What do these numbers mean to you?
164. 280. 360. 188. 383.
To me, to us, it’s meant the difference of being the girl rarely picked at the dance, but the same girl who showed no shame and grabbed the hand of the cutest boy in class and made him dance with me. It’s meant taking the torment of bullies, from elementary through even grad school, but also having both the physical and emotional “girth” to make most bullies too afraid to try me a second time. It’s meant being the “fat friend” and the “side kick” to the really attractive (thin) friends when at my highest, but also being the one guys easily approached, the one whom often went from “friend” to “girlfriend”, the one whom guys would say often, “there’s something special there, I just needed the time to see the woman behind the weight.”
Because let’s be honest. Did the weight really hold me back from life? No. Not really. I fell in love (and got loved back) often, I traveled and lived abroad, I made my mark in my career and made more friendships than I knew what to do with. If it held me back, it was most often when I thought I somehow deserved less (like from romantic partners or employers), or when I physically could feel the weight of my body preventing me from enjoying the physical things I loved to do.
Today marks a new chapter in our lives. After two decades of seeing the scales dip as low as 160 lbs and rise as high as 383, after losing weight through every modern method imaginable, from excessive exercising, to finally gastric bypass in 2007, we are going to give this body one more “alteration”.
In a few hours, I will lose a piece of myself that while I felt I had made peace with, I realize I haven’t. My belly and butt. Oh, yes. I’ll be the first on the dance floor when “Baby’s Got Back” comes on or have “Brick House” as my ringtone, but while I’ve equally loved my womanly curves, I’ve hated the pain of the hanging girdle of skin as I work out on my elliptical machine, or never seeing the results from constant weight lifting and exercising in my legs and stomach that I admire now in the results of my shoulders and arms. (I got guns, ya’ll!) If you don’t know, I’m a gym rat to the tee, and I look forward to going to the gym the way 21 years olds look forward to hitting the bar on Friday nights. And frankly, that’s how I treat the gym: Dancing on the elliptical to the latest Drake or doing 50 squats while dancing to Rhianna is my personal church and I worship as often as I can.
I debated with myself whether I would be honest with people that I was planning on having “plastic surgery” or a tummy tuck. There’s something about those words that cause people to automatically think of your vanity, think “you don’t need it”, or that you don’t love yourself. Someone actually said to me the other day, “doesn’t that go against your body positive philosophy? How can you do that to yourself and really say all bodies are beautiful if you’re doing this to alter yours?”
For me, the answer is simple. Yes, I really do believe every body is beautiful, and my body has been beautiful at 280 lbs when I carried my daughter, it’s been beautiful at 160 lbs when I graduated from college, and it’s beautiful now. To me, the most important part of that statement is it really is “my body”. It’s mine to treat like a temple, to feed well, to maintain its health, to make happy and to define what makes it beautiful, and that is always revolving. Tummy tuck or not, complete with its pain and its scaring, doesn’t mean either that I’m taking some easy way out. Like gastric bypass, there are more downsides and more work involved than most people know and the reality is I see a lifetime of working out hard and often to maintain results ahead of me.
As women, we need to learn that we are our best gauge for what makes us healthy and what makes us beautiful. And perhaps the greatest lesson I’ve learned, having been so many different shapes and sizes over my lifetime, is your truest self, what defines your soul, what someone falls in love with, what YOU should be falling in love with daily and often, your essence is truly a work of art. Nothing you could do to yourself on the outside can truly affect or change that.
So as the hours tic by and I prepare myself for a day of surgery ahead, I can’t help but rub my belly and hips and smile. I thank my hips for being able to sway and wiggle when salsa dancing with my husband, I thank my belly for the way it feels when I laugh, for being able to watch it expand and house my daughter for nine months.
This is a body that has a good story to tell, and it looks forward to sharing more tales…