Friday, March 15, 2013

"Your face looks thinner. Have you lost weight?"

Comments such as the post title have been coming at me in the last week from people in entirely different social circles. So they clearly have all noticed it on their own and not discussed it with each other. It's really weird to hear because 1) they've all said something in the last week and not before, and 2) I haven't noticed any visual evidence of my weight-loss.

Some of my clothes fit better (read, they're no longer like spandex) but for the most part I think my t-shirts and jeans feel the exact same way now as they did a month ago. This is probably because both of those articles of clothing are made of stretchy material while my khakis and jackets are not, but I really don't feel any smaller in my clothes nor do I see myself as thinner when I look in the mirror.

I think part of the "denial" about my weight-loss is due to the fact that I never really saw myself as all that fat. I mean, I know I have fat but for some reason I believe that it's a somewhat thin layer covering a lean, tall, mass of muscle, none of which is true in real life. In fact, I'm obese, 5'4", and have nearly 50% body fat. But I seem to think otherwise, which is why I've let myself get to this weight in the first place. I'm really good at ignoring reality.

Because my perception of my size is so warped, every time I see a picture of myself I am surprised by my weight. Practically every time I see something posted on Facebook or look through pictures I have taken during a trip, I am taken aback by how obese I really am. Each picture is honestly a shock to me and since I'm not looking at them all the time and there aren't many mirrors in my life (at least not from the chest down) it is really easy to see myself as what I'd like to be instead of what I really am.

In that respect, I really only have two perceptions of people's body sizes: fat and thin. Since I've always thought of myself as fat for as long as I can remember (albeit, normal fat -- see two paragraphs below), I associate my current size with the "fat" I remember from high school, when I weighed a whopping 155 pounds. Yeah, I wasn't fat at all and I wish I was that weight now, but in high school for a 5'4" girl, 155 is way bigger than "normal". And since I haven't gotten skinny since that time, in my mind I'm still in the same fat category of my youth, which is big but not all that big. So you see where my current disconnect with reality comes from.

To go even farther back with my issues of fatness, in third grade there were three kids in my class who were constantly teased for being fat. I wasn't one of those three and I never understood why not. I felt lucky for escaping the ridicule and sometimes even joined in on the taunts (not my brightest moment) but I just couldn't comprehend why they were getting flak for their weight while I was considered normal. Where was the line drawn? Because in my mind, anyone thicker than a bean pole was fat. And I sure wasn't a bean pole. Not even close.

It's taken a long time for me to realize that people can have fat on them and not be "fat". And I still catch myself thinking that being a bean pole is the only way to go. It's a distinction that I continue to struggle with and I don't think it's going to be fixed any time soon. I still notice thicker normal-sized people and don't think of them as "normal" per se, even though they're a size 10-12. For some reason I focus on their large hips or non-sculpted arms and see "fat" instead of their natural, perfectly fine body.

Part of this is due to being bombarded by society's unrealistic perception of beauty, part is due to living in a ridiculously thin town where The Roommie (a size 10) feels fat, and part is due to constantly being told to lose weight by my family from an early age. Regardless of the reasons behind my thinking, I just can't get past the thought that anyone who isn't lean, isn't normal-sized.

It's this mindset that makes me worry that I'll never be content with my weight no matter how thin I eventually become. I will always have fat on me because those are the genes I have been dealt and I do actually love having hips. I also don't strive to be athletically thin because I don't have the will-power or desire to commit to that eating and training plan.

So unless I change my way of thinking, I will always be unhappy about my body. And after all the work I will have hypothetically put into losing 85+ pounds, I want to have a body I am at least somewhat satisfied with. It's probably not going to be conventionally beautiful, but I'm hoping it'll be normal.

To go back to what started this post and to end on a positive note, I guess I kind of knew that I was losing weight because the number on my scale has been going down for some time (it's stubbornly stuck between 201.0 and 200.5 lb right frustrating!). But I didn't see the loss on my body and thus I didn't believe it. After-all, I still have a lot of fat on my arms, my thighs, and my stomach, and taking a few pounds off doesn't really move me to the "thin" category, which is where the true distinction lies. Right now, I don't believe the loss makes that much of a difference in my appearance. That is, until my friends and colleagues spoke up.

One comment from The Roommie wasn't even enough to budge my way of thinking. It had to come from several different directions and had to be off-hand, not me soliciting comments but them initiating the discussion. Only after I had heard this several times did I even consider that going down one belt hole was an option for keeping my pants situated on my hips. I then realized that I can actually go down two or even three more and still be comfortable.

When cleaning my room, I started trying on the clothes I had bought "for when I lose weight"...and I started fitting into some of them! I'm currently consistently wearing size 16 pants and shorts, which a huge surprise because I was a solid 18 when I started this, sometimes even needing a 20.

So although I may not notice any weight-loss when I look in the mirror or glance through pictures, other people are noticing and my clothes don't lie. I'm using that outside input as a way to retrain my brain to a more normal way of thinking so hopefully somewhere down the line I will be able to see these changes on my own.

I may have a long way to go, but at least I'm getting somewhere right now.

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