My body claps for me, and I clap back.

Last month I hit the one-year mark since my weight loss surgery. I am down a total of 130 lbs. +/- 2-3 lbs on any given day. I am pretty sure my weight loss has stopped, and it seems (though I can’t be sure) that my body has found a new home at around 180 pounds. While still 5 pounds into the category of clinically obese (based on the junk science of BMI), I am learning to be great with that number.

Could I fight for more weight loss and try to get lower? Almost definitely.

Am I interested in that? Not even a little bit.

I am no longer interested in fighting with my body. We are on a path to making peace with each other after over 4 decades of war. This new truce feels like the warmth of a spring after a long winter. But it also feels very new and fragile-- like an eggshell, the neck of a newborn baby, or an iPhone screen. Like the slightest jostling or careless movement could have ruinous results.

When you live in a fat body, your curves bounce when you move. It's the proverbial Claus-ian belly “that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly.”  (By the way, I made up the word Claus-ian). When you lose a large amount of weight after having lived in a fat body, as the curves disappear, your body doesn’t really bounce anymore—the skin just sort of slides, jiggles, and slaps around. It’s not something that exercise can get rid of. It’s like a balloon that you overinflate and then let slowly deflate as it sits under the table 4 days after a birthday party. It’s thin and misshapen and not smooth like it used to be when it was new. I have an abundance of this kind of skin, and when I am moving, it’s like there is the slightest, split-second lag between the time when I stop moving and when my skin stops moving and comes to a full stop.

I want to acknowledge that the that visual I just described in the past paragraph is probably grossing some of you out right now because, well, for a long time my body grossed me out too. We all have these ideas of what’s beautiful and what is not. But what I described, dear reader, is what normal bodies do. This is what happens when bodies expand, and contract, and age, and live. And so, I detail these things (the things we like to hide under compression garments, or under a t-shirt over our bathing suit at the pool) because as a society we need to normalize normal bodies.

My body is normal. And these days I refuse to get mad at my body for how she presents. She doesn’t owe anyone anything—not even me. She can exist as is and that’s enough.

I am privileged in that I can move. I can dance. I can play. I can walk. I can run. (Although don’t sign me up for running. I am definitely not down for that). But even if I could do zero of these things, I would still be enough.

That doesn’t mean this is easy concept to accept. This week was a bitch for me where my relationship with my body was concerned. This week online bathing suit shopping gave me a literal panic attack. This week I had a meltdown and contemplated whether it was traitorous to be happier or feel a sense of pride in a smaller body. This week I felt stress knowing that as lockdowns are being lifted I will once again see people in person that I haven’t seen in a year—and I will have to find a way to not feel awkward when they almost all inevitably say (with the very most loving intent) something like, “You look great,” because it's automatic for me to hear this as a judgement of my previous body size. And this week I went through a period of almost unbearable worry about how being restricted from exercise for a month or more because of my gallbladder surgery might make me gain weight, as if that would somehow be the worst thing.  I have made so much progress, but these thoughts and reactions are signs of a disordered relationship with my body.  I have made a ton of progress, but growth is a direction, not a destination.

Sitting in all of that is uncomfortable and for my entire life my tendency has always been to quickly mitigate pain—to find a way to dull it or to stuff it down so I don’t have to feel it. But I am learning that part of being a grownup is embodying everything— the pleasure AND the pain, the exhale of relaxation AND the stress of anxiety, the joy when beautiful things happen AND the sadness when things go wrong. Lately, I am working on allowing myself to feel those things in my body and to let those feelings wash over me even as remind myself of what’s true. When that’s too hard, I reach out to vent to a friend or I take some time to go be intentional about relaxation or other healthy things I know will help soothe me and downregulate these intense sensations. I actually did both of those things this week.

And so, when I see my puckered skin bulging out in clothing in a way that I know is not conventionally attractive, I remind myself that I don’t owe anyone anything in terms of appearance. That bulge is just fine right there.

When my skin overhangs the waistband of my awesome new expensive underwear (shout out Tomboy X), I thank it for expanding the way it has in the past for such a beautiful reason--to make room for the amazing babies THAT MY LITERAL BODY LITERALLY MADE.

When I de-bra (also a made up word) in the evening and feel a sense of sadness at the way my breasts fall against my chest and upper abdomen, I remember the feeling of closeness I felt when I nursed my babies, or the ways these same body parts have brought pleasure to my partner.

When my thighs jiggle or my first reaction is a sense of shame when I catch sight of their dimpling, I bring to mind the time that these same legs trained for months (at around 275 lbs) to be able to complete a marathon and a half over two days.  Epic.

And when the loose of skin of my upper arms hits my torso with an audible clap, I clap back (dual meaning intended) and I reframe it as if my body giving me a round of applause—a standing ovation even--for
 all the remarkable shit I’ve done.

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