Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Eight Months

I could start this with “eight months ago” or with “seventy five pounds ago”. I’m really only considering the second one because it seems like a fun way to start a sentence.

Seventy five pounds ago, I started my journey to lose weight and become more fit.

It really rolls off the tongue a little more impressively than just “eight months ago”, doesn’t it? Eight months would have happened either way, just stumbling and creeping along, but seventy five pounds didn’t happen by itself. I’ve been working pretty hard for those seventy five pounds. I’ve deprived myself of things for those seventy five pounds. I’ve walked when I’m tired and when I’m sick and when I just don’t want to do it anymore for those seventy five pounds. They are my seventy five pounds. I’ve earned them. So if I want to start a sentence by mentioning my seventy five pounds, then I’m going to. I believe I’ve earned that.

Seventy five pounds ago, I weighed 295 pounds. I now weigh 220. I’ve moved from morbidly obese to just regular obese, and in eleven more pounds, I will just be overweight. Eight months have been spent burning seventy five pounds. It has taken eight months to undo a little over eight years of gaining weight.

Some things will never be undone, unfortunately.

The brown spots on my shins are permanent. They will never go away. Every time I look at my bare legs for the rest of my life I’m going to remember that I let myself get so unhealthy that I caused a permanent physical change, and on some level permanent physical damage, to my body.

And that’s not even talking about the rest of my body. From my collarbones to my knees, there’s a lot of weird stuff going on. I don’t usually talk about my body, but I’ve been honest about my journey so far, and some parts of that journey are not pretty. For starters, I have stretch marks on my belly. They’re like weird cracks in my stomach, which is oddly pliable right now. I can feel the structure of my body underneath my stomach if I push down: something that might be abs, ribs, firm things beneath a layer that feels weird and crumbly and sort of hollow. If I suck in my stomach now, it actually moves. Seventy five pounds ago, that didn’t happen, but now I can suck in my gut and my gut shrinks. If I don’t suck it in, though, it hangs. It stretches.

It’s not comfortable.

I’m not always comfortable in my body right now.

I know that this condition is temporary. Some of the extra skin will always be there but some of the wrinkles and cracks will eventually shrink and contract and go away, but right now there are days when I have trouble with the weird things that are happening to me. I’ll lean or twist to reach something when I’m already sitting down and part of my thigh will lean with me, but part of my thigh will just hang there, almost pooling up on the couch, and it’s weird. I stare at myself sometimes because my body is doing weird things, and it makes me a little uncomfortable. It also makes me a little sad, because I wasn’t comfortable with my body when I weighed 295 pounds, and now, seventy five pounds later, I’m still not comfortable. Eight months and seventy five pounds, and all I’ve done is trade one misshapen torso for another.

I don’t feel this way all the time. A good night’s sleep, or a nice word from someone, or trying on some old clothes that I can fit into again usually cures it, but sometimes losing seventy five pounds in eight months makes me sad. It also makes me feel guilty sometimes, because there’s the constant reminder that I did this to myself, and it takes a little time to process that through, too.

On the other hand, there are days when I look at my body and feel wonder, and joy.

I have ankles all the time now. Defined ankles. Ankles where I can see the ligaments and the bones and the flexing of the joints. They’re not swollen or puffy or cankles. I don’t have to sit on my fainting couch with my feet up for an entire weekend to see them. I have ankles all the time.

My arms hang straight down now.

My shoulders are wider than my hips.

My blue glasses have to be resized because they fall down my face if I look down. I’ve lost so much weight that my head shrank, and I sit and wonder sometimes, “How is that even possible? Did I have fat temples?”

I see myself in mirrors and I stop to look. For years, I’ve trained myself not to see myself in mirrors, to observe myself only in parts. Brushing my teeth, I only saw my mouth. Shaving, I only saw my jawline. I learned to narrow my focus and push any glimpse of the rest of my body and how big it was and how round it was and how unhealthy it looked to my peripheral vision.

But now, I glimpse myself in mirrors and reflections, windows and glass and the side of the car, and often I look.

I see myself and, more importantly, sometimes I want to see myself.

Seventy five pounds ago, I didn’t.


Marcheline said...

Joel, I am so excited for you! And I know what you mean about only seeing one part of yourself at a time... I do the same thing. I have been getting myself psyched up to get back to the gym and have another go at getting to optimal health/weight, and you are definitely part of the inspiration. Right now I'm blaming the everlasting snow storms, but I know that SPRING IS COMING.

And you're right, it is weird what parts of your body gain/lose weight... feet, head, hands - things that seem like they'd just always be the same size, really aren't. You notice when rings/shoes/glasses start either not fitting or fitting too loosely. Bizarre!

nan said...

Really well-articulated reflection on the process. Honest and inspirational!