Friday, May 19, 2017

PERSONAL: On Weight Loss

Let's start with the facts. When I had endometriosis, I was underweight. I couldn't tell because up until a few years ago, I didn't know there was any other way I could be besides what I was. ("Underweight" was only part of it... there was also the part about being constantly exhausted, constantly in pain, and extremely anemic.) I couldn't eat terribly well because my insides were a hot mess, meaning my stomach only uncramped for a few precious minutes a day -- and I could eat then, and pretty much no other time.

After my surgery, that was a non-issue. But the combination of being able to eat, sudden menopause, and multiple medications that mess with your weight was... I gained weight. Like a bunch of weight. It was noticeable. It wasn't grotesque, but when the pendulum swings like that, it is a thing.

At first, I was devastated. I tried a lot of different plans, many via doctors. "Clean eating" never worked because all I ever did was choke down expensive food I hated -- which meant more often than not I just opted not to eat, went hungry for a few days, then broke my fast and didn't look back and my weight didn't shift. And then I just felt bad again. Fencing helped a bit, but I couldn't afford to keep going.

Eventually, I found something that did work for me (I don't want this to come across as a pitch/marketing article so I'll leave it out), and I've lost 15 pounds in the past three months and am on a steady track to get myself down to a weight that I feel okay with. I'm happy about this. I'm proud of this. But boy do I worry about talking about it.

There seems to be this concept that if one person works hard to do something and accomplishes it and is pleased about it, they then expect others to feel or do the same and look down on anyone who doesn't. And I'll admit, there are definitely people like that in the world. I encounter them. Mostly they want me to get married and have kids, or have interests more like theirs rather than mine. This is a personality type that exists and it's not great.

But when I say "I'm exercising and watching what I eat and I lost 15 pounds and I'm on track to do more and I'm happy," I get Looks. As though me expressing my happiness is immediately a demand on other people. See above -- I get that, with other people in this world, this might be a thing.

But I mean. Look. No one else in this world has had the same life I've had. Aspects? Yes. Close? Sure. But when I say "I'm happy about my weight loss," there is a lot of context behind it.

I'm happy because the weight gain is just one more way that my life with endo is manifesting in my life now, and taking that post-surgery weight off also helps me close that door psychologically.

I'm happy because I don't know what my body type is because my physique has always been a product of my illness, and soon I'm going to find out for the first time in my life what I actually look like.

I'm happy because my ability to choose and control what I eat is a new freedom, considering for many years I could barely eat at all.

I'm happy because my ability to exercise is a big step forward from when I could barely get out of bed in the morning.

I'm happy because this decision, like my ability to finally get the surgery that saved my life, is me fighting back against the body that's been fighting me since I was twelve years old. It's me exerting control. And gosh darned if I'm not kind of happy about that.

Why in the world, then, would anyone assume that my happiness over the state of my body is a judgment of theirs? I don't know anyone else in my friend group who has the unique cocktail of epilepsy, hypothyroidism, severe anxiety, and post-surgical menopause that I do affecting what they put into their bodies multiple times a day. Why would I expect them to do what I do with my body when what I do with my body is so weirdly tailored to such a specific set of conditions?

No, I'm not sobbing because I feel like this world is unfair because I can't talk about losing weight without some people getting upset. It's more like I'm disappointed that enough people have poisoned the well with their expectations of others that we can't share our successes as isolated incidents without a fear that someone will call us judgy.

Bodies are a mess. They do things we don't want them to for no reason other than genetics, they rebel against us when it's tree mating season, they throw a fit when we decide we're not having a baby this month, and for some unlucky individuals they shut the hell down if something we eat was once in the same building as a peanut. I count myself ridiculously lucky that I have the control I have, especially after years of not having it.

If you exercise and diet and nothing works, that's fine. If you don't and don't care to, that's also fine. If you work out two hours a day and chug protein shakes and look absolutely awesome but are dying for a burger, maybe step back and look at why you're doing what you're doing. The point is to be happy and comfortable in your skin. I wasn't before my surgery. I'm not quite now... but I'm getting there.

The only think I'll ever expect my friends to do is find ways to be happy in their own skin, too.