Last week I had my wellness screening for my new employer. You know the deal – weight, height, measurements, blood pressure and cholesterol – all the key factors for health insurance guidelines. Most employers provide a discount on health insurance premiums under the guise of motivating and supporting a healthier lifestyle for their employees, but the bottom line is the more data they can provide to insurance the more accurate (read: lower) a rate they can obtain as a company. I don’t find this nefarious in any way because ultimately it provides a service of making sure people like me – the non-doctor goers – at least are getting looked at annually. And, while I’ve been categorized as morbidly obese the majority of my adult life, I typically look forward to this annual event. I’ve always been a pretty healthy eater (donut-day at work aside) and especially because of my weight I want to make sure I’m not at risk for diabetes or that my cholesterol isn’t out of whack. I mean, just because I’m overweight doesn’t mean I don’t care about being healthy.
This year my screening actually surprised me for two reasons. First, I’ve been 5’5” since the 5th grade… this year I grew. We re-measured twice and sure enough I’m hovering just under 5’6”. I want to believe all the positive changes I’ve been making the past few months have me standing a little taller. Who knows, maybe they have.
My second surprise is a little more detailed and in need of a back story. As a morbidly obese woman I know how these things go – all my levels look good, blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, in fact I often surprise the clinician who is working with me on this count. HOWEVER, I always fail on BMI (obvious at a glance, BUT pretty sure that the extra inch helped a bit) and waist circumference (a factor in heart disease for women, so a valid concern). All this to say, regardless of positive bloodwork results, the clinician, without fail, will inevitably deliver my annual lecture about the need to lose weight and get healthy. Every. Year.
So this year imagine my surprise when the clinician I was working with explained my results (typical for what I’m use to only I was taller and slimmer) then went on to ask me if I had any goals I was working toward. What? He wasn’t going to start with a lecture about my weight? So I proceeded to tell him that I have lost 75 pounds in the last year and a half and am working on losing more. He immediately congratulated me with genuine enthusiasm and respect. That’s right – respect. And went on to ask how I was losing weight. I begrudgingly admitted that I had been doing Weight Watchers and was basically focused on portion control, healthier options and limiting alcohol intake and that, while I know I need to add in an exercise program, I haven’t been very consistent with it outside of the treadmill. And by “haven’t been very consistent” I mean sometimes I take the stairs. If it’s like one flight.
This is where he surprised me. “Good for you! Weight loss is about food, not exercise. That’s not to say exercise isn’t important for a lot of other reasons, but it really doesn’t do much for weight loss. My background is as a personal trainer and you don’t know how often people try to work themselves ragged in the gym to lose weight but don’t change anything else.” He then went on to ask about my comfort levels on activity and advised me on easy ways to get started with adding more exercise into my life, but not to feel guilty about it because I was focused on what I really needed to be focused on.
I left feeling great about myself and my choices. And better still, when I received my analysis via email later that day, the overall suggestion was “Maintain Your Healthy Lifestyle” – WHAT??? Here I am, still clearly overweight and after talking to me about my eating/exercise habits and goals he recommended I continue what I was doing? I was stunned. Never in my life have I felt as empowered and validated as having this nutritionist/trainer label me as living a healthy lifestyle. There really are no words.
Losing this much weight has been an interesting journey. I realize I don’t see myself the way others do. For starters I didn’t realize how much weight I was carrying before… and now I don’t realize I’m smaller than I think. Random things like towels – I always used a bath sheet before so I could wrap it around my whole body and be covered. Regular bath towels didn’t come close to closing around me. Now they do. It’s the small things like being able to cover myself with a bath towel while I get ready in the morning that make me recognize I’ve lost weight. Or pulling out a pair of jeans to wear and thinking they must have shrunk because there is no way they’ll fit me… then they do. But, the opposite is true as well.
As I’ve had to buy new clothes over the past year I wish I had video of me in the dressing room – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been overly ambitious and found myself completely tangled, half-naked, stuck in an item of clothing. We’re talking dressing-room-battle, panting-from-the-exertion, wiggling around trying to recall how much the piece cost in case I am forced to rip it from my body and simply purchase the tattered remains… Fortunately I’ve always managed to snake my way out of it, but it hasn’t been pretty. And I’m sure it was, at times, frightening for anyone else in the dressing room (I’m talking wildebeest stuck in leotard trying to escape noisily).
And I have struggled with where to shop. I’ve hit a stage where the plus size clothes don’t really fit me anymore, but the regular ones don’t exactly fit right either. I’ve identified as plus size for so long that I’ve sort of forgotten there are other stores, and sections of stores, out there. And don’t get me wrong – I’m still plus size, but apparently I’m the slightly-more-socially-acceptable version because I no longer have to go to the back corner of the store to find my clothes, or a specialty store that only carries my size. Suddenly I’m self-consciously trying to fit in at the front of the store and find the courage to walk into stores that may or may not have offerings for an in-between like me.
It should be exciting to have all these new options opened up to me, but to be honest it’s very overwhelming. I use to know my body so well, I could tell at a glance what would fit, what would flatter. And now I have no clue. I misjudge my size in both directions all the time. I still have parts of my body that are much flabbier than someone who shares the same size, but is coming at it from the opposite direction. And I keep waiting for that Pretty Woman moment when the shop attendants realize I don’t belong there and kick me out. Like I’m a fraud or something. So far it hasn’t happened, but I’m going to need new bras again soon and Victoria Secret – you scare the hell out of me.
Well, time to go pour a drink and binge watch some Netflix… WHAT?? THIS IS MY HEALTHY LIFESTYLE!!! (In moderation.)
xoxo – Awkward Jean
PS — I hate my arms so I’m feeling VERY vulnerable about including this picture in the blog…but, this is what I look like. And those jeans are officially ten sizes too big for me now, so I’m reminded to focus on how far I’ve come as opposed to how far I’d like to go.