I’ve been dragging my feet about writing this post, as it’s very, very personal. It is in response to a few posts on one of the DS (Duodenal Switch weight loss surgery) boards I read and has also been circulated on a few of the DS blogs that I read. The questions mainly deal with personality and self-image. I alluded to having a few issues with these concepts in my Pajama Post
, but I’m thinking that it would be best to spell it all out – for my own psyche as well as for the benefit of any fledgling DSer that might get (mis)directed here.
The main thrust of the first question is “has your personality changed since you began losing weight?” There have been many denials and a few painfully honest yeses. I find myself falling into the NO camp. I’ll be the first to admit, though, that my behavior has changed, but my personality has remained the same. I’ll elaborate. Except during two deep bouts of depression, I’ve always been a fairly chirpy person. While I can kvetch with the best of ‘em, snark and cutting sarcasm usually make me uncomfortable. I’m an optimist, and idealist, and mostly liberal in my thinking. I love deeply and loyally, resist change – sometimes even when it’s for the better – and wilt under harsh criticism. I have been and still am eager to please, but have relatively few insecurities. I’m as flirtatious now as I was 110 pounds ago, even if I occasionally get taken seriously in my flirtation now. I can be bold as brass, and am working on developing tact and thinking before I speak. Circumspection has never come easy to me. I consider myself intelligent, fairly cultured, and well educated. I procrastinate. I’m messy. I love to cook, but hate to clean up. I’ve never liked taking the stage by myself. That will come as a surprise to many who knew me in my youth. I have blistering stage fright. I have a piano that I enjoy playing, but I play only for myself. As you can see, I know myself pretty well. Being a tad self-centered, I’ve given myself a lot of thought...
I do recognize that my behavior has changed, though. I’m more energetic physically. There are days when I bounce around my classroom like Tigger on crack, keeping my students’ attention. I’m less prone to make self-deprecating remarks (you know, say it yourself before anyone can say it for you.). I’m a bit happier these days, since there are so many things that are easier for me now that I’ve lost weight – sitting in a booth at a restaurant, using a regular-sized stall in a restroom, being able to cross my legs again. Kim said, and I wholeheartedly agree with her, that Life is easier on thin people. It’s absolutely true. Life, and society in general, is easier on us, and while I’ve lost weight in the triple digits, I’m still a good ways from “thin.” So if I seem different, it’s not my personality that’s different. I’m still the same me, there’s just less packaging.
Another question that resonated with me was about vanity. One woman was concerned that she was becoming vain at the expense of her character. This is something I’ve struggled with so much in the past. Reading her post took me back 8 years to my LA Weight Loss days. You see, even at my largest, I’ve always had a healthy chunk of vanity. I never thought I was ugly – I was one of those chubby women who took time to do my hair and makeup most days. Dressing well, that’s another story, as plus-sized clothing is often much more expensive than in regular sizes, and I am a teacher. ‘Nuff said, I think. The difficulty begins with the fact that I never really lived in my body. The body was something you washed and dressed and used to carry your brain around in. I was raised in a very intellectual household that placed more emphasis on education and character than on beauty. As long as one was clean, healthy, and presentable, that was enough. I had enough personal vanity to ensure that presentable included makeup and coiffure. Still, my body and how it worked was a bit of a mystery to me. It often betrayed me – gym class, for example, was a daily horror. Why was I always last to finish the race? Gah – I hated gym class. I wasn’t even fat in high school and I couldn’t make my body do what I wanted. My academic classes, when they interested me, were much better. I was a decent student when I could pull my head out of the clouds, and pretty freaking smart if I gave a damn about the material. I didn’t change in college or grad school, either. I ate and studied, got married halfway through my bachelor’s degree, and placed myself at the headquarters of stress central by living with my in-laws. I ate more, as narcotics weren’t available to me...
So, as I began losing major weight for the first time, I was really thrown for a loop by the emphasis that was placed on the physical, both by the diet industry and the people around me. In a way, I felt like I was betraying my brain with all the energy I was devoting to my appearance. I mean, did truly smart people really care this much about their appearance? Look at Einstein – damn sure Albert didn’t give a shit if he had a bad hair day! I felt vain and shallow out of all proportion. I realize now that my feelings had nothing to do with my appearance, but with the reactions I was receiving about it. I certainly wasn’t turning dumber with every pound I lost – intelligence isn’t stored in the fat cells, after all. In the end, the draconian nature of the LA Weight loss diet provided me with a convenient excuse for failure, and I took it. I was already uncomfortable with the attention I was getting, and I was feeling like a bimbo for taking so much time with my appearance. I was young enough, too, that I lacked the shades of gray given by age and experience and saw things only in black and white terms. Pretty equals dumb, not pretty equals smart. People who were both pretty and smart had obviously made some unsavory pact with Satan. That had
to be it.
The last question that hit me was from a very intelligent and articulate blogger who was boggled by someone’s reaction to her weight loss. After having lost more than 100 pounds, she was unnerved at someone who couldn’t just recognize that she was “just not fat anymore.” Well, I’ve been there, said that, and outgrown the t-shirt a couple of times. What I’ve just said about people’s reactions above proves that. But, see, it’s more than just not being fat anymore. For anyone, losing 100 pounds is an achievement. For normal people, it usually entails stringent diet and exercise. When people admire you for losing 100 pounds, they’re not just admiring the loss of bulk – they’re admiring your effort, tenacity, and grit. I didn’t realize that before. It took me years of living in my fat to figure that reaction out. I realized that I’d always dismissed compliments based on weight loss because of my guilt
I was guilty
that I had 100 pounds to lose. I was guilty
that I had let my weight accumulate to such a degree. I was guilty
that I wasn’t active. I was guilty
– so I felt that I didn’t deserve the compliments. Now that I’ve had weight loss surgery, you’d think I’d feel even more guilt. I mean, losing this much weigh has been almost effortless. Sure, I avoid certain kind of foods, but that’s my choice. I can have them, but they give me gas. I don’t want to fart in the classroom. My students should thank me. But I digress... Strangely enough, I don’t have guilt this time around. I think it’s because I reached the point of no return – the point where weight loss surgery was deemed Medically Necessary to save my life – and no longer feel guilt about my body. I was not normal. I have no more guilt.
I’ve ruminated about these questions, in one form or another, for the last 10 years. It’s taken way longer than it should’ve to compose the answers. I doubt that they’ll stay the same over the next 10 years, as I continue to evolve. But for today, at least, that’s how I see things. If you’re reading this sentence, well, damn. You have much more patience than I do.