Sunday, February 14, 2010

The New Normal

Sending out a big hello and thank you to Marsha over at A Weight Lifted who posted my interview last Friday! (See “Keeping Lost Weight Off: 168 Pounds for Three Years.”

I can’t believe it’s been nearly three years since I reached goal. I remember the days when I’d hit some weight goal and think, “Yay! I can eat again!” and proceed to reward my success with food. Then when the scale started creeping up, I’d get all pissed at myself and think I was not normal because if I was normal I could eat normal foods, right? And in whatever quantity, right? I’d like to say this only happened once, that I learned my lesson quickly. But heck no. I thought this way YEARS.

That’s why BEFORE I lost weight this last time (and it is my last time), I had to figure out why I kept dancing up and down the damn scale. What I learned (and honestly, this made me sad at first) was that everything I thought of as “normal” – from the food I ate, both in types and quantities, to my views on exercise (like George Carlin said, “No pain? No pain!) – had to change. I had to adopt a “new normal” if I was going to A) successfully lose weight, and B) keep it off for good. Whatever I’d done in the past had to be scrutinized under a microscope. Old ideas were tossed out the window and new ideas were embraced and implemented. And when I got to goal, my “new normal” – in terms of food and exercise – was for the most part in place, although a few demons still lingered (Teddy Grahams cravings, anyone?).

One thing I hadn’t considered until I got close to goal was how I’d feel about my reduced body. When I weighed 138 pounds in 1991, the only loose skin I had was in my lower belly, and I’d proudly earned that through two pregnancies. My legs were smooth, my boobs were perky, my arms were taut. As I approached goal in 2007, it was apparent things had changed in 16 years. My ass was droopy, my upper arm skin kept flapping after I stopped moving, and when I put on a cute lacy bra, my armpits spilled over the sides. Armpit skin? Seriously?

And so began my sub-journey of body acceptance, one that continues three years later. What I’m beginning to suspect is that, like food and exercise, I will forever need to be vigilant in order to stop that negative voice from getting too much air time in my head.

I wanted to open up a question to you for your insights about body image, perfection and self-sabotage. It stems from a comment left on my last post, "Lady In Red, Do You Know Your Numbers?" Blogger An Invisible Girl left this comment:

“I just found your blog by clicking through from someone who follows mine. I read the flabby skin entry (“Closer to Accepting the ‘Flabby Bits’”), and it brought tears to my eyes. I’ve been at goal now for more than 3 years after losing a little more than 100 pounds. Some days I can see the flaps as badges of honor, but mostly they just disgust me.

“I often wonder if that is what keeps me in the constant yo-yo state of losing and gaining the same 10 pounds...after all I can’t ever gain perfection since I have that ‘schtuff’ hanging around. I know all too well that perfection is a myth, and I have times of acceptance and peace. Mostly though, I live in a constant state of thinking I should lose another 10 pounds, and I can’t help but wonder how many ‘last 10 pounds’ can/should there be?

“Do you ever struggle with that?”

I struggled with this more a few years ago than I do now, mostly because I’ve learned to appreciate what my body can do more than what it looks like. I find that challenging my thighs to pump the bike pedals harder or my arms to lift just a few more pounds is more emotionally healthy than staring at and hating my wrinkly inner thighs and papery stretch marks that align my triceps.

I know several people who’ve opted for plastic surgery and people for whom excess skin caused medical conditions that needed to be addressed surgically. Even after surgery, they’ve all told me that the inner voice that tells them their not good enough often haunts them and that self-acceptance must come from the inside out.

It’s taken me years of therapy, meditation, journaling and many MANY talks/emails/group discussions with friends to be who I am now – a person who most of the time is OK with her body, but who realizes there will always be some flabby bit that gets the best of her in a dressing room. And when that happens, I rely on my new normal. It’s an oldie, but I love this slogan: “If hunger isn’t the problem, food isn’t the solution.” Write it out, talk it out, or exercise it out. Somehow we all need to find a new way to get through our flabby bits.

So…how do you gain self-acceptance? How do you or plan to feel good in your skin?

21 comments:

  1. Oh, wow, Lynn does this post hit home! I am not at my goal yet, and I have wrongly assumed for years that people who are fit and trim have no problems--and that simply is not the case. Being in shape and taking care of one's body and feeling good about how one looks is important. But plastic surgery and removing loose skin does not solve the problems. I know several people who have had various kinds of plastic surgery, and I don't think it helps self-esteem all that much. I think your approach is the way to go. You look great, and I frankly don't see what the big deal is about loose skin flaps. They do not make up who you are. You--and the rest of us--are so much more than your loose skin!

    There are many attractive people in this world without the loose skin but they don't radiate inner beauty, and I think inner beauty is important. I know men the majority of men enjoy being with women who take care of themselves (and I really I think we should take care of ourselves primarily for ourselves and no man), but any man who would reject a woman for loose skin is really not worthy in my book!

    And for the record, yes I am learning a lot of this in therapy right now--and I have a ways to go when I think about myself, but when I hear others like you talk about this, I think how loose skin just seems small compared to all that you have achieved in terms of weight loss and in terms of your entire life!

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  2. You wrote: "I’ve learned to appreciate what my body can do more than what it looks like."

    That is the attitude I want... thank you for saying that. I am not even halfway to goal, but already have lots of damage showing. When I am all the way down, with all 261 gone, I know it will really be a site! I know I need to work on my self-acceptance, as far as how I will look, NOW while I am getting there. I appreciate reading this.
    Loretta
    =^..^=

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  3. What an excellent post.

    It is hard in a world where we are bombarded with false perfection (PhotoShop being a prime example) to be able to accept ourselves as we are and realize that we will never, ever, be the perfect women we think we should be.

    I am reminded of that wonderful photo shoot Jamie Lee Curtis did in which she showed the world her real body, the one hidden behind the airbrushing, the artfully shot angles and the carefully hidden foundation garments.

    As long as we think everyone else has reached perfection except us, we will never be free.

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  4. I gain it by reading about others who are ahead of me in this journey...because when it's just me in the dressing room, it can get pretty depressing. "I lost 100 pounds and I still look like this?!?" has entered my mind more than a few times. But like you said, the body I have in my 40's is not the one I had in my 20's, when losing weight brought everything back to normal. Things are definitely stretched out and flabby now. I know I have to stop fighting what I am seeing and accept the new me...some days it's easier to do this than others. I guess having awareness is the first step. And knowing that there will be a lot of baby steps before I get to complete acceptance.

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  5. Thank you for this post Lynn. I'm at a similar place mentally in my own journey, and reading your reflections on this topic was just what I needed to hear today.

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  6. How lucky I am to have found your blog! I'm just lost my first 10 pounds, with another 100 or so to go, so I can't say that I'm at the loose skin stage (though I do feel like my drooping breasts are beginning to deflate which sadly makes them droopier still). That skin is a worry I do have, as I'm sure all others like me do. I can't help but visualize this almost perfect body image in my head when I'm finally at goal, even when I know that's not possible. I have to keep reminding myself that I'll be healthier...that I'll fit into regular sized clothes...and mostly that a little loose skin has to be nicer than the rolls of fat I carry now.

    For now I'll continue to count calories, exercise each day and thank my lucky stars I'm finally taking better care of myself!

    Many thanks for the thought provoking post!

    -B

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  7. I've lost 70 pounds and I have more to go. How do I feel comfortable in my own skin? I deal with addiction issues and I am part of a support group for people who are wired like me. I'm doing a lot of work on my issues with the assistance of a caring person who has traveled the road ahead of me. I am a work in progress.

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  8. Good post, Lynn, and congratulations on three years of maintenance! Well I've had a post about this topic rolling around in my head for quite a while. Maybe I'll write it now! I deal with the imperfection in a couple of ways. I really do love the way I feel so good and so strong climbing up and down hills, and bringing in firewood and stuff like that. And I make myself look in the mirrors at the gym and appreciate how good I look instead of criticizing all the imperfections. And, since I am 55 years old, I make myself think about what I would have looked like at 55 had I never been overweight--it's not that different.

    But the truth is, I still don't like the way parts of me look, especially without clothes. But as a favorite part of the Bible says, 'isn't life more than food, and the body more than clothing?' Yes it is, and I am so very grateful for that.

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  9. I was kind of lucky. I lost the weight slowly and although I have loose skin I can hide most of it. Don't get me wrong I am still self concious of it. Mostly when I am running or in front of my husband (since most of it can be seen while naked).

    The reason it works for me is that when I am running and it is so obvious... I am running which is something I should have never been able to do and it shows how strong I have become. When I am around my husband I have learned he loved me when he met me at 160-170lbs, he loved me when I was 250lbs, he loves me at 130lbs... no matter what my loose skin does.

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  10. While I don't think I have really bad loose skin, for a 58 year old woman who's lost 70+ pounds, it is there. But I keep telling myself that it's far, far better than being morbidly obese. Thank god that my husband, who, despite being 16 years younger than me, thinks that I am, flabby skin and all, more gorgeous than ever.

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  11. I am just starting [AGAIN] on my weight loss journey and trying to understand why I so easily self sabotage when I start to see success. After reading your post today I saw myself a bit more clearly. I get so excited when I have a great "loss" day/week because now I see it sends an internal message that I can eat again - also connecting the dots that when my body starts to feel different (as in thinner and/or hungry) another message is sent that makes me want to re-feed myself to get back to the old comfort zone. Wow. Now what do I do? Obviously I need to learn how to lose weight starting with learning how to change my behavior and thinking. Thanks for the wake up call.

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  12. lynn, i just found your blog through a comment you left on the tippy toe diet. this post really speaks to me. i started gaining weight at 8 years old and finally lost 80 lbs in my late 20's and kept it off for about 7 years. in that time i saw my skin tighten but i still had saggy parts, embarrassingly around my knees and elbows and belly button (i have never been blessed with children, the skin was a badge of my weight loss journey alone). i hated it but was still so proud of what i accomplished. after some big life changes (read divorce, leaving my job and moving to another city) four or five years ago i very quickly gained most of the weight back, then a couple years later, the rest of it. i've been fighting this weight with intermittent effort and the same success, yo-yoing about 20 lbs for the lasts few years. i'm ready to lose it finally and it's funny that i do not hate my body this time like i did before i lost the weight last time. and a weird thing was that my appearance was a huge part of my marriage, a big focus of that marriage was me getting in shape and maintaining a certain look. i think maybe gaining the weight back was me letting go of that mentality and not knowing how to get back to healthy on my own. so now i'm learning about my own way to healthy, and i love my body and i love myself and i love my life. hmm sorry to ramble; you just got me thinking.
    thanks for the post, it was great :)

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  13. Hi Lynn! I haven't read your words in quite a while, but every time I come back...you make me smile! I'm working on feeling good in my skin. It's a work in progress. I just keep the faith and try to be the best that I can be right now. I'm blessed...flabby bits and all. ;)

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  14. Lynn,

    Your post was a good reminder that I found a new normal once I lost weight. I've written about that a lot on my blog, but on occasion I find myself floundering. It's good to know that I'm not alone. I did link to your blog from mine today because I referenced it in my post today.

    I'd love to chat with you some about your blog in general (ways to increase the conversation, etc.)If you are up to it, let me know the best way to do that.

    Cheers,
    Melissa

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  15. This was a great post Lyn - well all yours are. I think you have hit so many good points about self acceptance.

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  16. Oh thank goodness, I no longer need to write this post! I'll just link to yours. :)

    You've captured so well the path to self-acceptance. Just as with weight loss, learning to love ourselves as we are in this moment isn't a perfect journey. By focusing on the truest victory--better health and the pride of accomplishment--it gets much easier to dwell on the stronger muscles and smaller sizes.

    I've opted out of surgery, too (so far), partly for financial reasons and also because it's not a truly necessary procedure. Plus, I figure I would just redirect my lingering critical eye to the scars. :)

    Thank you so very much for covering an important topic in such an insightful way.

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  17. Thank you everyone for your comments. You never fail to educate me. I'm glad you liked the post. And An Invisible Girl, I'm glad you realize you are NOT alone. We ALL go through this at some point. Yes, let's keep this conversation going :)

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  18. This is a great post Lynn. I think you've really got the point with your title, 'the new normal'. so many of us have been through a weight loss journey and success really is all about realizing that you have to change your ideas of what normal is. As far as the extra little bits of skin are concerned, it's all about having a positive self image and being able to see the positive in the situation. If you can think positive thoughts then you will be happy with your appearance. You've had such great success with losing your extra weight, well done!

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  19. Wow, how do I gain self acceptance. I've been thinking about that for a couple of days now.

    It helps that I was fat before I had my child. I was a chubby kid. Was encouraged by friends to lose weight in high school because I was fat as a senior. (Sadly, I look back and realized that I was 127 lbs.) I starved my way down to 110, woo hoo! My HS graduating class pictures are scary...all cheekbones and clavicle.

    Now I admit that I wasn't "toned" at 127 lbs. But 110 was dangerously low, stopped getting my period.

    I mostly fluctuated from 120 to 145 throughout the rest of college and the Navy. And 130-135 was a weight I saw often.

    Then I got married. Moved to Cali. Gained weight. At 170-182 lbs, I was sure that I was just going to be fat. My body wouldn't lose the weight. Enter Weight Watchers. The weight fell off.

    I had stretch marks as a teenager. I got beyond an unhealthy obsession with trying to get my size 10 hips into size 6 jeans (which I fit into now, thanks to vanity sizing). I used to be an 18. Losing the weight at 32 meant I had more stretch marks, but not a whole lot of loose skin.

    Then I had a baby. So now, I've earned the loose skin. Even though most of my "flaws" (cellulite, drooping breasts, loose belly skin, and stretch marks) came from being fat, not being pregnant, I feel like have "grown into" my body. I'm an almost-40 year old mother. This is what I look like. I'm not supposed to look like a supermodel (I'm 5'2" for crying out loud).

    My body lets me do yoga. It lets me ride my bicycle. It lets me run 1/2 marathons (well, one so far, and admittedly, it doesn't let me run faster than 10:30 pace for that distance).

    I take SO MUCH BETTER CARE of myself than I used to. And I still struggle with the occasional 5 lb gain. Then I remind myself that training for races doesn't mean I can eat as much chocolate or french fries as I want.

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  20. One of the things I have long appreciated about reading your blog is the perspective you have because you are unmodified by plastic surgery. (I mean no offense to anyone who has taken that route, especially due to medical reasons). In my opinion, this gives you a lot of credibility. Thank you for being (and, I trust, staying) so genuine.

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