I will admit, I live in terror. I want to continue back on my journey to lose weight (which was happening before I ended my marriage, and spending the last year and a half recovering emotionally and mentally). But I know, at the end of it, that this woman’s experience will be reflected in my own. My goal weight is slightly over half the size I was at my largest (the weight I have been since I was 16 – at 370 pounds).
And no matter what the fitness gurus tell you, skin does not “snap back” to redefine your body as you lose weight. I know this, because (although I have gained some of the weight I lost back) at 270 pounds, I could see and define each and every extra pocket of skin. Even with exercise, the skin didn’t redefine itself. It didn’t resize itself as a smaller person.
I spoke to physical therapists and to fitness people. They too warned me that as someone who has been large her whole life, I will have skin pockets, and loose wrinkles of skin all over my body.
I’m still focused on health, still looking to lower my overall body weight in the process. But, I’m terrified of what I am going to look like when and if I make it to my goal weight of 170. I’ve finally gotten to a place where I can look at my body and not see hideousness. I have overcome the voices in my head to an extent, so that I am not repeating the pseudo-concerned mantras from my father or my ex-husband that basically say that unless I’m a certain body size, “real men” won’t love me (supposedly, only “broken men” – or no men at all will love me).
I look at this woman’s journey, and her struggle, and I identify with her. My goal weight is over half of my largest size. I look at her face, which society says should be victorious and self-confident at her goal weight, but instead I see fear. I see anguish. I see shame. I see all those same emotions that I feel now, before I lose the weight (or even part of the way through).
Society thinks that weight loss, and “being thin” is a victory, particularly for women. That we should be enthused, ecstatic, and feel victorious that we have overcome this “evil” and “shameful” part of ourselves to become “not fat.”
But, no matter what society says when they look at us – particularly when they look at us clothed – we see that naked version of ourselves. We see the pockets of skin sagging all over our bodies. We see the wrinkles and scars from stretch marks everywhere. We don’t get rid of the feeling that we are judged by how we look, we STILL have that shame and fear.
And insurance companies don’t care. They will come after you the same way that your doctor does, trying to shame and force you into losing the weight. Oh, they’ll phrase it in “positive” and “supportive” ways, but they’re still saying you aren’t good enough. And once you have lost that weight, and gained that “optimally healthy body,” you’re all on your own.
They don’t seem to understand that those skin folds and body pockets actually are a health concern. Even at the most hygienic, the human body still picks up spores of fungi, and can develop skin-eating fungal infections. But it’s only AFTER you’ve developed those sometimes life-threatening infections that they will even consider the plastic surgery to rid you of the folds and skin sacks that encourage those infections.
The cost of an average tummy tuck, without anesthesia, operating room expenses and hospitalization is just under $6K. An arm lift, again without all of the other necessary items, is just under $4K. A full body reconstruction like this woman (or any of the rest of us) needs? On an average probably upwards of $50K-$60K.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that kind of money just lying around.
And yes, I deal daily with the fear and terror of having those skin pouches all over my body as I lose the weight. It even interferes with my desire to focus on health. On the bad days, when the depression overwhelms me, I wonder if it is even worth it if my body looks worse than it looks now. Yeah, my arthritis will be marginally better without carrying double the poundage.
It’s been a struggle just to get this far with my self-image and self-worth. To have to go through that same fight again once I’m at my “goal weight” makes me want to cry. The knowledge that, at my goal weight, I will still be looking in the mirror and seeing all of the scars of living as a fat person. That I will have to reopen old wounds just to rebuild my self-worth and self-confidence.