Down 50 lbs - What has changed
Saturday, September 22, 2018
Well, this has been a long journey. I had been keeping a running list of progress over 25 weeks, and I stopped not because I wasn't making progress, but because that progress did not come with a single pound of weight loss. Maybe I should have kept writing, but it was becoming frustrating to make all these gains in my physical activities, and actually gain a lb or two for all my effort rather than losing!
So, I changed medications yet again. My entire journey has stemmed from initially being anorexic, to years later adjusting myself to a normal and healthy weight only to end up with a life-threatening illness, and then gaining about 70 lbs due to the way the illness affects my body and the many medications I'm taking. And so while I used to be very athletic, now my body does not want to make muscle, and exercise can't really be the way that I achieve all my goals. It is more about trying to find balance for me, increasing my stamina and circulation so I am not bedridden, trying to regain a semblance of my own identity. I want to be healthy, and I want my body to be capable of fun things (and survival)! It's funny, I don't take it for granted anymore. When I was healthy, I thought I was worthless so tried to punish myself with starvation - which is a pretty slow, torturous death. Now that I'm sick, I miss the ease I once had of walking, running, swimming, talking... the boundless energy I had. I didn't deserve to starve it, to punish something that was not my fault. I blamed myself for things that had nothing to do with me.
So while I had good progress for a while, in the last year I have only lost 4 lbs (I actually gained about 10 and then lost 14 this past year), and that net progress has all been in the last few weeks after changing medications again. I have been able to increase my activity a lot, and I now sit up nearly all day, and can exercise for an hour at a time standing almost every day. So that is huge progress. But, these activities actually caused me to gain weight, unlike how it would work for most people, because of the stress it put on my body.
I don't have access to health care, and have to basically be my own doctor. So one thing I figured out, is that I appear to have become dramatically hypothyroid, with a long list of symptoms. I got access to whole bovine thyroid supplements, through trial and error figured out how many I need to take, and the last 15 or so lbs have been from that. I must stress that this is a terrible and dangerous idea, and hard to perfect without having access to labs to test the thyroid levels. But, I mention it because for anyone reading who has all the classic signs of hypothyroidism, and nothing else works, it's actually a pretty common thing - and many people find that a natural supplement works better than synthetic thyroid meds. Best to do in partnership with a doctor or holistic health professional. Most of my issues are pretty rare so not worth mentioning, but this is something that affects a large percentage of people - even when the labs say one is technically within a low but normal range. Plenty of info on the internet about that.
So having now lost 50 lbs total in a long and arduous journey, I am realizing a few things. I do feel a bit lighter, and to an extent, the smaller I get the easier it is for my body to function with this illness. But, ironically, the more weight I lose, the fatter I look. I never had cellulite before, but I have it in abundance now. I am rippled and misshapen all over the place! I never used to look this fat when I was this weight previously. I'm hoping this is temporary, as the skin tries to adjust to all the loss. Some people on the internet report that it gets better if you keep going. We'll see. The other thing I notice, is that since I can't build muscle the way I could when I was healthy, my goal weight might have moved like 10lbs or so lower. Which makes me nervous, because I don't want to run back into the anorexia. But considering I look so much fatter now, and have trouble fitting the same clothes, as I did when I was the exact same weight years ago, I am wondering if I need to readjust my plan - assuming I don't suddenly get cured and can then hold muscle mass. So me with muscle, I am only 15 lbs off from my goal. But me without muscle... I don't know, maybe I'm 25 or so lbs off from the goal? Which sucks. That feels like eons of work away, if I can ever even get there. Theoretically, I could always eat more again easily if I got healthier and then could work to gain some muscle. But being at the lower weight would allow me to have more flexibility with this illness, that if I can't move for long periods of time, at least I would still be a good size for my height. The cellulite and lumps are easy to cover with clothes. But living in a hot climate, it is very tough to cover it all the time, covering arms, legs, and avoiding swimming around people! It's frustrating that I try so hard physically, and all one would think looking at my body is, 'there is someone who is out of shape and doesn't work out.' But I do! All superficial concerns, I know... but it affects the way people think of you, and accordingly how they treat you.
Being thinner costs less money in clothes. It's easier to buy cheap things that look good. Unfortunately, people also treat you with more respect. I am looking at trying to go back to work, and I am likely to get paid more if I look like I'm in shape (even though technically, I won't be - I'll just be trying to pretend I'm healthy to keep my job). People are nicer to me when I'm thin. They seem like they listen a bit more to what I have to say, rather than looking past me like I'm not even there, or rolling their eyes a bit when I speak. I'm the same person. But, it is different. Already, I am now "average" weight - not particularly thin but not overweight anymore - and people treat me like they like me more. I am honestly less interesting than I was when I was heavier, because lately I have been so tired I just don't have much to say. But people act like somehow now what little I do say is more worthy of listening to.
I am kind of afraid to lose the weight, in another way. Oddly enough, it turns out I really liked taking up the space, being a more solid and prominent figure in a room! I had never been so big before in my life... and I found that I liked some things about it. Sure, people looked the other way, and tended to ignore me. But, you couldn't really miss me, you'd have to really WORK to ignore me. I had sort of a little more power, in a sense. Physically. Like being a large mass that pulls others to it by creating gravity? My body was like a force of physics. The smaller you are, the easier it is to blow you away with a small breeze. Your physical presence is slight, and unassuming. As a professional woman, that is kind of a paradox. You want to be taken seriously, but they don't take you seriously when you're overweight. When you're thin, you command more respect in a sense, but are less physically imposing and look somewhat weaker. Like you might be easy to intimidate. Hard to know which to pick sometimes!
Already, people will make comments about my size, and say they barely remember that I used to be heavier. Some people who are not in town much, who only see me once a year or so, said they didn't know it was me... they talked to someone else we both knew and thought I was new to the area, that the me they used to know wasn't there. There is this new respect when they talk to me, like the old me was somehow embarrassing or not smart or didn't have things together, or was to be pitied because nobody would want her. And now, I count as a PERSON to them. I don't go out much, but it is weird seeing how people interact with the same me, at different sizes. I'm not at the point yet of people complimenting my body and coveting it, the way it used to be when I was thin. But I can see that coming, because already the compliments are more in that direction.
When you are thin, suddenly people come up to you for weight loss advice (even if you were never heavy), and assume lots of things about your activity level and what you're good at, and suddenly start commenting on your body all the time like you have things easy, or like you have something that is to be admired and wistfully jealous of. Never mind that when I was very thin, I was actively trying to kill myself. People were always coming up to me and telling me how lucky I was, or that they wanted my life. When I was fat, people pitied me (or ignored me completely). A number of people confessed to me over the years since I got sick that they found me attractive, in secret tones, clearly embarrassed and confused that they could possibly be attracted to an overweight woman! They kept reemphasizing that I am not the body type they usually go for. [Thanks, by the way - the best compliment you can get when someone is hitting on you, is when they start it with a disclaimer...]
Now that I'm average thickness, people at least don't feel sorry for me, but they don't feel like I'm special either. I am in my 30s now, and so I blend into the crowd more. Respected more, but not desired. That is how it is when you're a woman. Most of what people think of you is based on what you look like, and how old they think you are. It's odd that the thinner I am, the younger people perceive me to be, too. That won't last forever, as my skin starts to age. But for the moment, it does seem that if I get back to the weight I was when I was 18 or so, a lot of people would assume I'm not that many years older than that. I already got into one semi argument with a guy recently who kept insisting that I am more than 10 years younger than I actually am, and wanting to know why I am trying to age myself by claiming to be older. Which was weird. So if I lose weight, that is another part of how it changes people's perceptions - particularly people who don't really pay attention to nuance, or notice subtle details in one's appearance that should connote age. It is strange how much weight matters in society, and yet in real life how little it matters at all.
I would like to think I am much healthier now. In truth, I'm not sure. Again, I don't have tests and labs at my disposal to see any change in numbers. Everybody always says that when you lose a lot of weight, you gain a ton of energy. I am very frustrated to confirm that for sick people, that is not at all the case. I feel every bit as exhausted now as I did when I was 50 lbs heavier. So that sucks. But it is easier to move my limbs with what little energy I have, than it used to be. Because I can't build muscle well, I do worry about the fat, and that is one thing that prompts me to feel like I need to be THIN, not just average. Because while I am not a "fat" person now, there is no question when one looks at my body that I have fat on it - and more than I need to have to survive. So I would not be surprised if I have fatty liver or fat on organs that are not great for my health, even now. And I wonder how safe that is, for the long term. Being too thin is also bad for one's health and longevity. But, so is carrying around extra fat, even being "skinny fat." Admittedly, this is where my medical knowledge fails me - because I do eat healthy foods, but I don't know if having this extra fat is a danger to my health anyway, or if it's only a danger if you have diabetes or eat poor foods. No clue. My blood sugar is hard to control, but that has to do with my illness, not a diabetic issue. So I don't know. Hopefully, losing the weight is also extending my fertility, if I happen to get well enough to have children still.
I want to be thinner because I know that if I ever do have the money to go back to doctors again, if I am slim and look in shape, when I bring my medical concerns to them the first they say won't be to assume all my problems are due to weight. They will actually LISTEN to me, and try to figure out how to help. When I was heavier, they did not do any work at all at actually being doctors. Just jumped to "lose weight" before they had even finished walking in the room, much less taken any labs or asked any relevant questions. Like that would magically cure all disease. Like the illness was CAUSED by the weight, rather than the other way around. Even though I got sick when I was average weight, and I gained AFTER.
I'm glad to be able to wear some of my old clothes. I look forward to being able to wear my "thin" clothes again hopefully someday. I hope to lose the last 15-25 lbs in the next few months. Lately, I have been losing 1lb/wk pretty consistently. But of course I never know if that will last. I look forward maybe someday to even being able to buy new clothes - clothes I actually want to wear! It has been forever since I wore clothes I actually LIKED! All of my focus has simply been on finding something that fits me, and is somewhat flattering.
But as I get closer to the goal, I am now looking ahead to my next concern, which will be maintaining. I have managed in the past almost-3-years to continue on this journey, and by most standards the weight loss hasn't been super fast. But I have a long history of losing weight, and then gaining, and losing, and gaining. I am good at losing. I am, so far, NOT good at maintaining. I almost never stay the same weight for a full year or more. My life circumstances always change too much - and at a certain point, I get sick of worrying about superficial things and decide I don't care if I gain weight. Which is fine, but I tend to let it go too far. I think this time, I have to reach a certain point and never allow myself to grow out of certain size clothes. Of course, if I were to get pregnant in the future, that is one thing. But if I don't, then I probably need to try to stay within a certain range from now on. And consistency, is not really one of my strong points. I don't want to be weight obsessed. At a certain point when I reach goal, I probably will not weigh myself at all anymore - maybe only once or twice a year. But, I will need to fit into certain clothes, and stick within a weight range, so that I can stay within a certain range of health and physical abilities. And as I get older, that will be all the more important, so that I maintain fitness and bone strength, flexibility, and circulation. I don't ever want to be limited in what I can do.
I would say, probably the most effective thing I did in all this time to lose weight, was to keep a post-it note pad on my bedroom door. I wrote all the lbs on it from my highest to my goal, and every time I lose a lb, I tear that weight off to reveal the note beneath it with my current lowest weight. Then it stays up there until I lose the next lb. It's way easier to lose a single lb, simply by not eating much at night, or eating more protein, or keeping portions smaller, or eating more fiber, or drinking more water, or whatever the issue may be... than losing 50 lbs all at one time. I used to think if I could just get to the weight I am now (which wasn't perfect but was at least a reasonable weight for me) that I would be far less stressed, and that things would be easier. And while life is certainly not perfect, I was right that being this weight is a lot easier for me. But when I thought about it all at once, it was totally impossible. I just wanted to wake up one morning and have lost all 50 lbs. That seemed totally fair to me, for how hard I was trying, and how much I wanted it. But, it just doesn't work that way. So just focusing on one lb at a time, THAT is doable. When I was healthy, I could lose that in one day if I was committed, no problem. Now that I'm sick, it might take a whole week, or a whole month to drop just one... but it is still possible. And keeping that in a prominent place for me, keeps it on my mind, so I remember when I start my day, and when I'm ending it, that I have a goal to meet that is within my grasp.
I started this wanting to be happier and more in balance, and I do think I have made progress in both. But I do still have a long way to go. I hope that as I keep going, I will feel more and more like myself with every lb lost, and maybe someday that energy will kick in so I can do the things I want to do. And I hope, that I will eventually find the confidence - if only knowing that I accomplished this and I did it all by myself when things once looked utterly hopeless! - to not care in the least someday what other people think of me. So they can think I'm thin or fat, attractive or ugly, great or terrible, and I will just live my life and be the person I came here to be. Having more confidence, would be a great thing. But as many people who lose a significant amount of weight find, it can be slow in coming. It takes a while to adjust to a new body, and a new way of being in the world.
I am grateful to have at last lost 50lbs. I don't stop much to appreciate weight loss, but this was a big deal. I've never lost that much in my life before. I do think losing even 10 more would look dramatically better on me. But someday, it would be awesome to be at a weight I want to keep, so I can finally concentrate my energy on other things, and let this obsession finally fall to the background. I don't want to spend all my time shrinking - which is basically what I've spent the last 3 years doing. Every single lb I lost was very difficult, unlike before when I was healthy and losing weight was pretty easy. It took a tremendous amount of work to get here. I hope within a year from now I'll finally be where I want to be, and can finally spend my life being active with a body that now makes that easier. Knowing how hard this was, I certainly don't ever want to gain and have to go through this again! I'm sure it only gets harder with age. I am very grateful I made it this far. And now when I look at myself in the mirror, I recognize myself a little more. Which is such a relief. For so long, it was like looking at a stranger. Losing weight is like coming back into myself. And to an extent, regaining the health and the years that I lost.