Learning to Live in a Different Body

Recently, I listened to a podcast about learning to accept your body after losing a significant amount of weight.  Since this is pretty much my situation, I was eager to hear the advice this podcaster had to give, and… I was rather disappointed.  It wasn’t that his advice was not good; it was just really nothing I hadn’t heard before. It seemed to me to be mostly a lot of “feel good” mantras that I don’t think address my issues.  I also wanted to ask what does he consider a “significant” amount of weight?  20 lbs? 40? That’s a lot of weight to lose and it does cause some changes in your physique, not to mention your head, but my issue is a little bit bigger than that.

I’ve lost approximately 160 lbs over the last two years and there have been some really BIG changes in my life, my body and (loathe though I am to admit it) my head. I admit that when I first started losing weight in early 2015, I was pretty jazzed.  It was nice that my clothes were feeling looser, my shoes fit better and my knees weren’t aching as much as usual.  I liked feeling lighter, but eventually, I noticed that as my body got smaller, other changes became more noticeable and some of these changes were not so much fun.

Probably the most noticeable and most not-fun change was loose skin that continues to accumulate.  I noticed it first on my thighs when I lie flat: my legs look like they’re melting, and the more weight I lose, the looser the skin gets. It now sags in pockety pouches on my thighs, over my knees and now, over my ankles.  When I work out in the pool, it floats weirdly, almost like it’s attached to my bathing suit, and my saggy butt is saggier.  There is now a little pouch on my stomach above my waistline and a lovely turkey wattle under my chin.  I have bat wings on my upper arms and “fringe” on my forearms.  As I said, it’s not fun but neither is it the end of the world.  I knew it was coming: you can’t be as big as I was and not expect this when you lose weight.  It’s a little gross, and sometimes inconvenient, but it was entirely expected and I hope once I have reached my goal weight, I can get it removed.  That will be a whole ‘nother experience in itself!

There are some other things that come along with dramatically changing your size that I did not expect.  One of the changes that I was actually looking forward to was the steering wheel in my truck.  Obviously, I had to tilt the wheel up so I could turn without it rubbing against my belly, and now there is so much distance, I was thinking it’s time to tilt it back down, especially since one of the unexpected changes is that now I sit a lot lower on the seat. The bench seat in the truck does not adjust up and down, but apparently, my butt does.  Losing all that butt padding has “lowered” me a couple of inches at least and now I have to lean forward to see the end of the truck’s hood.  I was really not expecting that!

I think one of the other things in conjunction with losing some butt padding is that while my knees feel a whole lot better, the bone spur in my lumbar spine (low back) has not improved.  It hurts a lot when I have to sit for more than an hour or so.  That would normally not be a problem, except that I commute for almost two hours each way, five days a week.  So twice a day, each week day, my low back protests rather loudly.  In addition, I’ve noticed how much bonier I am.  My dog in particular has noticed, since he used to be able to lay on one of my thighs and now he slides off.  My knee, which used to make a nice platform for him to jump from, is now much narrower.  My joints are more prominent which makes for some painful whacks as I’m not used to them having way less padding.

My rings have gotten a lot bigger.  I sort of knew that was coming, but now they are so loose I have to put them on my thumbs or my middle finger to keep them from falling off. I also knew my clothes would continue to get bigger, but I have a binder clip keeping my pants on right now and I need a new swim suit because the old one starts to slide off in the pool. I keep adjusting my sandals tighter and tighter because they keep getting looser and looser.  My mom used to try to tempt me to lose weight with promises of a new wardrobe but I’ve never liked buying new clothes, even in smaller sizes now.  Of course, do I buy new clothes so I can shrink out of them too before they wear out?

I’ve also started noticing the changes in temperature a lot more: I was never one of those people who’s cold all the time, but I’ve noticed that I feel it a whole lot more than I used to and I know that’s because I’ve lost 100+ lbs of “insulation.”  I’ve had to adjust the thermostat at my house and in the car because I just get too cold sometimes, but this was another change that I could not have anticipated.

These are the physical changes;my lifestyle has changed in healthier ways: I eat better, eat less and am more active.  I sleep more and sleep better and those are good things.  If I’m watching tv in the evening, I’m not automatically scarfing something down something sugar- and carb-laden.  But the changes in my head are a little harder to explain and deal with.  I keep looking at the number on the scale getting smaller and smaller and it’s a little scary.  Sometimes when I’m writing it down, I think I must have written it wrong: it can’t be 277; I must have meant to write 377, but no, it’s a 2 not a 3 on the scale.  I catch my reflection as I go by a mirror and I think “who is that person?” because I really don’t recognize me sometimes.  In fact, the facial recognition software in my mom’s computer also doesn’t recognize me!  She was going over it with the tech who said “that’s a different person” and my mom told him, no, it’s my daughter.  He did the mother of all doubletakes! I’ve had other people not recognize, including my mom (she walked right by me at a restaurant recently). It’s odd to think that losing weight can be frightening but it is.  I heard once that one of the reasons we find it so hard to lose weight is that we are conditioned to recover what we lose, so when we lose 5 lbs, we try to gain it back.  I don’ t know if that’s true or not, but when I think that I’m slowly turning into a different person, physically and mentally, I start wondering a little about who this “new person” is. I wonder how else my life will change.

Last week I was at a festival at our local Greek Orthodox church; for $15, you get to see the Greek youth dancers, a chicken dinner and the opportunity to spend money on pastries and other things.  Usually my friends and I have pastries, coffee, watch the dancing, do some shopping and have our dinner in the park next door.  It’s a fun and busy day, but when I did this before, I was eating Paleo but I was still relatively new to it.  This last time, I noticed how much of the dinner were things I don’t normally eat, like rice, peas, bread and of course the pastries.  I still enjoyed the day, but later that evening I started craving protein.  Pretty much all I’d had that day was the feta cheese in the salad and the chicken.  It was so weird remembering that I used to eat like that all the time, meaning most of what I ate was refined carbs, breads, and pastas.

I’ve also noticed that more guys are talking to me.  I’m not the kind of woman guys normally talk to and smile at, but I’ve noticed more of them are. I’ve had guys ask me out, which is really awkward.  The person I used to be didn’t date.  I think part of it was there aren’t a lot of guys attracted to women my size, but I was always someone who liked living alone (if living with a pack of pets counts as alone!).  All of a sudden (it seemed to me anyway) guys are interested, and frankly, I don’t really handle this well.  Do I even want to date?  Is this one of those things where I don’t know what I’m missing? Talk about FOMO! If I don’t know what I’m missing, am I really missing out?? Honestly, this was the last problem I’d ever thought would come up! I’m fifty years old and worried about dating?! (Not going into the weightloss- menopause issue, but yeah, there’s an issue!)

This is kind of where I am right now: getting thinner and getting a little scared of getting thinner (Stephen King nightmares here). Not sure of who I’m turning into and trying to handle some of the more unexpected changes. This is why I was so eager to hear what this lifestyle guru had to say about accepting your body after significant weight loss.  A lot of his talk was about how to handle those old pics of the fatter you and that “little bit of loose skin.”  It was perfectly appropriate for his audience, which I’m assuming are people who’ve lost 20-40 lbs or so.  I am not in his target audience; I’ve lost the equivalent of an adult human. Believe me, I’m not whining about getting thinner and I certainly do not want to go back to the person I was, but a little guidance down the new road would be nice! I remember as I was gaining the weight, there was a slow and sometimes difficult transition into an obese person: things like buying bigger clothes, not fitting into chairs and cars, painful body parts and embarrassing close up situations in tight quarters where everyone was squished to let the “fat girl” in the room.  I don’t know why I would be surprised that there’s a transition back to being skinny.  I just didn’t know there would be so many bumps and odd detours.

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