They tell you when you decide to have weight loss surgery that the physical changes you undergo will touch off emotional reactions. Here’s how my handbook puts it: “Although you have intentionally undergone the surgery to resolve your obesity, weight loss changes the life style you knew so well. Even with its problems and tensions, obesity was comfortable, it was known. Now that life is gone.”
This is not something you really understand until it happens. I read these words. I read about the stages of grief, which many patients go through after weight loss surgery. I thought I knew what it meant. I thought it meant that I was comfortable with my old eating and (lack of) exercise habits, and that I’d have to be strong to adjust to the changes.
So I prepared myself to change my eating and exercise, and I’ve worked really hard at both. And while I do find it depressing that it’s difficult for me to get enough protein each day, I’ve felt strong, and I’ve persevered. Every day is a victory.
But that wasn’t what the handbook was talking about at all.
Today, I am just barely (by .1 pound) into the 170s. My body has changed so much. Sometimes I don’t recognize myself. My face is slimmer, but to me it looks like Play-Doh, like a field of enormous dimples. In the apartment complex fitness center the other day I looked in the mirror and saw an ugly old woman, thin hair pulled back from a big pasty face. It was me.
When I look at my naked body in the mirror, I can see that I’m starting to have a more pleasing shape. But I can also see how being fat has destroyed my skin. I’ve got the surgery scars, of course, but worse than that, I’ve got stretch marks. Everywhere. Stomach, arms, legs, breasts, everywhere.
I have always held in my head this perfect image of how I’d be if I wasn’t fat. I’d look great in a bikini. I’d have a cute face with big eyes and smooth skin. I’d look young.
I’ve never really worried about age before. I’ve never worried about whether or not I could look like my perfect image, because I never thought it was possible to not be fat.
I didn’t really know this until today.
Now I’m looking at myself in the mirror and I’m disappointed. I’m not approaching that perfect image. When I reach whatever final weight I reach, I’m not going to look 22. I’m not going to be able to wear a bikini.
I had never thought of myself as vain before. I always thought I was “above” that somehow.
Now I know that I was just using my obesity as a shield.