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.

parking lot shuffle

Parking lots are one of my least favorite places in the world; people are walking anywhere they want, backing out of spaces without looking, leaving carts all over the place, whipping into spaces to beat someone else to it, staring at their phones while they stroll  (or drive!) and sometimes pushing their carts too close to your ankles.

The parking lot thing that has always bothered me most is that weird two steps forward-three hops back thing you have to do on your way to or from your car; when someone is letting you walk, but then they’re not … then they are … then not …  and nobody can decide what’s happening and everyone is watching to see what happens next.

Okay, maybe everyone isn’t watching, but it has certainly felt that way.

When you’re fat … well, I can’t speak for everyone, but when I was fat, I was sure that people were looking at me almost all the time. I’m sure they hardly ever were, but I felt eyes on me every time I left the house in an outfit I wasn’t sure of, or was eating in public, or oddly enough since it’s a positive thing, exercising. I digress …

I used to run as fast as I could (think: turtle speed) when a car was letting me cross; I didn’t want to give anyone a reason to honk at me or draw any unnecessary attention to myself. I’d usually make it to the other side virtually unscathed. Out of breath, a little sweaty or red faced, but no real embarrassment. As long as I didn’t make eye contact with anyone while trying to catch my breath on my way in to what always seemed to be the grocery store.

Today I came out of the store and a car was coming toward me, then slowed and waved me on. I sort of ran, maybe more like jogged across the lot to my car.

Wait, what?

I did it because it was raining and hailing and sleeting seemingly all at the same time and the wind had blown the hood of my coat off twice already and I hate wet hair more than anything – I was just trying to get to my car! But, yea, I jogged across a parking lot, effortlessly and without even thinking about it until I was pulling out of the lot and saw the old two step parking lot shuffle going on with someone else.

Of all the times I could swear someone was paying attention to me, or feasting their judgey eyes on my every move, I’m pretty sure nobody even noticed my personal ray of sunshine coming through the cold, gray day.

more than just coats.

My winter coat is too big but I keep wearing it anyway.

It’s nothing so special … your average knee-length, quilted pattern, insulated jacket. Columbia, packable, light, warm, black, size XL.

I bought it in 2015, and it’s probably been too big since the end of the following winter, if I’m honest. I bought it one cold afternoon when the threat of snow reminded me that I had thrown my last coat in a donation box earlier that year because it had gotten too big.

I spent years wearing heavy sweatshirts fleece jackets and scarves to avoid the winter coat situation. No coat was flattering, at all, and I hated feeling constricted, bulkier and just overall uncomfortable – I always felt ridiculous – think Randy a la Christmas Story! I broke down and got a not-too-puffy puffy coat at Burlington Coat Factory at some point before moving to Massachusetts and I wore it to death, out of necessity mostly and believed that it looked good – for what it was.

Fast forward to the winter of 2013, Steve decided he wanted to get a new winter coat and I thought that I could probably stand to replace mine as well. We went to REI where they were having a huge sale, and Steve said if I found a coat I liked he’d buy it for me. We split up and went to our respective departments where I tried on easily half a dozen winter jackets and coats. Every style I liked I tried – the largest sizes in some only went up to XL and they wouldn’t even zipper halfway. He walked over with about 4 jackets for himself that he was trying to eliminate and I must have looked like someone ran over my dog, because he started asking what was wrong, what happened.

Embarrassing to admit nothing fit.

In an entire department of winter coats and jackets not a single one fit.

He didn’t believe me, or pretended not to for my benefit, and picked out a few more for me to try on. I tried them on to the tune of nope, no way and get the fuck outta here girl this will never fit you.

Maybe the men’s department has something? Who cares where you get it if you like it and it fits?

I oblige the suggestion and roughly twenty more minutes of taking jackets and coats on and off, sweating, being frustrated, probably being hungry, because why wouldn’t that be the way when I couldn’t jam myself into any clothing I was trying on? Men’s jackets were either too tight or too big, and the too big was sort of a nice feeling until you acknowledge that the tag is a 2x.

Not being large enough to fill out a men’s 2x was not the silver lining I needed.

I gave up.

I got mad.

I got shitty and we checked out and left. Steve with two new jackets he would try out and get down to one and me with nothing but a reignited hatred toward winter coats.

I guess I still wear it because is kind of special in the sense that after hating all things winter jackets and coats I walked into a store, picked it out, tried it on and it fit. No asking if they carried it in a large size, or had anything in the elusive “back room”, I didn’t have to choose another style because this one wasn’t flattering. I didn’t have to take a gigantic breath to try and zip it, it just fit, just like that. I didn’t need a men’s jacket, or a  special order from a catalog or specialty store. I just made a decision and walked out happier than I had ever been in the winter coat arena.

I think we reminisced about it once since then, maybe when I hit the fifty pound weight loss mark or got my new coat; at a point when it was less sad, and just factual. In the end though, this jacket is too big and it will be the last winter I wear it. On the upside, I’ll be able to go into a store and pick a new one right off the rack, and that’s a pretty sweet trade off.

I asked him earlier today if he remembered that night, and he thought for a minute or two and said “Vaguely … I know I couldn’t decide and bought myself two coats and then had to return one … I offered to buy you one but you couldn’t decide” – bless his heart.

 

 

 

 

recover(y)(ing)

I’m four weeks post-op from my brachioplasty today and it sort of feels like I just got home from the hospital, but also like it was last year.

The day itself is blurry, I remember us leaving around 5 am to get into the city without too much traffic, which is kind of impossible no matter when you leave, and then having to wait for three months until they took me back.

I remember being hungry – “staaaaarving!” – anxious and freezing.

Despite it being my fourth surgery in the last five or so years, I questioned the anesthesiologist about the likelihood of my waking up during the procedure, I made jokes that a tired nurse laughed at, and someone put my nose ring in a biohazard bag. Three different people promised to go out and get Steve for me, but didn’t.

I remember feeling more anxious but simultaneously relieved when my doctor came in, by the time he finished measuring and drawing on me with a sharpie, his pocket tape measure unraveled and he laughed and he tossed it on the table in a way I remember being so funny – a la Andy Samberg throwing a piece of cake on the ground, but underhanded and not so aggressive – I’m a little high. He told me about his favorite nurses and his excellent intern that would be with him, we talked for a few more minutes since we’re old friends now, and he got Steve and we basically all said goodbye.

Rubbery plastic Bane-esque mask over my mouth and nose that smelled like a beach ball, “You can talk to us, it’s fine, just take a deep breath” …. “This things smells kind of like a bea….”

…four hours later …

My head is heavy, my arms are tight, like really tight and the cutest older nurse is trying to get me out of the bed into a chair. Steve’s back and my doctor and his intern are in jackets in front of me – I remember saying “Are you guys wearing jackets?” and them saying they went to lunch or something – and then my doctor said a bunch of things I misremembered for the following week.

I could barely stay awake on the drive home, and kept nodding off and then waking up asking very specifically for a “Java Chip Frappuccino” from Starbucks. Of course he got it for me, dropped my prescriptions off, took me home, went back for my prescriptions and some Gatorade and stool softener. (Maybe that’s TMI for you, but if you’re ever going to have surgery and be on pain medication you’ll be happy to have it!) I fell asleep sitting up on the couch and eventually moved to the bed where I still slept sitting up.

One drain in each arm, ace bandages tight around the tops and a compression bra/garment over that. Two days later I got to peel it all off (except the drains) and shower. The whole process took over an hour, drains pinned to a lanyard around my neck, and required a nap almost immediately after. But by the next day I’m taking Tylenol, instead of prescription pain pills.

I could wash my own hair, didn’t need any help in the bathroom and had free reign over the kitchen since I had no restriction on range of motion, so cooking (and eating!) was slower, but doable. I just couldn’t lift anything heavier than my coffee pot.

The drains remain the worst part. Hanging from above each elbow from what are basically puncture wounds and keeping me from being able to move as freely as I felt I could. At my two week follow up, my doctor greeted me with a goofy smile and “How are those drains?” To which I replied “I hate you.”

He took them out, examined his work and said everything was healing nicely.  What I didn’t expect, was for him and excellent intern to each start ace wrapping one of my arms starting at the hand and going all the way up to my armpit. Wouldn’t have been half as bad if I wasn’t told to leave them on constantly until the following week when I was to come back.

With the intention of transparency, that day was the only time I experienced any pain, and it was when me got home and I could feel the wrap rubbing against the incision and I cried a little.

Surprisingly, I have yet to ask how much skin and fat he removed, how many stitches might have been used or to see a photo.

And to be super transparent – my mood was totally dampened by the now constant wrapping and the itchy, tight feeling it gave me almost non-stop. I started getting crabby more frequently and “turding out” as we coined it. (This is basically acting like a turd). I would turd out occasionally after my panniculectomy too; when I couldn’t do something, or had to do something that was impeded even slightly by the wrap or binder or inability to flail around fluidly. At one point last week I violently shimmied my body against the doorway while shouting “I’m just so fucking itchy!” and until a few days ago, these swollen, scabbing, wrapped up arms didn’t look any different to me.

I knew they were but I couldn’t fully see it.

One hot shower and photo shoot later I got my brain together and am obsessed with them.

3BAF0C2E-3D8B-4787-9122-02B209E5AAAE

I’m still tired and wrapped from hand to pit, but I can sleep laying down, on my side even! I can do everything I need to except comfortably wear a normal shirt over my garment – I’m glad that the pile of tank tops I never wore and had in a goodwill pile never made it there. Partly because I’ve been living in them and partly because I might actually wear them now.

My bank account and my mental health need a little time to regroup, so the thighplasty I have scheduled for April is getting pushed until the summer. I need time to mentally prepare for potentially swollen calves and toes and who only knows what type of compression garment!

Plus, recovery from surgery, no matter how elective or exciting is exhausting and can be depressing. I need some time to be back in a routine and move my body before putting it on the bench for another few weeks. Please remember that if you are considering any procedure, weight loss wise or plastic surgery.

I’ve only been back to work for three days and I’m exhausted, but my skin is looking less like that of a shut in, I put makeup on and wore shoes that aren’t my slippers, and I have a follow up next week (I should probably bring him a treat for saying I hated him – because I so don’t) that should alter my current wrap situation, so my mood is up.

Swollen arms and hands, misshapen and uncomfortable forearms, temporary limited movement and drains aside; I almost can’t think of a better decision I’ve made in my life.

 

 

 

 

 

armed.

In the midst of a seven thousand step Zumba class last year I took my zip up off to avoid certain death, but the slapping of my arms and the fear that everyone could see it and hear it was enough to take the fun out of it and get me back into my sweat soaked jacket.

I can count, maybe on both hands the people who have seen me in something intentionally sleeveless or short sleeved in my lifetime. That list basically includes my mother, my boyfriend, any doctor I’ve seen and the occasionally friend or family member. Oh – and a nice older lady measuring me in the Victoria’s Secret dressing room.

I barely own anything with short sleeves, and what I do has a coordinating layer. I haven’t owned a bathing suit in at least ten years (save for last summer when I crashed my parents beach vacation) and aside from a handful of unfortunate bridesmaids dresses, business casual tops for funerals and interviews (again covered) my wardrobe is all long in the sleeve.

I used to harass my mother about an outfit that wasn’t long sleeved repeatedly from the time I put it on until I would walk out the door, sometimes even going back in to ensure that she “wasn’t lying” about how I looked, or worse, that she “wasn’t lying about lying”.

I wore the long sleeved shirt or the optional uniform sweater practically every day of my high school career. I’ve had to wear promotional or uniform t-shirts for restaurant jobs that would make me so uncomfortable that I would consider calling out sick, or saying I forgot it knowing they might not have another one on hand in my size. I would sweat my way through bbq’s, push up the sleeves of things to make them more weather appropriate and ‘throw something over’ almost anything I wore.

I may have single-highhandedly kept Old Navy in business with my cardigan purchases over the years.

I have fantasized about upper arms toned enough for tattoos and tank tops or dresses. I have had more people that I can remember offer to take my jacket or ask if I was hot, or comment on my layers.

I’ve gotten better over the last few years, mostly since my smaller body makes me feel less bad about my not smaller arms. I’ve worn things outside of my comfort zone to avoid extreme discomfort or sweating to death. But I still cloak their soft, flabby hanging skin in jean jackets, zip ups and long sleeves. Winter, summer, spring and fall. Not (always) in the privacy of my own home, but for the most part, all day every day.

You would think (I know I did) that losing nearly ninety pounds, having your protruding folds of abdominal skin and fat removed and being able to grab things off the rack in size medium and large I’d be living the good life. And I am, but have also been unable to buy things that otherwise fit because they constricted my upper arms to the point that the sleeve would roll up and practically cut off my circulation, or expose so much of my arm flab that it would double on itself and look, for lack of a better word, gross.

I assumed, even as recently as last year that I would spend the rest of my life in a long sleeved prison, unable to muster the confidence it would take to expose my arms or to find clothes that fit me as well in the body as the arm  – uncomfortable with the skin pinching itself or slapping when I move too quickly.

I’ve been mostly okay with it given everything else I have gained as a result of my weight loss journey. Turns out, I don’t have to be. I am being freed this week.

So soon, in fact, that forty-eight hours from now I will likely be out of surgery and on my way to being discharged to the comfort of my couch.

I’m in a state of excitement mixed with anxiety; I’m not afraid of anesthesia or hospitals, I’m a surgery junky by this point. I am however unable to imagine a body that has ‘normal’ arms – nondescript, average sized arms – since for dozens of years I have pulled, poked and flapped them in frustration. I probably won’t be able to picture it, no matter how many times I pinch it or pull it back in the mirror, until I see it with my own eyes.

armedI’m not one for New years resolutions; not on my fattest day or in my saddest year, but I am armed with complete confidence when I say that I will be leaving my arm flab and related anxiety in 2017 and braving some short sleeved tops in 2018.

 

seasoned.

We’re getting ready to leave town for longer than a weekend, so I am cleaning out the fridge and cabinets of things that might go bad or get stale before we’re back. We usually have tacos on Sunday night, and have leftovers for a few days; not being here would be a waste of delicious leftovers, so we were trying to decide what was quick and easy, and also wouldn’t have to get tossed when we packed up the car.

“Oh you know what sounds good? Maybe some dumplings and your fried rice, we haven’t had that in awhile!”

“Sure, then you can eat the rice for dinner tomorrow, too.”

My favorite part about the exchange is the reference to the fried rice recipe as “mine”. I mean, it is, I kind of made it up a few years back and I tweak it or change things every now and then but it’s one of his favorites, and even friends who have had it rave about it.

Steve takes every opportunity to tell people what a great cook I am, and compliments almost everything I ever make. People rave about and request my mashed potatoes on holidays, or weekend winter visits. My mac and cheese recipe can’t be duplicated, even if I decided to share it because I eyeball the roux every single time. I make a meat sauce that he has commented wouldn’t disappoint his Italian Nana, and people have been impressed by a broccoli dish that I swear to you I once threw together as a hungry fat girl to add to pasta. I’ve made loaves of bread, googled recipes that I’ve tweaked and made my own, perfected a chili recipe so much that Steve notices if I use a different brand of tomatoes and have made pot roast that floods my senses with memories of my entire life.

No big deal, right? I mean I have been baking for what seems like ever.

Except that was it. Aside from what seems like a life time of eating grilled chicken in eighty different ways at a half dozen different restaurants where I worked, I was always counting calories or carbs or points and so any cooking I did for myself was also, grilled chicken. I was a recovering vegetarian who didn’t eat much meat beyond chicken and turkey and I either ate them with veggies, solo or with salad. Plus I was living in my parents house and my mom is a wonder in the kitchen, so I didn’t even have to cook myself half of what I did.

So here I am, shortly after moving in with Steve and I decided that I was going to make him dinner. Obviously we had been eating but I think it was in the frozen pizza, take out or cereal department. So I decide I’m going to make his favorite thing; tacos! I went to the unfamiliar grocery store and excitedly picked up everything I could imagine needing; ground beef, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, a box of crunchy shells.

I’m thrilled to have it ready when he gets in from work and of course I make a grand deal about it, bringing the toppings over and a tray of warm crispy shells stuffed with ground beef.

Like a child who made him a drawing I stare wide-eyed anticipating his reaction, a compliment, and he just nods while chewing.

I take a bite of one of my tacos and it’s not disappointing, but, lackluster for sure, something is missing.

He takes another bite and puts it down. Clearing his throat he says, “What kind of seasoning did you use on the meat?”

Staring at him.

He stares back.

“Oh my God …”

“What?”

“I didn’t … I didn’t even think about it …”

“So, this is just browned ground beef?”

We stare at each other.

I offer to dump all the meat back in a pan and season it up with something, he declines, TO BE NICE I’m sure, and continues to choke them down.

It seems preposterous that a person with the love for food I have always had, fatter or less fat wouldn’t think or remember to season meat. I almost can’t believe it myself.

I don’t know if it’s because I can’t take a compliment, or because I am just impressed with my increased cooking ability, but I tell that story to almost anyone who ever gushes about something I make them to eat.

Every now and then if he says something I make is too salty, or too spicy I remind him what kind of bland browned ground beef meals I could be making, and we laugh about it.

Like I said, we have tacos almost every Sunday.

I wish I could tell you how I season the meat, but it’s eyeballs all the way now that I’m seasoned.

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 hang  ups 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

 

 

Zumba!

Right before the start of 2016, down about fifty pounds, I tried my first group exercise class after my weight loss surgery. I had only been to a few others before and they were extremely stressful situations that caused my anxiety to skyrocket on the drive over, my stomach to flip flop on the walk into the room and then again when faced with the large mirror that would leave me on display no matter where in the room I stood. Exercise in general gave me the sweats because I was sure anyone who saw me doing it would think it was laughable, I had also felt like my body was unresponsive no matter what I was putting into it or making it do, so exercise was a chore, with no real reward. Even when I felt a little better afterward, I was still fat, and still miserable.

So the first class I go to is Zumba.

Ballsy, right?

I had seen commercials for years about the kits you could get to try it yourself at home, I had seen thin, attractive women shaking their overpriced legging clad butts to tropical sounding tunes and I had never had the courage to try, but I was intrigued, and for once I let that overpower the fear of the group class.

Man. It was something. Huge room at the gym, brightly lit with mirrored walls on two sides. Of course I took a place in the back of the class but there were only about ten people in it. It was a weekday before 9am, and the room was a melting pot. I wasn’t the oldest, or youngest, not the fattest or thinnest. I was just a person surrounded by other people who just wanted to dance and sweat something out – calories, stress, bad luck – whatever it was, we all just wanted to leave lighter.

It was loud and fast and fun. It was like all the shit I was doing in my own house when nobody was looking, but to better music. This was exercise? No exercise I ever knew was enjoyable. “Peace out treadmill” I thought as I shook and shimmied all over the place. Checking myself out in the mirror, not caring (too much) about my arm fat flapping as I danced my heart out.

It was the best morning I had had in a long time.

Even though I almost died. (dramatic)

In fifty minutes, my Fit Bit reported over 7,000 steps, I had sweat pooling in my eyebrows and I had drained my water bottle. Somewhat labored breathing but I staggered out to my car, and when I got home, announced that I was going to Zumba the next day, too.

For a few months, I had the time in my schedule to go to multiple classes a week, sometimes I went five times. I was dancing in grocery stores, looking up Zumba videos on You Tube to dance along to at night. I went to the same instructor’s class, and so I was getting all her moves and routines down, I was friendly with people in the class who also went a few times a week. I couldn’t believe I was exercising, for fun, before my coffee even!

I felt light, and happy and totally energized.

I bought fancy sports bras and new pants to hold in my gut, I didn’t care that I had to peel my clothes off after every class, or sometimes had to sit down slowly when suffering from what I called ‘zumba thighs’. I befriended the instructor, and when she was no longer teaching there, I became friendly with her replacement; talking about becoming a Zumba instructor myself, I was borderline obsessed and she offered to take me under her wing and show me the ropes and gave me info on where to sign up for different things.

I was totally on board.

Before that went anywhere, my schedule changed and I could really only make it to classes in the evening or on Saturdays, and those weren’t ideal.

Time passed and summer was almost over and I had my panniculectomy and spent eight weeks basically living on my couch. Every few days I would daydream about going back to Zumba, how much different it might feel now that this extra belly fat was gone, how I could finally get moving in the direction of becoming an instructor myself and sharing this exercise I actually enjoyed with other people. When the time came that I was cleared to exercise, it was also when I was cleared to go back to work, so again, not really ideal. I went to a few evening classes but it wasn’t the same as starting my day off with that jolt, there were no familiar faces, so again, it faded.

I don’t even know if I like it anymore. I’m sure I do but, I mean, if I truly did wouldn’t I have made the time for it? I don’t know if I used timing as an excuse or if it actually was a real constraint, but at the moment, it’s neither.

I have the freedom right now, and for possibly the next few weeks to get to some morning Zumba classes, so I”m gonna go. No pressure on myself to love it like I did, no idea that I am going to go and know all the moves ( I most certainly will not!), no concern about having the flabbiest arms flailing around or anyone paying attention to me.

I’m gonna take my free mornings, grab my water bottle and my little towel and I’m gonna go dance my ass off in that back row.

Maybe as soon as tomorrow.