I have had many people, over the past few years ask me how I do what I do. How am I successful in keeping my weight off when so many others out there have regained much of their weight, some even surpassing the weight they were when they got their bariatric surgery?
I will be the first person to tell you I don’t have the magic answers, especially since my weight can fluctuate wildly but I will break down what has worked for me, in hopes that it helps someone out there.
I will endeavor to write up a blog about the following things that have helped me most on my path.
- Quit hiding
- Have a plan
- Set goals
- Keep Going
- Fuel Your Body
- Figure out what you love
- Try Everything
- Find your sweet spot
So, the first point on my list is QUIT HIDING. Literally, figuratively and mentally.
I started by simply getting out of my basement, which is still my gamer girl haven, and I started doing things. Its funny, I have read several studies showing that bariatric patients mortality rates rose significantly once they lost weight. But interestingly enough it wasn’t due to their health, it was because they were suddenly struck with enormous amounts of energy and were out running, hiking, climbing, and doing everything they never could before. Because they were out in the world doing things they used to never be able to do, instead of sitting at home, doing nothing…they were increasing the mortality rate because yes, accidents do happen.
But you know what; I would rather die fighting, than die never having truly lived.
So get out and do something. Anything! Walk your dog, push a stroller, run around the block. Exercise does amazing things for your body, if you let it.
When you get out and start moving, realize that your body IS getting smaller and it will soon be very noticeable to others, but less likely noticeable to you. Those of us who have been fat all our lives are never quick to see change in our bodies. In fact, some of us never quite lose that image of us at our heaviest when we look in a mirror and when people tell us how good we look, we take it for granted, mostly, because we just think they’re being nice.
But in all honesty, you ARE losing weight and your body is changing. I lost my first 100 pounds in the first 100 days after my surgery, almost on the dot (I actually lost 101 hehe). But I didn’t get rid of my fat girl clothes til almost my 150 pound mark. When you are morbidly obese, clothes are like gold. Expensive, hard to come by and the cute clothes are like hidden treasures to fat girls! I called all my girlfriends of size and told them to come shopping in my closet. I had tubs and tubs of old clothes that I sold for $1 each item. I came away with the budget that would fund my future clothes purchases and to this day it was the best thing I ever did.
Getting rid of your fat clothes is a cathartic exercise. It allows you to say goodbye to the way you were and welcome the new, emerging you. Yet some of us are diehards and refuse to let go of those clothes, and that my friends is a mistake. Trust me, I held on to my Lane Bryant panties until they literally fell off my body. I was wearing size 28 panties when I actually fit into size 14-16. That was truly my last bastion of fatgirldom and once I got rid of them, I felt free!!!
I sold, gave away, donated and tossed so many clothes in the past 8 years its been ridiculous. I have held on to a shirt and a pair of pants that I wore at my heaviest so that I have a physical reminder that I can put on and remember just how big I truly was and that is a very good thing to do at times. But otherwise, I go through clothes like crazy now, mostly due to fluctuating upper body muscles and that’s ok. I am a thrift store shopper almost exclusively and its very rare for me to pay more than $10 for any article of clothing. The thrift store chain I go to has one color tag that is $.99 every day and when I finally needed to buy new clothes, I only bought clothes for the current season and I would buy a size or two below what I was actually wearing. I did that for the first 3 years. I had a room with stacks of clothes that I only paid $1 for and every 3 to 5 days I would go in there and rotate clothes that were too big out, and clothes I could fit into In. Sometimes I got to wear something once before it got too big, and then I re-donated it or gave it away. I never really got attached to clothes after that.
Now, I have an entire bedroom I have turned into a closet and I have more clothes than you can shake a stick at but I don’t like wearing the same thing over and over again and since I don’t have kids, I can indulge myself when I want to.
Now, the reason I include getting rid of your fat clothes in QUIT HIDING should be pretty obvious to anyone who has been morbidly obese. I know ALL the tricks to hiding your fat rolls, hiding your tummy, your side boob, back boob, etc. It’s just another form of camouflage we use to hide ourselves away, from others and from ourselves. It can work, to a certain extent, psychologically, but if we were honest with ourselves we would realize that regardless of whether we wear a size 12 or a plus size 28, we need to be who we are, and be proud of that person.
I had two pivotal moments when it comes to not hiding my body any more.
The first came about 4 years ago and I was at Estrella War (a medieval re-enactment event down in Arizona) and I was starting to get back into belly dancing. All my old gear was too big and I knew I could find new costumes at the event. I decided I would “think” about baring my tummy but I wanted a big piece of koochi (belly dance jewelry) to cover my stomach. I found a wonderfully beautiful piece and paid a pretty price, and it was worth it. I loved it. Yet when it came down to me actually wearing it, I hesitated. My stomach was always the biggest part of me. I was an apple-on-a-stick body shape, so I carried a lot of my weight in my belly. Even now that I lost the weight, I still have excess fat & skin in my pannus region and it will be there until I have a tummy tuck.
Anyway, after a while, I came out of my tent without wearing my belly dance gear and some of the guys I was camping with at the time asked me why I wasn’t going to dance that night. I told them I was too worried about how I was going to look, and that no one wanted to see my bare stomach. They all just laughed at my being worried and when I got defensive they simply stated “You already bought the stuff, which means you already made your decision, you WANT to do this. But now you are letting the perceived thoughts of someone else keep you from doing what you want. For someone who hits people with big weapons, you’re kind of a wuss about the girlie stuff”.
So, I stood up, marched into my tent and put on my belly dance outfit. I gotta say…I rocked it! I got more compliments that night from total strangers watching me dance & walk around merchant’s row than I ever had before. I decided then and there I would always let my belly be free when I felt like it!
The 2nd moment was after I started training in 2013 for my first World Championship. I was pushing my body so hard every single night that I would come home dripping in sweat because I was burning up at the gym. I always trained in t-shirts and I was to a point that it was simply too hot to continue to do so. But I was so self-conscious about the extra skin in my upper arms that I was terrified to wear a tank top. I felt so ugly when I looked in a mirror and saw the baggy skin just hanging there, even after conquering the belly dilemma, I still couldn’t bring myself to accept how my arms looked. Finally it just got too hot that my body couldn’t take it and I had to change what I was working out in.
The first day I walked into the gym wearing a fitted spandex tank top I felt like everyone was staring at me. Judging me. But in reality, they weren’t. They were too involved in their own workouts to worry about the fact that my flappy arms were waving at them. Then something else happened. I started getting compliments on how muscular my arms were, how defined my traps were. I still have guys tell me all the time they wish they could get their forearms as thick as mine or have calves like me. So maybe folks were looking at me, but not in the way I perceived they were.
When you are fat, you learn to hide away, to take the path of least resistance, to tread lightly, even when your body isn’t. You learn to blend in as best you can so that you don’t seem to take up as much room as you really do. Even when you’re the ‘funny one’ and boisterous like I was, you still learn how to make sure you don’t take up more room than you should. You learn to hide the parts of you that cause issue, in hopes of just getting by. It becomes instinct, and its hard to unlearn that.
I can’t tell you when I quit scanning the room as I first enter it to make sure where the path of least resistance is. I don’t know when I quit counting stairs or praying for an elevator so it wouldn’t be obvious when I was out of breath. Or when I quit buying clothes 3 sizes too big so that I looked smaller. But I’ve quit doing ALL of that. Because I don’t need to hide any more. And anyone who knows me personally now finds it interesting that I could have ever hidden away in the first place, but I did.
Finding exercise gear for plus size women and men is not an easy task. It has gotten better but its still a struggle and I get that. Thankfully there are companies out there that are starting to understand that athletes come in all shapes and sizes and I am so proud to be a Super Fit Hero. If you are struggling to find clothing that works with you as you exercise, check out SuperFitHero.com they make great clothing for plus size athletes and their line is only going to get bigger!!!
So there you have it. The first step in what helps me do what I do.
Be who you are. Fat, thin, tall, skinny, loud, soft, whatever. Be you. You’re the only one who can. Be Proud, because it takes guts to travel this path. So many people who have never had a weight problem think bariatric surgery is the ‘easy way out’ but let me tell you folks, it’s so much harder. You give up so much; you fight your body and your mind and have no control over either of them at times. On top of that, you are being treated so differently than you ever thought you could be, that it does make you want to hide in the basement and play video games forever.
But believe me, there is a whole big amazing world out there, waiting to be discovered and its worth every step, every inch and every new experience.
Quit hiding…and go find out what you’re made of =)