In October of 2018 I stepped on the scale. 172 lbs. It had been two years since I'd seen numbers that high. One year since I'd proudly announced to the world that I'd finally reached the mid 150's. All of that progress, gone. I would spend the next 8 months never able to dip lower than 162lbs. And it wasn't until I was finally diagnosed with and medicated for ADHD that I would finally start to see my body begin to resemble the one I had missed. The only body I was able to recognize as my own. But I wasn't prepared for the ways it would be different.
Before I get into this I want to make something very clear: This is a deeply personal thing that I am sharing. It is also just a snapshot of where I am at at this exact point in my journey. In a few months I may feel completely differently. Lord knows that how I feel now is not how I felt just a few weeks ago. So, if you're reading this and you see some of yourself here, I am glad to share any part of my journey with you, but that does not mean that ours are the same, or that anything I have experienced is what you have or will.
A few days ago I stepped on the scale and saw 141.4, This is the lowest number I have seen on a scale since my 18th birthday. It is a huge moment. At my last doctors appointment just a few days prior, and despite being very bloated, they weighed me in at 147. Another big win. Up until then, the lowest I'd seen at the office was 164. My weight loss goal a year and a half ago was to reach 140 lbs. I am so close to that goal, and so proud of myself for all of the hard work (granted, that hard work had more to do with a diagnosis and some medication adjustment, than exercising any real willpower, but still) that I have put in, particularly over the last 6 months. I am 20 pounds lighter than I was just last summer. I should be ecstatic. And for the most part I am.
But I would be lying if I said that the journey is without its own pains. Because while I may be a healthy weight again, and while I may finally have reached a point where I no longer see nothing but fat when I look at myself (I've always had a skewed body image. the first time I saw myself as fat I was a size 0 and 11 years old. So imagine what I saw at a size 14) I wish someone at some point had prepared me for the way the weight gain and loss would change my body forever.
I am no stranger to stretch marks. my family is blessed with small waists and wide hips, which meant that shortly after hitting puberty I rapidly went from a size 0 to a size 4 over the course of a single summer and developed some bright pink stretch marks on my thighs and butt before I even know what stretch marks were. I remember being so confused when I first saw the angry stripes on the inside of my thighs. I started always keeping my hands wedged between my thighs when I was sitting, if I was wearing shorts. One moment stands out starkly against the rest. I was getting into the back of my family's minivan when my step brother - 10 years my senior - leaned over to my mom and said "what are those marks on her thighs?" I felt the blood rush to my face and hear my mom whisper "shh. they're just stretch marks." Stretch marks. This confirmed the fear that had first embedded itself in my brain as a 5th grader. I was fat.
It's ridiculous to say. I was minuscule back then. And I know that now. But that moment stuck with me for a very long time, and it wasn't until about two years ago that I was able to finally learn to love and appreciate the mostly silver lines that cross-hatch my inner thighs and score my hips and butt. And I still like them.
But when you gain weight in a real way and then lose it... the stretch marks do not shrink. The skin, which was at one point stretched tightly across my excess flesh has shrunk at roughly the same rate I have. But the stretch marks stay as long and wide as they always were, resulting in a strange buckling of the skin, where it moves and clings to my legs in a completely different way. This is the thing I had not prepared for.
I never thought they would go away, I knew better. But I did not realize that as the rest of me shrank, they would stay the same, the skin around them never quite sitting the same against my body.
Uneven Weight Loss
Experts say that you cannot spot reduce. There is no way to lose fat in just one single part of your body on purpose, while retaining the same body fat elsewhere. And I am not disputing that. But every body loses and gains weight differently. So while you might simply be losing weight in general, that does not mean that all of you will be shrinking simultaneously. It also doesn't mean that the shrinking will simply be a reversal of the expansion.
I will elaborate on this in two ways.
First, involuntary spot reduction. My body naturally carries most of my weight in my thighs and butt. Even when I am at my thinnest, those parts of me are never truly small, and are always at least a full number size larger than my upper half. I am fine with this. Unfortunately, my body doesn't just put the weight there first. It also sheds it there first as well. Yes, this evens out eventually. But losing weight first in your butt and thighs, before it disappears from your arms and stomach, is the opposite of the goal. If anything, it makes my body look bigger overall, because the illusion created by "curves" is lessened.
Second, shrinking is not the same as gaining. When your body expands, its steady and honestly kind of hard to notice. Your skin stretches over your expanding frame, and aside from maybe some cellulite, up to a certain point, your skin remains relatively smooth, and the fat beneath is as well. Shrinking is not the same. I seem to be in a perpetual cycle. The fat beneath my skin shrinks, becoming temporarily dimply and uneven. The skin is looser, exaggerating the uneven texture and strange looseness of the parts of me that now contain less than they did. Then, slowly, the skin and fat and everything else come back together into a slightly smaller cohesive unit. Until I lose more weight. Then the mottling comes back.
This mottling has been one of the hardest things for me to handle. I've been steadily losing weight long enough to be able to recognize it as a positive thing, technically. But for the days or weeks that my skin sits oddly over my body, I find myself being more critical than I was before the weight loss. I'll poke and pull and push and cover until the success of the weight loss is overshadowed by the insecurities I've battled for over 10 years.
Some Things Will Never Be The Same
All of the above combine in one particular place on my body. And this has, without contest, been the one thing I have struggled the most with. Everything else I have accepted, and even appreciate to a point. But there is one thing that I have yet to come to terms with, and I'm honestly not sure how long it will take for me to be okay with it at all.
This is gonna get the tiniest bit TMI. You've been warned.
My boobs are completely changed. Of course they were never going to stay as perky as they were at 18. and even after my first round of weight loss two years ago, they looked a little different. But now, finally down to a healthy weight, with the excess fat mostly shed... they are unrecognizable. People talk about what it's like after they have a child and stop breastfeeding. Well. I guess I can just skip that whole thing, because I managed to get the same results by gaining and losing 35 pounds. Go me!
I don't know how to articulate all the ways this has affected me. And since the weight loss is not yet done, it continues to affect me, changing before I can even begin to become accustomed to whatever changes just happened last week. It's hard. It's hard to see that being healthy meant losing confidence in certain parts of myself. It's hard to feel less beautiful. To feel that I have prematurely aged a part of my body. To almost wish I hadn't lost the weight... because at least then I didn't have to deal with.. this.
At the end of the day, I am happy that I am a healthy weight again. I am happy that I have made so much progress. But it will take some time to adjust to this new "healthy" body, and to learn to love the parts of me that will never match the picture I have in my head.