“They’re just big and gross and floppy,” the man sitting next to me said, in judgement of a heavy woman at another table whose blouse left little to the imagination. The husband of one of my my softball teammates, he didn’t realize he was also talking about me. Clothed in my “uniform” of workout leggings, and team t-shirt, with my “big, gross and floppy” breasts under strict lockdown in that modern marvel of engineering, the double layer, maximum impact sports bra, I’m told I look fit and athletic. I wouldn’t know- more about that in a minute. As I processed through the emotions of how the guy’s callous remarks made me feel about myself, I realized how much work I have left to do.
In all of the healing work I’ve done over the last 7-8 years, and all of the progress I’ve made repairing my relationship with myself, food, my calling, and most recently, exercise, there’s an aspect of my life that I haven’t figured out how to get to yet.
In addition to every eating disorder known to man, I was diagnosed as a teenager with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). The short version is, I don’t know what I look like, and never have. I didn’t know how I looked at 84 pounds when I was anorexic in high school, or 300+ pounds, and I don’t know what I look like now. My disconnect is compounded by the fact that I’m carrying around about 20 pounds of extra skin (doctors’ estimate, not mine) from the extra 185-190 I carried for 30+ years. When I see it in a mirror, I see it as flab or fat. Its the last physical vestige of my former life, and short of surgery, there is nothing I can do about it, so why do I have shame about it or see it as something to hide?
Aesthetics are pretty low on my priority list as far as my lifestyle choices are concerned. My way of eating and moving are purely for my mental and physical health. Without a doubt, my 145 pound body is a lot more fun to live in than my 330 pound one was. Its just easier to move through the world, and I’m able to experience many things I couldn’t when I was heavy. The world relates to me very differently, but to be fair, I project myself completely differently than I used to. That said, I do get frustrated and resentful sometimes that my body doesn’t accurately reflect how much work I put into keeping it fit and healthy, and possibly never will (although It is somewhat comforting when your doctor says “ great abs”, even if no one ever sees them).
Today is July 4- Independence Day. I went to a friend’s party, and once again at such events, I “forgot” my bathing suit. One day, maybe I will be able to get the surgeries to remove the extra skin, but until then, I’m going to keep working on loving the skin I’m in, even if it is several sizes too big. I made the decision when I came home tonight, that I am declaring independence from my fear of showing my skin. I’ll be bringing my bathing suit to the next party!