I don’t want to make it seem like I am complaining about something great that I have been hoping for, but this post is about the weird/unsettling side of losing weight, which I don’t see written about very often. At the risk of seeming complainy or ungrateful, I want to write about some of the more unnerving parts of weight loss.
Today I went through my closet (again) and tried on a bunch of clothes. I have a fun party for one of my closest friends coming up this weekend, and I thought, YAY I can wear something cute! Remember my nifty Cleopatra dress? I just bought that in April. When I tried it on this morning, it hung on me like a loose sack. The armholes are huge and it just doesn’t look right anymore. The only way I can wear it is if I get it professionally altered, which is what I guess I am going to have to do. I know, maybe some of you are saying POOR BABY, I WISH I HAD YOUR PROBLEMS! but this was the first time in my weight loss that I have felt weird and unsettled. It made me feel sad and suddenly like everything was shifting and that I was somehow not holding on to my image, or something. It’s hard to explain.
I feel in a way like things are moving more quickly than my psyche can keep up with. It’s like every few weeks I am a different size and while on one hand this is very exciting, it’s also strange. Like the ground is made of jello.
After I tried on the dress, I went to the kitchen and ate a little leftover bowl of mac and cheese that my daughter made a few days ago. I have not eaten any mac and cheese since January- it was my one go-to comfort food, and it just has a tinge of danger for me. But in that moment I was feeling like I needed to be grounded in something familiar, and I thought, I need to put on the brakes.
Let me say right out. I am not “skinny” by any stretch. I’m not like falling into anorexia or anything. I’m just venturing into a physical territory where I have not been in probably 20 years and that is disorienting and strange. Like I’m in some sort of Alice in Wonderland funny mirror shapeshifting place.
I do think it is time for me to halt the loss and maintain for a while. Maybe a LONG while. I need to get used to this, and stay here for some time. I can’t be buying new clothes every four weeks.
(NOTE: I almost deleted this post. I don’t want people getting mad at me for a “problem” they WISH they had. But I’m going to keep it up.)
This reminds me of many writer friends of mine, published writers who get flak for expressing a hard time they might have in the publication process – it’s lonely and hard to be on book tour. There’s “too much” attention. They have to deal with book reviews or readers who might not like their book.
The thing is, with any success there also comes some kind of loss: a loss of identity that has been familiar for a very long time. For a long time, I have comfortably lived in the role of Overweight Person. (as well as Unpublished Novelist, but that’s a different story) Even though I didn’t like much about it, I was USED to it. I am not used to this. I feel like I am stepping into the big unknown – exciting but also terrifying on some level.
BTW, it was good to have that little foray into the mac and cheese. It gave me a stomach ache, and didn’t really help me feel any better. A good reminder.
June 18, 2009 at 7:27 pm
Please don’t delete your post or feel bad about it. Maybe some of us wish we had that problem, but everyone is at different points on different journeys. This is yours – own it. We come here to read about you are how this is affecting your life.
That being said…
I understand this. There are other people online who have written about it if you care to seek those posts out. That unnerving feeling is about identity. You are changing so much and so rapidly that you feel like you are losing yourself, or who you used to be. The unknown is SCARY for everyone. I haven’t even lost the weight and I’ve wrestled with this problem. Will I still be me if I’m not overweight like I have always been?
Your mac and cheese episode was reaching out to a little part of the old you still left. I’m glad at the end you said it didn’t make you feel any better. The old, overweight version of yourself doesn’t define you. You might have lost weight and changed habits but you are still YOU! You might not have seen this version of you for 20 years, but is still you. It will probably be hard to adjust completely to all the new things that will happen – people really do treat you differently, clothes fit differently, etc – but you can do it. You don’t need to hold on to the image of the fat you. The new you is the real you. You will figure how to live and own it soon enough. Keep sharing your stories as you do!
June 18, 2009 at 7:31 pm
Oh my dear Foodie I can so relate to this post and I am so glad you didn’t delete it because you have hit upon an issue that no one seems to care about…what happens when we’ve reached our goal and we’re not focused on weight loss any more but maintenance?
For the media, the weight loss industry, our friends, our family, it’s all about the weight loss, the “before” and “after” and that’s it. And we feed into too, because we’re so excited to finally be “successful”, to prove ourselves.
The fact is, our heads sometimes have a hard time keeping up with the changes in our bodies and yes, it can feel like a loss. I know for a fact that regaining 20 pounds was a direct result of some of the attention I got that I really didn’t feel I deserved. I am not blaming it, but now that I am aware, I approach things much differently.
The fact that you are expressing your fears and uneasiness is important, not just for yourself, but for everyone. Don’t stop.
June 18, 2009 at 7:54 pm
I’m glad you decided not to delete this post. It’s a side of weight loss that so few ever see because it’s less “glamorous” to discuss. Karen’s right: the media portrays “skinny” as the only way to be, so we are all programmed to believe that it’s the only way to be happy. But you, like many of us, have been a member of another world for so long that you were forced to find a spot in it to settle into and learn to be comfortable as you were.
It’s scary to look in the mirror and see something other than what you’ve seen for years. Only the very bravest people can face it. I haven’t lost much weight yet, so I’m not near this stage, but the thought of reaching it terrifies me. I want it to be a happy day for me, not a day of fear.
I fully support your decision to maintain. You’ve already proven to yourself that you can lose the weight. What you need to do now is allow yourself time to grow accustomed to the change. You’re doing what’s instinctual, and I think it’s the right choice. Don’t be ashamed of it. You know you’re doing this specifically so that you WON’T panic and go back to old habits. That shows admirable strength — the same strength that allowed you to publicize this post.
We’re all proud of you for your commitment, your determination, and your bravery. Do what you know is best for you.
June 18, 2009 at 8:07 pm
I’m glad you didn’t delete this post, too. I hear you and have, at times, felt a little bit the same way. Of course I’m delighted that I’ve gotten to where I’m at, even though I’m still about 22 pounds over the healthy BMI range for my height. But I suspect that I’m maintaining (rather than losing) because there is a little part of me that isn’t ready to go lower right now. It’s not so much the attention–yes, I got many supportive and nice comments, and it felt awkward in some ways, but it’s dying down a bit and I’m glad. I’m sure part of it is logistical: How how obsessive will I need to be to go lower? I’m not sure I can fit more exercise into my life, so I’d need to eat less…and I feel like I’ve finally gotten comfortable with the amount I’m eating now. Most of it, though, is feeling a little…oh, for lack of a better word, like a traitor? Some people in my life are feeling a little jealous, and a bit “left behind” in a sense. I don’t think it’s anything I’m projecting per-se, and that’s the last way I’d want anyone to feel. But I must keep doing the healthy stuff so I can maintain good quality of life as long as I can; stopping all my good habits and going back to the old ones is not an option.
Gotta say, though, that for the past 4 months or so, I’ve been bobbing up & down around the same number, and the unsettled feeling does go away after awhile of maintaining. I think what I’m struggling with now is how to jump-start things again, or just hold steady for a bit longer?
June 18, 2009 at 8:20 pm
Foodie, I am so glad you left this post up & that you wrote it. I went through my drawers this weekend and realized there are so many things that are way too big. My closet is looking bare. I am going to have no clothes at all to wear very soon. I don’t have the money to replace everything so I am trying to learn to live minimally ~ easier to do since it is summer & will be in shorts & bathing suits most of the time. I probably need a new bathing suit since the last time I put mine on was 40+pounds ago. I am also finding that other than sports bras I only have like 1 bra to wear. I am having anxiety about walking into a store and needing help with a size. Clothes are almost as bad ~ I am verging on leaving the plus-sized store and I am not sure how I feel about this.
Sorry to ramble.
Thanks for the post.
June 18, 2009 at 8:55 pm
Not that long ago I did a ‘boot camp’ with a medical team fighting obesity with education. One of the key things they talked about was how people want to loose weight vs how they should loose weight.
Most people want to drop the weight and keep it off. (They had a graph of 5 years showing a drop of 50lbs in the first year and holding flat for 4 years).
The way these team recommended losing weight was changing a habit, dropping 10lbs in 2-3 months and keeping it off for the rest of the year. The next year, repeat with a different habit. Rinse and repeat for the 5 years until the full 50lbs are off.
It’s an interesting idea. One that might be more comfortable for you.
June 18, 2009 at 9:28 pm
I think you’re brave for having posted this. I think I may have been too afraid to do so.
I haven’t lost a lot so far, but I know what you mean. And if you need to slow down and maintain, of course that’s your choice. You should do what feels right. We get so used to certain things in our lives – especially our body image – and it’s weird to leave it behind even if it was a negative health-wise.
June 18, 2009 at 11:01 pm
I’ve experienced this, too. About 3 years ago I got down to my lowest-ever adult weight. I felt good about what I’d accomplished, but also weird and unsettled. I didn’t feel like “me.” I suspect that I used that feeling as an excuse to sabotage myself, because I only stayed at that weight for about a week before I let it creep up.
June 18, 2009 at 11:18 pm
I AM PROUD OF YOU!
June 19, 2009 at 3:04 am
This makes perfect sense to me! I’ve long believed that those pesky plateaus are just periods where our bodies need to adjust to our new body chemistry. Similarly, we have to make allowances for our minds to catch up with the changes. Just think how we react to other changes in our lives and how it takes us a while to adapt. It only makes sense that physical changes would unsettle us a great deal. Thank you for sharing this! You are fabulous!
June 19, 2009 at 7:25 am
That’s a really responsible decision. I am very proud of you. 😀
June 19, 2009 at 11:55 pm
I LOVE this post. Thank you. I’ve lost 55 pounds and I think I feel much the same way you do. I’m at a plateau right now, but I wonder if I’m subconsciously keeping myself there. I still have 25 lbs to lose but I haven’t been at this weight in 24 years. I don’t always recognize the woman looking back at me in the mirror and I recently realized I’ve been wearing looser clothes. Trying to get back to the old me for a while? I wonder if that weird, unsettled feeling is one reason we tend to gain the weight back. Thank you for identifying it.
We’ve worked hard to lose this weight but maybe we need to let the inside catch up to the outside.
June 20, 2009 at 1:18 pm
I have heard of this so many times. When we are heay we think being thin will fix everything and the truth is we are the same fat or thin. We still havethe same insecurities, issues etc. they will just show up in a different way.
It can take years to embrace the new you and it will be exciting and challenging at the same time.
You have made amazing progress and are such an insipration to us all. Thank you for sharing and being so honest.