac startling Steve awake.

“We have to go! I didn’t shower! They’re going to cancel my surgery!”

Fastest and least relaxing shower of my life. I cut myself shaving, because you obviously have to shave your legs at 5:30 in the morning when you’re already running late.

Groggily putting deodorant on while I’m conditioning my hair Steve says “Why are we rushing if they’re cancelling your surgery? Why are they cancelling it?”

As if he has asked a thousand questions in the eleven minutes he’s been awake I shout “I have to be there in half an hour, they will cancel if I’m not checked in on time! My insurance approval is only good for today!”

I slip and slide my way into the bedroom where I put on a pair of lacy granny panties from Target for what I dream will be the last time, followed by a baggy tank top and loose shorts that I live in over the next eight weeks, alternating with the same top in white and the same shorts in pink.

I’m so excited and nervous that I can’t leave the house until I make sure I’m not going to crap my pants.

We are barely on the road and see brake lights. I’m almost in tears.

“I can’t believe I slept through my alarm, I barely even slept. Stupid Class Trip Syndrome”

He assures me that they’re not going to cancel my surgery “If anything,” he says “You’ll just have to wait until later in the day”

Comforting, yet not. “I can’t wait, I haven’t eaten since yesterday and I am soooooo thirsty”

When we finally pull into the hospital parking garage it’s about 6:20; I am relieved but still anxious, now because someone is about to draw on me, knock me out and make an incision in my body that practically cuts me in half. While I am cut open? Another doctor is going to root around in there and repair a hernia. You see why I might be crapping my pants, right?

We get to surgical check-in and wait in line, they’re backed up! HA! When it’s my turn to fill out paperwork, it’s actually the time my surgery was scheduled for. “Don’t worry,” the woman says, “we’ve been behind since before 6.”

Sigh of relief.

Followed by another wave of anxiety.

Healthcare proxy form, check.

Emergency contact info, check.

We walk down three hundred hallways and into a large room full of beds where I will be prepped.

Multiple people come and introduce themselves to me, check my vitals, prick my fingers, inject heparin, ask me a ton of questions and stroke my ego by telling me how funny I am and how they never would have guessed I had weight loss surgery, that my face shape recovered well from the loss.

I’m calm.

I’m the star of the damn show.

Holy crap, here’s my doctor.

Six months prior I would have said the most humbling moment in my life had been when I had to stand in front of this attractive, and probably younger than me man I had just met in my bra and underwear discussing my floppy belly and letting him photograph it. On this day I would have said it was this; this moment in which I had to stand, NAKED in front of my boyfriend and this man who was still basically a stranger and let him push and pull and lift and adjust my skin and fat, all while drawing on it in that purple marker.

“Can I have a picture of what you cut off?”

He stared at me. “Uh, I guess, if you want one”

“Yea, I do! I never got a picture of my removed stomach, or my gallstones ….” I trail off the way that you do as those drugs kick in.

I swear he rolled his eyes as he said “Sure, you can have a picture” but weeks later when he gives me the picture he says he didn’t. He’s probably right.

My last words in the operating room before they put me out are to a nurse “Please make sure he gets me that picture, you can text it to me” She agrees, probably to keep things moving, and I began slowly reciting my phone number.

Next thing I know I am being wheeled through the doors of the recovery floor saying hello to everyone. I’m happy. I’m alert. I’m starving.

I order food and Steve and I talk on and off, I pick at my food – I am in great shape.

My doctor stops by to check on me, to show us a picture of the removed fat and skin, which weighed just about SEVEN pounds. He says I did great.

Everyone who checks on me is impressed with my energy, I get to see a little of my incision, the nurse tells Steve to take a picture with my phone so I can see and I cry a little and then tell everyone I meet for the rest of the day that I saw my vagina.

I have a brief dizzy spell on my way back from a loosely escorted trip to the bathroom and pass out before Steve even got back home. My binder is opened three to four more times, nurses check on me, doctors check on me, students study me.

I recover. I eat eighty seven ice pops, watch some Friends and go home at noon the next day.

So glad I didn’t sleep later and miss the whole trip!

 

hospitalrelease

 

 

knock knock

Earlier today, a corpulent woman in a too-tight tank top (that was causing her body to seep out of the arm and neck holes) sat down next to me.

When she sat, she sighed in an all too familiar way.

It set off that thing I do, a thing that I am not exactly proud of.

I judge fat people.

Well no, that’s not a fair word; I don’t look at overweight people and talk shit about them, or laugh or make jokes, or point out their flaws.

I empathize.

I identify.

I see myself in other overweight people sometimes and I want to spill my guts to them, I want to tell them what I learned, about the help I got, how I changed.

Hear me out before you think I’m just some average sized person who forgot where I came from. I was tipping 300lbs and I ain’t forgetting.

I struggled with my weight on and off for, if we’re being honest, something like two dozen years.

Diets, aches, threat of diabetes, snoring, general discomfort, calorie counting, carb cutting, juicing, diet pills, fat burners, dairy free, ill fitting clothes, exhaustion, frustration.

Then something happened.

I met my doctor who introduced me to other people and through a series of small decisions, information sessions, more doctor’s appointments and big choices, I don’t struggle anymore.

I want that for other people.

Even people I don’t know.

I saw a carbon copy of myself at the park; eighty plus degrees, long sleeves, sweating, visibly uncomfortable in her skin. She sneezed and I shouted “bless you!” from a few benches over in the hopes of starting up a convo that would lead to my gut spilling.

I’m half joking.

When I’m boarding a plane and see someone relaxing in their seat every time someone passes them and doesn’t take the empty one next to them – I wanna take it and sit there and talk about how I used to hate the middle seat, too.

People who lurch across parking lots or crosswalks to avoid the oncoming cars and not be a burden to their path. I did that.

People who have to sit in the wide chairs in the waiting room.

People who think bread is their enemy.

People who suffer.

People who try to change what they see in the mirror and can’t.

I’m those people, too.

It’s not meant as judgement and it’s not a pity thing; I hope nobody ever pitied me.  I am sure that most are hyper aware of the way they look and feel, I know I was.

Until I had the information and resources I didn’t think bariatric surgery was for me (it isn’t for everyone, but that’s another post).

I didn’t think I qualified and I probably thought it was extreme; it is, but it’s at the very least, worth the exploration.

I am certain I wouldn’t have taken kindly to someone making the suggestion to me, even in the throes of my stuggle and especially not in the midst of some grueling diet.

Who would have said something though?

My friends or family who were either thin or had the same struggle as me?

Surely if someone had the information to share I would have aimed my ear right at them.

I don’t do it though, not without provocation.

Mostly because it’s rude, and because other people’s bodies aren’t my business, but also because as a girlfriend pointed out that even though I may have been where someone else is, I’m not now; and they would only know this me and think I was bitchy or condescending.

It’s just that I’ve seen both sides of two hundred.

I know how it feels to be both uncomfortable and comfortable in my skin.

You know how there are people who are so filled with passion and love about their God that they want to knock on doors and spread it around?

That’s me; I’m the Jehovah’s Witness of weight loss surgery.

KNOCK, KNOCK.

“Hi, do you have a moment to talk about my savior the vertical sleeve gastrectomy?”

 

happy august

I always thought I hated summer because I was fat.

Countless July’s feeling like my arms were too fat for short sleeves or tank tops, thighs too flabby for shorts, and up until last summer I can’t even tell you when I last had a swimsuit.

Wearing lightweight zip ups with the sleeves pushed up was basically my thing. Sweating doing basically anything outside of the house, not even thinking about getting in the car without the air conditioning on; summer sucked.

Last summer was tolerable, I spent a week at the Cape with my parents, wore rompers like all the cool kids and drank my weight in iced coffee in an array of parks or on coffee shop patios.

But that’s it. That’s summer.

Most places or activities you might want to do in summer are flooded with a thousand other people with the same idea.

I mean, it’s no secret that I equate a lot of the positive feelings and happenings in my life now, to my weight loss – I’m not so sure I can pin that on summer after all.

Naturally I always thought Fall was my favorite season because it gets cooler and ends that awkward long sleeved phase in eighty plus degrees that people comment on constantly.

There’s so much more to love!

Even if you take out the fact that my birthday is in October, I mean, Halloween is awesome and pumpkin carving (Hello!), optimal weather for hiking, sleeping, taking long walks and even longer drives. Not sold? Apple cider donuts, horror movies, leaves changing colors, hoodies (appropriately!), cozy socks, guilty pleasure television comes back, flannel shirts and pj bottoms, crunchy leaf piles, I could probably go on… plus, none of that shit exists in summer!

People ask what your plans are for summer and everyone barfs out the same kind of sunny, beach, poolside answers. Nobody ever asks what you’re doing for the fall, which is crazy to me because the possibilities are endless.

So I guess I was wrong; I didn’t hate summer because I was fat, I hated it because it’s an inferior season.

My apologies to all of you waking up to the start of August and mourning it as the sign of the end of your beloved summer.

For me, August is the waiting room for Fall and I’ve got a good book and an iced latte while I sit and check my watch, impatiently waiting my turn.

 

 

nsv (non scale victory or no more secrets, victoria)

I have never cared about underwear.

I don’t know if I liked it or hated it or anything, I just viewed it as utilitarian. You have to wear it, and sometimes it has cute colors or patterns.

I mean, at almost three hundred pounds they’re not that cute and really served no purpose (for me) other than having a barrier between clothes and skin.

They were just something you bought, like socks or toothpaste.

I bought multi packs of Hanes or Fruit of the Loom or whatever was there, size large or extra large, I don’t know, I really didn’t care.

My hippest underwear shopping finds were these lace trimmed satin-ish ones from Target that were about $5 a pair. Every time we did laundry, Steve would tease me about my “weird granny panties that are trying to be sexy” and then I’d ball them up in a drawer because, whatever.

Immediately after my vertical sleeve surgery, I lived in yoga pants (still kinda do!), long sleeve t-shirts/zip ups and sports bras. When the promise of losing something like seventy percent of your excess weight is there, you’re not dropping a lot of coin on clothes; mostly because you’re going to go through them faster.

I bought inexpensive things, wore things until they were comically big, and of course had my eye on some stores I’d never shopped in.

I’m about a year post op when I decide that my Champion sports bras are over. This can’t be a thing that goes on forever, but I have no idea where to shop for anything (still sort of true!) so I take to a post op group I am part of on Facebook and ask where any of them are getting their bras.

A resounding mention of “Victoria’s Secret” and I laugh out loud, in my living room at the responses.

Also a store called Soma, so I force myself to drive around the mall parking lot for about half an hour before I find a parking spot, resist buying an Auntie Anne’s pretzel (which I can only eat half of anyway) and make my way to the store.

Fluorescent lighting, me in leggings and a bra with a stranger.

I didn’t like it, the bras that is.

The sizing was off, the bras felt weird and I was getting hot and uncomfortable taking things on and off.

She brought me so many things to try and after about a dozen I was like fuck this, I hate all of these.

I felt like I looked like an old lady. I still felt fat. I felt awkward. And I felt like if I was gonna give a shit about the bras or underwear I was wearing, I should really like them. Otherwise why bother breaking away from the basic stuff.

I thanked her and left.

A little hot, a little tired, and if we’re honest, a little defeated.

On my way back to the parking lot I passed Auntie Anne’s again, debated the pretzel and then saw the pink glow of Victoria’s Secret.

Maybe I’ll go in.

Nobody has to know.

Hmm.

I walked by twice before finally walking in, and not thirty seconds into the half dozen dressers spilling out eighty different types of underwear, a woman approached me.

Oh, fuck.

She’s gonna ask me to leave.

She’s gonna know I don’t belong here.

I should just go.

Turn around, just leave.

Eye contact.

Shit.

Turns out she just wanted to help.

Oh, in that case, hey Linda, let me tell you my life story!

She listens. She nods.

Next thing you know, we’re in the dressing room which is so pink and black and fancy I’m feeling a bit like a dirt bag in my leggings and combat style boots, but I’m open.

She has a measuring tape and an armful of bras. She asks what style I prefer.

Uhhhh, the ones that keep my boobs from flopping all over?

I later find out my preference is actually the Body by Victoria Demi – as I am checking out with two of them, and a half dozen pair of underwear. (I can’t call them panties, I’m almost 40)

The cashier does the normal “Are you paying with your Angel card today?” thing and I beam inside, like, she thinks I shop here, she doesn’t sense that I’m some awkward, less fat person who has never been in this glittery floored haven before except to buy perfume for my sister-in law for Christmas.

Naturally I say no and she asks me if I’d like to apply for one. I’ll save something or other today, and while the idea of a discount always tickles my fancy, I’m sure I’m not a candidate.

(The only other thing I’ve struggled with as much as my weight is my credit, to be honest)

She’ll get points or something, blah blah, sure, I’ll go for it.

“You’ve been approved, Angel”

“You must have typed something wrong, I’m not Angel”

She laughs, “You’re an Angel if you’re a cardholder; you’ll get a booklet of coupons in a few weeks and an explanation of our rewards program, which has three teirs, up to ‘Forever Angel’

“Great, thanks” I say, not sure I’ll be dropping sixty bucks a bra for the rest of my life, and with no real intention of using the card much.

I walk back past the spilling displays, through the mall toward the parking garage; head high, pink and black bag full of crinkly tissue paper in various shades of and pink and actually cute underwear, and I get an Auntie Anne’s pretzel.

I head home and try on both bras and all the underwear again. I have my own bathroom half-mirror fashion show and am sold. I never liked underwear – on or off. Bras, with a bow that don’t look like their for eleven year olds?

I look good. I feel good.

A month later I have another half dozen pair of undies, a different style and I have the website bookmarked.

I’m a regular VS shopper now, an Angel even.

Around the two year “anniversary” of my surgery I order more underwear, a few new sleep shirts and a bathrobe. Size Medium.

As if the universe knew; when I returned home from an afternoon of follow up appointments there was a package waiting for me. Home alone I tried everything on, and it fit. I had a moment on my living room floor, eyes tearing up, laughing … it all fit. I called my mom and told her. She laughed and celebrated with me when I said “I live in a world where I can wear a size medium from Victoria’s Secret!”

I have thirty-four pair of underwear now. (Not including ones that were tossed because they were stretched out pre-panniculectomy, or faded from washing or met some other fate)

I also have half a dozen bras, regular and sport, half  a drawer full of their leggings, long and short sleeve sleep shirts and a free tote bag or two…

Who would have thought ….

I’m a fucking ‘Forever Angel’

 

 

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.