Satisfaction? What’s that?

I would like to take a pictorial journey through my life thus far, and I invite you to come along.  Please excuse the poor quality of some of the pictures – I took pictures of pictures on a picture quilt.  You follow me?

Let’s begin.

Here is a young Me.  A wonderful Christmas picture that I have seen around my parents’ house for as long as I can remember.  I was a happy baby, it seems.

Note the sausage link arms.

A family Christmas picture when I was eight and a half.  A little bit of chunk going on.  You can especially tell in my face.  It’s like my baby fat didn’t want to go away.

At a fourth grade assembly, clearly Hawaiian-themed.  At ten years old, I had already developed quite a bit.  This was a source of major concern for me, and a reason for teasing amonst my peers.
With my mom and grandmothers at my 8th grade graduation ceremony.  It was during my middle school years that my size began to really take its toll on me.  I hated shopping with friends for things like this and dances.  I couldn’t ever buy anything from the same stores as them.  So whenever we would go shopping, they would politely tell me I should try things on (I’m sure knowing I couldn’t fit into anything in whatever store we were in), and I would lie and say I didn’t see anything I liked.  When all I wanted to do was be small enough to even be able to try things on, whether I liked them or not.  I just wanted to be normal. 
This is one of my parents’ favorite pictures of my brother and I.  Just a spur-of-the-moment picture with real smiles between two kids who, at this point, were pretty regularly picking at each other because that’s what siblings do.  But again, you can see in my face just how big I was. 
 Prom picture.  Shopping for a prom dress was traumatic for me, I remember.  I wanted the big ball gown that all my friends were going to be wearing, but it just wouldn’t work for me, I couldn’t find one that fit.  So I ended up in a salsa-style dress.  And while I loved it, I knew I stood out.  And the requisite wrap to cover my arms.  That had become a pretty normal thing for me by this time, and stayed so until just recently.  I hated my arms.  They were big, fat, flabby.  Just these big sausages hanging at my side.  Ugh. 
Go forward in time about five years to my college graduation.  This is where I was at my heaviest.  I still don’t know how things got quite this out of control.  But I easily reached 265 pounds or so at this time.  A painful number to think about now.  I don’t know if it was the stress of school… It didn’t feel stressful at the time.  Or maybe I just got comfortable.  I have no idea.  But I will say it’s hard to look back at pictures like this without cringing, wanting to close my eyes, look away, something.  I look back and wonder what took me so long to get my life in my own control.
And now, let’s jump forward.  I moved out of the house, out on my own.  I lost a little weight that first year on my own, but not much, and I gained most of it back by the end of the school year thanks to the stress of state tests.  Over the summer between my first and second years of teaching, I spent a lot of time at home.  I started walking every day.  I met the man that would become the Fiance, and I was even more motivated to change.  I had a drive to look my best for him, even though I could tell he liked me just as I was.  He saw past the extra weight and saw me.  I will always love him for that.
When I got back for the next school year, my best friend suggested we join Curves.  I wasn’t sure I would stick to it, but having someone to work out with really helped.  We went as often as we could, 4-5 times a week if we could swing it.  And the weight started coming off.

By the time the Fiance (Boyfriend at the time) and I went to New York City for Spring Break, I had lost about 50 pounds from my heaviest.  I felt great, and thought I looked great, too.  I was so proud of myself.  It wasn’t enough, of course.  I had a goal to meet, and 50 pounds was only halfway to the goal!

By the time the Boyfriend became the Fiance, I had lost 100 pound from my heaviest weight, about 85 pounds from my starting point, and was 15 pounds away from my goal weight.  I look at this picture often and realize I don’t recognize myself sometimes.  I know that’s me, but it doesn’t register in my mind.  The roundness in my face is all but gone.  My arms aren’t covered up and that doesn’t bother me one bit.

I can see why it takes people a second to realize who it is approaching them when I go up and say hi to someone I haven’t seen in a while.  I mean, honestly, I look in the mirror sometimes and don’t know who’s staring back at me.

I don’t know who this girl is.  This girl that people call “skinny” now.  I don’t feel skinny.  It’s hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t gone through such a transformation, so the Fiance has a hard time understanding why I’m still nit-picking about my problem areas and obsessing about what I eat and making sure I exercise enough.  It’s like this: there are days when I look in the mirror and see this skinny (skinnier) girl staring back at me, and I’m not sure who she is.  But most days, when I see my reflection, I still see 265 pound me.  I can’t see the weight I’ve lost.  I just see the flabby arms and the rolls on my back and the tummy pooch.

Which I know is weird and twisted.  Let’s be honest here.  I went from wearing about a size 24 jean to now a size 10, borderline 8.  I went from a 3X (24/26) top from specialty stores to a medium or large top, depending on the brand.  I’ve gone from only being able to shop at specialty stores and in the plus-size section to being able to go into any store and find something that will fit.  All in about a year and a half.

But having looked in the mirror every single day during this transformation, it’s harder for me to see the change in myself.  And most days, I’m still not satisfied with how I look.  Don’t get me wrong.  I FEEL great!  I have energy.  I actually want to go work out.  I want to go do outdoor activities, play sports, do all sorts of things I couldn’t do before.  But I just don’t SEE the difference.

And that is driving me nuts.  I’m left to wonder if I will ever be satisfied with my looks.  I know most women are constantly criticizing themselves and their bodies.  But knowing where I’ve come from, you would think that make me more aware, and help me be more comfortable in my own skin and with the progress I’ve made.  But I’m not.  I have a roll here or there.  I have a double chin in pictures still.  My arms are flabby.  What’s it going to take??

I’m not sure what I wanted to accomplish with this post.  I just need to get this off my chest, I guess.  I’m not asking for praise or anything like that.  I know I’ve done well, I know I’ve nearly accomplished what I set out to do.  I’m happier, healthier, more confident, and I know I’ve set myself up to be able to all sorts of things with my future family that I wouldn’t have been able to before.  I just want to know if I’m ever going to be satisfied with how far I’ve come.

Let me take a moment here and explain something to people who did not grow up being overweight/obese, like I did. This country, really this world, is filled with sizists. People do not like fat people. They attack them constantly. Fat people are bombarded with commercials and billboards and all sorts of things telling them they aren’t good enough, and they’ll only be good enough when they lose the weight. People judge you no matter where you go. They talk down to you, when they decide to speak to you at all. Most of the time, you’re just invisible because you aren’t good enough to be paid attention to.  This has become painfully obvious to me over the course of my journey.  As I’ve lost the weight and become more “socially acceptable” looks-wise, I’ve noticed more people speak to me in general, and they’re nicer.  They’ll actually strike up a conversation.  Why is this, I wonder?  What makes someone who is overweight “less than?”  It angers me, and is something I will never understand.  But this feels like a topic to be explored another day.


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