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12 April, 2015

Dying to be Normal

 
In the middle of Normal, about 115.

     They say that the normal weight for someone my height is anywhere between 94 and 123 lbs.  "They" being pretty much anywhere with a weight chart, places like Rush University.  Now, I am not a feminist by any standard, it's not like I go out lobbying for women to go topless in public or anything.  But I do have a problem with someone telling me that I should weigh about 100 pounds to be "normal" and that if I weigh 130, I'm overweight.
     I remember  the first time I was classified as obese and how humiliated I felt, like there was a giant neon sign above my head wherever I went, pointing down at me so everyone would know that I was officially now obese.  Funny thing is, I felt a bit overweight for my preference, but I didn't feel obese at all!  I knew I was overweight and wanted to lose a few pounds like anyone else that's overweight might.  But it wasn't until I saw the word obese attached to my height and weight that I started to feel ashamed of my body.  Just for reference, here are a couple photos of me at different stages:
Overweight at 130, obese at about 150.
     I know I'm the self-proclaimed "Queen of Photoshop", but for the record, these aren't manipulated photos.  The size is real.  Maybe I have a seriously warped self-image, but I don't feel like I look overweight in photo #1 and I don't feel like I look obese in photo #2.  But at the time, what I felt I looked like didn't matter, the words that countless websites used to describe me is what mattered.  The word obese hit me like a train and whatever self-confidence I had started to disappear.
     Right now I weigh about 178 or so, considered by Center for Obesity Surgery to be severely obese.  I'm not positive about numbers.  The last time I stepped on the scale it said "error" and I stepped off it feeling like a failure, though I'm sure it just needs new batteries.  I'm not sure exactly how I got here, but I know it was a mixture of a lot of self-shaming, depression, stress, and exhaustion.
     For months and months I fought to stay awake.  I would have breakfast and pass out at the computer mid-meal.  I'd wake up hours later, make lunch and then struggle to keep my eyes open until dinner.  I slept most of every day away.  I would awake to find the house trashed even further by the kids and get stressed out about it.  Sometimes I spent days and days on cleaning sprees and wore myself out only to find that not much had changed, and then sometimes I just went back to bed and cried until I passed out again.  Life itself was overwhelming.  I missed appointments, kids were late to school, and I just couldn't stay awake.
     I did finally snap one morning.  I drove away and stayed away all day and all night.  I didn't want to go home.  I was on the brink of dying and I knew it.  Not because of my weight, but because of how I felt about myself and my life.  I wanted to die.  And at the same time, I wanted so much to just live.  When one of the kids had a routine check up a few days later, I asked the doctor (one of the best EVER) to help me with my depression.  Though running behind, she took the time to ask me some questions and then put me on the best medicine ever.  It's supposed to take a few weeks to start helping, but within the first hour, the stress vanished.  I was kinder, I felt less guilty about my actions and I had the motivation to work on the house.  The fact that I woke up seeing red shaking walls was a minimal problem.  The main side effect: exhaustion.
     The lack of energy meant we lived on easy food.  I got NO exercise, not even chasing after kids.  The house stayed messy and stressed me out.  All these things made me gain weight.  I knew I couldn't stay on my prescription forever.  The exhaustion would become a safety hazard when driving or cooking dinner.  Thankfully the kids ate at school for breakfast and lunch, most nights they ate at their grandparent's house and I slept, though I did fall asleep once with dinner in the oven and woke to find a black pizza.
     But overall I felt better.  I started to have confidence and when my life started falling together again, I stopped taking it.  I go back to it still when I start to feel myself going back to that place.  I only need a pill here, half a pill there, it's not a constant and it's not addicting or a problem.  On average, I have a bottle a year.
7 months ago, at about 175.
     One thing hasn't changed much though, I still feel shame and I feel it a lot.  Every time I squeeze into a pair of pants that used to be loose.  When I wear them for several days because I have no other pants that fit me and I don't want to wear pajamas.  When I finally change into pajamas and have to go somewhere public.  I worry that my weight embarrasses my children when I drop them off at school.  When I try on five shirts just to find that none of them fit like they should and I stick to wearing an over-sized t-shirt or hoodie, I live in my school hoodie.  When I open my bureau to find that it's mostly full of sizes that might never fit me again.  When I fill my plate and I'm hungry, but secretly shame myself for grabbing too much rice.  And when I pass by the full-length mirror in my bathroom and suddenly see a larger woman that I never noticed before... why do I look so fat all of a sudden?  When I go to cross my legs and remember that I now have to lift my leg with my arms.  And sometimes for no real reason, out in public, suddenly I feel an overwhelming cloud of embarrassment and panic that people can see me, they see that I'm fat.
     If you are feeling like me, I can't help you fight the exhaustion.  Only getting out of my depression helped that.  But I can tell you what did it for me, TIME WITH FAMILY.  Never over-rate that.  Spending more time with my family, specifically my sister helped me in more ways than I could count.  I was laughing again and I wasn't falling asleep all the time, my days were happy.  I forgot that I was fat when we were out shopping and running errands, it was only when I came home that I remembered how far off-track my life had gotten.
     So now I am on a mission to change that.  To stop being fat and lazy, or Flazy.  Before I officially start my weight loss journey, I'll be sure to replace those batteries in my scale and take a good before picture. 
     Let me say before I close, that I in no way feel that anyone should feel shame over their bodies.  Some people are born overweight and some people are born to be thin.  Some people gain weight easy and lose it hard, others gain it hard and lose it easy... each person has a different body for a reason.  Beauty standards change often and vary by country.  From bound feet to sunken collar bones and elongated necks, no one will ever be beautiful to everyone.  A number should not define who we are as people or define how we feel about ourselves.  This is a journey that I am taking to feel better about myself.  My goal is "overweight" because I liked the way that I looked when I was overweight.  130-140 is perfectly fine for me.  I'm not reaching for an impossible number or a number that is defined by someone else.  And while I AM motivated to get healthy by the the emotional toll that someone else's definition of obese took on me, I will not be defined by their definition of normal.  I think the term "normal" should be removed and replaced with the word "ideal" or "healthy", in some cases, it has.  but just Google the words 'Normal weight chart' and see how many pop up.  No, wait, don't... you don't need to see that.
     After all, the normal height for a woman is 5 foot, 3.8 inches.  The average weight, 166.2, making for a BMI of 28.7, technically overweight.  At my height, with a BMI of the NORMAL 28.7, I'd need to be about 145 pounds, not too far off from where I was.  So my only real advice.... take it all in stride if you can, it's all relative and none of it defines you.  You are beautiful, there is no one in the world like you.

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