There is something oddly comfortable about being a fat person, at least for those of us who have spent most of our lives that way. As I'm settling into a life of maintenance after a weight-loss journey that took me over two years, I am discovering this person I have never really known. For those of you who are still in weight-loss mode, I hope you'll read this as somewhat of a warning that you may go through these odd feelings too, especially if you've been heavy for most of your adult life. For those of you who are just easing into maintenance, you are likely experiencing similar things. For those of you who have been maintaining for a long while (my true healthy heroes), you may recall when you felt this way. It is not always easy to put my feelings into words, nor am I naive enough to think that everyone wants to hear about them (this is a blog, not a diary after all), but I want to share this because I've undergone some strange emotions as of late, and I'm admittedly having some trouble dealing with them.
When I was a kid, my mom loved horror films and scary sci-fi movies. I spent my Saturday afternoons watching Dr. Creep's SHOCK THEATER, horrified by those old black-and-whites (gimme those over all these cheesy Generation Regurgitation Hollywood CGI remakes any day, though I admit Bela Lugosi was no Brad Pitt when it came to fangs. Louie can bite me anytime, though if he's watching his calorie counts, he might want to wait till next week, after that Mother's Day buffet fiasco). One of my fave old scary flicks was INVASION OF THE BODY-SNATCHERS, as there was some sort of terror underlying the thought that a person could resemble someone but not really be them. These days, I'm sort of feeling like that when I look in the mirror.
When I stepped into that brown dress Sunday and looked in the mirror on my bedroom door, I wasn't upset by what I saw. I love brown, and I don't mind having a waist again, since there was a time when I looked a whole lot more like some sort of overgrown larvae. I am still so appalled by the picture of me at my grandparents' fiftieth anniversary several years ago that I want to puke every time I see it hanging in their kitchen. The thing is, I KNEW that Autumn. Sure, my pantyhose ripped to shreds that day because no nylons should be subjected to the cruel and unusual punishment that poor Size 5X Super Plus Queen Extreme pair had to go through at that anniversary party. Sure, that blue floral skirt could have been used to make enough drapes for the entire downstairs of my grandma's house, or at least a couple decent-sized tablecloths. Sure, I hated having my picture taken then, because cameras were NOT my friends (I take it as a blessing that I was at my biggest a bit before selfies became a trend and everything could be shared on Facebook, but it does make it difficult to find very many "before" pictures of myself). Still, as horrible as living as that behemoth was, as much space as I occupied, it was a comfortable, familiar space. I was "the fat girl." No one looked at me much, and no one said anything when I ate too much cake because over all those years of bigness, they grew accustomed to that very large me and expected me to eat 70,000 calories at every family outing. Of course I heard insults at school and sometimes even among my relatives, but at some point, everyone accepted that fat was my fate. Everyone learned to live with that Autie, and so did I. I didn't like her, but at least I knew her.
Now, that is not the woman I see when I get dressed in the morning. In the past few days, I've heard compliments I've never, ever experienced in my life before. A longtime family friend wrote, "You get prettier every time I see you." Today on my Facebook, I got two "hot mamas." Yesterday on Spark, someone actually referred to me as "smokin'." There isn't exactly a line of potential Mr. Neons knocking on the door of this middle-aged divorcee, but at least in cyber space, I'm hearing compliments that have never really been thrown my way before, not even when I lost a lot of weight way back in 2003. Flattering as it is, it's a lot to process, because I haven't exactly had a lot of experience with anything "smokin' hot," unless you count the Red Hots candy or the polish sausages I love. Tell me, can someone be a "hot mama" if she drives a rusty 1997 Corolla and sleeps in crocheted slippers, with a sock monkey. I thought not.
Another feeling this is all drumming up is the bitter sting of judgment. I have to watch what I eat; that is a lesson I've learned. In fact, for the rest of my life, I will always have to watch what I eat, which is why I'm still lurking around on Spark even after hitting my goal. Why give up on a good thing? Sure, I'll make calorie adjustments for maintenance, but I'll always have to count calories to some extent, unless I wanna go the way of the Biggest Losers and regain my weight. (But we can blame science and biology for that, right? Not the 3,829 calories they're eating? Insert eye-roll here.) Surprisingly, though, others are also watching what I eat. I've noticed this in many situations this go-round, and I noticed it in my 2003 weight loss also. Once in 2003, after I lost over 150 lbs. and hit my goal, I had the audacity to put a dollop of Reddi Whip on my strawberries at a family cookout. A relative who shall remain nameless remarked, "Are you sure you want to eat that? You don't want to get fat again, do you?" That dollop of whipped cream was exactly 18 calories, so the psychological damage he did to me with that remark was far more harmful than the creamy dessert. I was crushed to discover that because I'd lost weight, I would be condemned to forever face the food court; I would forever be judged on every morsel I munched, even by people whose plates were piled with 9,000 calories of carbs, fat, and sugar. It is really no different this time; when I eat in public, those who know I've lost weight take notice. This is going to last a while, I assume, and it's not always easy to deal with. A little accountability and good advice go a long way, but there is a difference between that and unfair scrutiny. I suppose I'll have to remember that I'll forever face the plump parole board, but that's okay. I have no intention of serving a life sentence on fat row.
The last difficult feeling I've encountered is going to come off sounding arrogant, when I'm really not. I lost 174 lbs, a whole Barrack Obama (and I can't tell you how happy that makes me, in more than one way). Sometimes, I want to shout from the rooftops, "Look at me! I'm less than half what I was in 2014!" but I'm not really in the habit of hanging out on rooftops. Sometimes, I want to tell everyone of this accomplishment, but the fact is that the majority of people outside my personal circles do not know I used to be a fat chick. When I walked into Kroger a few weeks back and took my typical trip past the deli just to take a whiff of those yummy fried drumsticks (I used to buy them instead of just sniffing them, so that's progress), one of the workers, a lady I'd certainly have never talked to in person, caught me by the elbow and said, "I have seen you in our store a lot. How did you shrink so much?" I had to smile at that, because a complete stranger had taken notice, and this is not usually the case. One of the difficulties of losing all this weight is that people assume I've always been normal sized. They don't realize I had to give up my favorite roller coaster because I could no longer fit in the seat. They don't know that those six chicken legs I used to buy were all for me. They don't know I used to cry every day after gym class because I was so embarrassed that the other girls saw me change. They don't know I stopped going swimming when I was 12 because I was too ashamed to wear a swimsuit in front of anyone, and I never learned to swim because of it. They don't know there was a point when I literally could not fasten the seatbelt in my Corolla or that my ankles used to swell up like softballs every night or that even after 8 years of marriage, I could hardly stand my husband to look at me. They don't know what I was, so they don't see the remarkability of what I am now. I'm not sure if this is more difficult to deal with than the compliments I'm not used to, but it is yet another layer of not being the woman I've always been.
Deep down, I'm still me. I still have my weird sense of humor. I still love British accents, stupid reality shows, 80s movies, and listening to copies of my mom's old records. I'm still an occasionally strongly opinionated conservative, a Baptist church girl who knows the words to all those old hymns we sing on Sunday mornings. I still hate the color yellow and have nightmares about sharks. I still love fast food and some junk food, and I get the most enjoyment out of simple, silly times with the people I'm closest to. I'm still nostalgic and sentimental, a real sap at heart. I am all the things that make me me, yet the outer shell of me is very different, and those differences are something I and everyone around me has to get used to.
Whether you are in maintenance already or are headed there (because I believe in you and know you WILL get there someday), these are things to consider. Life is not a stagnant pond; there are always ripples, always changes, some for the good and some for the bad. The good Lord gives us some say-so, choices in the changes that will affect us, and one of those is losing weight. It takes time to deal with the outcomes, to get used to the results, and I'm sort of introducing myself to a new me and trying to get to know her. Hopefully, I'll find that she's a pretty cool chick, because I intend to be her for a very long time. I may always be a mess, but at least I can strive to be a hot one in the process!