I remember this day clearly in my head despite the fact that it was a day B.K. (“Before Kids” which seems like forever ago in relation to most things.) I was shopping for some new clothes and I held up a pair of size 6 jeans. They looked so tiny! I thought to myself that there was no way I could fit into those, but I felt I should at least TRY to get them on to see where I was in my weight loss journey. I added them to my pile and soon headed to the dressing room. When I got to the jeans in question, I slid them on and buttoned them. They fit.
I took them off and looked at the tag on them. Both the outside tag and the inside one. Both said they were, as I thought, a size 6. But how was that possible? Was this size 6 more like a size 10 or 12 somewhere else? Were they supposed to be a baggy fit or something? No.
This. This is what happens when you lose a lot of weight. Because even when your body changes, even when the workouts get easier, even when the scale number has changed significantly, and when people tell you that you look great and to “keep it up” and everything is less of a struggle and the mirror looks different than it used to .. Even when all of those things happen .. You still don’t get it. You still don’t realize it. Your brain hasn’t caught up to your body yet. You’re still fat on the inside.
I went from a size 20 to a size 6. I didn’t even feel the numbers going down because I didn’t buy all the “in between” sizes. It was too expensive and I was too cheap. And honestly, I didn’t know if I’d be able to keep the weight off. Just as many people have “skinny jeans” they aspire to wear someday in their closets, I had “fat jeans.” A safety net. So when I finally got to a size 6, I not only didn’t think there was any possible way that I could get my big thighs or enormous butt into them, but if I did, I didn’t know how long they would last.
People treat you differently when you lose weight. You don’t even notice it so much when you’re at your heaviest, though you are painfully aware of the fact that maybe that cute guy isn’t looking at you because he’s not interested in “your type.” But in everyday life, you’re just doing just that, living. And then you lose weight and people are literally opening doors for you. And looking you in the eye when they talk to you. And sometimes those cute guys are even checking you out. Some people are nicer to you. And other people, the more insecure ones, might even be not-so-nice. You start to notice these things, but you still might not associate it with dropping some dress sizes. Because you’re still the same person, right?
Except you’re not. You’ve changed. And people’s reactions to you have changed too. But what’s even harder is what’s going on inside your head, because you’ll never be able to see what others do. It takes time for you to change what you are, but that’s what you have to do when you lose weight. Accepting it is harder than you may have realized.
I used to go home after work and eat and watch TV. I started going to the gym instead and doing some more “mindful eating” and found a different lifestyle actually made me happier than the food used to. However, it took a long time for me to accept that life was different from here on out, that this wasn’t just a “phase” I had to get through before going back to my old life. Your brain is the last thing to make peace with those changes. There are so many things associated with the comfort of food and the rituals of eating. Memories are directly connected with smells and tastes. Acceptance is part of getting healthier, and this is a life lesson, not just something you connect with in AA. Knowing that you can’t go back is both exhilarating and scary. You have to mourn that life a bit in order to move on. You have to break-up with those bad habits. In my opinion, it’s okay to come back and visit sometimes so you don’t relapse completely. Just not every night, or even most nights. But if you think you have to live on broccoli and never get ice cream again, you’re going to go a little insane eventually. Like with anything, there’s some safety in moderation. And in limits.
To be clear, I’m not telling anyone that they have to be skinny to be happy. Happiness, love, and all the beautiful things in life come in every shape and size. And I am certainly not one to talk, because I am not built like a barbie doll. I have soft curves and cellulite and stretch marks and hips and thunderous thighs. And that’s, for the record, because I love food. All the food. Food will always be my biggest weakness. I can run 20 miles tomorrow, but I can’t leave that piece of chocolate cake in the fridge uneaten. But I also know I’m not willing to stop really “living,” and food and the happiness that goes with it is a part of that. No matter your size .. a size 0 or a size 25.. it’s what we were given and it might go up and down and no matter what, we should wear it. Stretch out and prance around in it. It’s a lot to be grateful for.