Though I have not yet reached my weight loss goal, a few months ago I passed an important threshold: I was no longer considered clinically “obese.” It is so easy to become complacent when you’re going through big changes, and I didn’t want to come so far only to stay focused on how far I had yet to go. Though there are actually innumerable things I don’t miss about being obese, there are eight specific ones I have been deeply aware of over the last few months.
1. Wearing plus-size clothes
There’s nothing like walking into a store and passing racks and racks of stylish, sassy clothes, until, at the back of the store (I think they assume we don’t want to be seen looking at the size 20s) you reach the plus size rack. Suddenly the clothes are no longer so stylish and not at all sassy. As with pregnant women, clothing companies seem to think that larger-sized women want to look like prissy little girls with high lace collars and empire waists. I mean, a larger woman wouldn’t want to look sexy, would she? Heaven forbid!
But buying clothes in sizes that end in X (1X, 2X, 3X) feels so…shameful. The stores only reinforce this by banishing us to the back of the store and limiting us to infantilized or tent-like clothing. The latest styles are never available in larger sizes and God forbid you want a pair of knee-high boots and happen to have voluptuous calves. (Unfortunately I still had that challenge when I was a size 3. I’m blessed with calves like tree-trunks.)
This situation has been getting better: There are more and more somewhat stylish clothes coming out in plus, mainly because the companies realized how much money they could be making. But we still have a long way to go. I mean, can’t we all be on the same rack? From small to large and beyond? Why must we get ghettoized? Can I get an amen, sisters?
2. My big fat embedded wedding ring
For years my wedding ring was embedded into my body. Literally. I gained weight in and around it, until it was indented into the flesh of my left ring finger. Not only could I not take it off, but it changed the actual structure of my digit. Sometimes I would lie in bed at night in a claustrophobic panic thinking about how that gold band was trapped on my finger. I had no desire to take my ring off permanently, I just wanted the option of removing it during a manicure, for instance, or when putting on hand cream – like a normal woman. I can take it off now, but I find I no longer want to. And it rattles around a bit, as the flesh is forever indented.
3. Sharing my thighs
Okay, get your mind out of the gutter. Besides, I only have thighs for one man… (get it? Eyes, thighs?…sorry). What I mean is, now I can sit next to someone on an airplane or in a theatre seat and not have my thighs spilling over the edges of my seat. No matter how much I tried to condense myself, to pull my voluminous legs into one another and onto only one seat, it was a losing battle. It’s hard to concentrate on a poetry reading when your thighs are pressing against the leg of the stranger next to you.
And while we’re on the subject of thighs…
4. My thighs rubbing together as I walk
Remember that teacher in grammar school who you always knew was coming by the swish-swish of her nylon-coated thighs? I used to be amazed that her polyester dress didn’t go up in flames from the boy-scout-with-sticks type friction. Well, I have more empathy for her now. I worked hard learning to walk with minimal movement of my upper legs to avoid the humiliation of that tell-tale sound. It was awful when I would pull a decent pair of leggings from the dryer, only to discover the fabric on the upper inside of the legs had worn through. Amazing that a piece of clothing could cause such sadness.
I was walking through a hotel lobby this morning and it hit me. My legs weren’t touching as I strode. It was a freakin’ Christmas miracle in February.
5. Not being able to cross my legs
I know someone out there is saying, “But Ann, that’s not good for your back/hips/knees (pick one)!” Sorry, I think it’s sexy. Besides, I wear too many skirts to sit with my feet on the floor with my knees pulled tightly together (which was an impossibility until recently), and crossing my legs at the ankles like the nuns taught me? – well, nothing makes me feel more like my maiden aunt Ana. All that’s missing is the support hose and black patent leather purse. No, I think a woman looks hot and confident with her legs crossed and her back straight. I do it all the time now that I can, folding myself into a compact container on only one seat. Feels damn good.
6. Snoring like a bear
Talk about un-ladylike. Of course, I wasn’t sure weight loss would rid me of this curse. My 4’11” 110-pound mother snored like a dump truck on a dirt road, but after I dipped below 200 pounds, my snoring slowed to a crawl. I used to not be able to share a hotel room with a friend and was petrified of falling asleep on a plane for fear of terrorizing everyone with my nasal roar. Worst of all? I used to lie in bed, fighting to keep my eyes open until I thought my husband was asleep, keeping him from seeking refuge on the living room couch. Now I snore only on rare occasions, like when my nose is stuffed. And when I do, it’s no longer earth-shattering and ear-splitting. And I even get to fall asleep first.
7. I stopped breathing.
Number 6 seems trivial compared to this one. I’ll never forget the first time it happened. I sat bolt upright from a deep sleep, to find myself choking, gasping. I had stopped breathing. As I gulped for breath my husband grabbed my arm and stared at me with wild, panicked eyes, his other hand reaching for the phone to call 911. Eventually I choked in some air and knew I was out of danger, but it had scared me. Scared me more deeply than I’d ever been scared before.
I had developed sleep apnea.
My brother tried to convince me to get a CPAP machine, but I refused to sleep like an invalid every night with a mask on my face just because I couldn’t lose 20 pounds. It scared me enough that it helped push me off the edge and onto this weight loss journey. As soon as I got below 200 pounds, the apnea stopped. And now? I can sleep on my back. Seriously, I’m sure many of you take it for granted, but I have not been able to sleep on my back for over 16 years. You never know how much you enjoy something until it’s gone…and then, mercifully, it’s back again.
8. The sixth cookie
So, imagine I’m at a table with four other people. There is a plate of six cookies in the middle of the table. Everyone takes one, leaving one in the middle. I finish mine quickly, and immediately begin to wonder if it would look bad if I took the last one. Would that be rude? Would people think, “There she goes! Obviously she has impulse control problems! She certainly doesn’t need that cookie.” But I really want the cookie and am having trouble concentrating on what is being said. And why isn’t the woman next to me eating hers? I mean, for god’s sake, doesn’t she know there’s a cookie in front of her? Maybe I can take hers too on the way out. Can’t waste a perfectly good cookie!
The worst part? Whether or not I ate the cookie, I would be left with an overwhelming feeling of shame. Why can’t I be more like that woman next to me? Does she ever obsess about such things? Is she really completely free? Now I can pass on all the cookies. Do I occasionally indulge? Sure, but I’ve learned that the benefits of not having the cookie, or even several, far outweigh its fleeting taste. I no longer obsess and can focus on what’s going on around me, not on the next thing I can get in me.
When making this list, I tried hard to think about something I would miss about being obese, and perhaps eating the cookies is one thing. But that treat comes with a high, high price. And I never did enjoy those cookies, not really. I’m not sure I really even tasted them. It was the idea of them that appealed to me. But when you compare that sugar-induced pleasure with this partial list of things I won’t miss, there is no competition. And I always knew that in my heart, even when I was eating the sixth cookie.
I just needed to find the right path. If you’re looking for yours, keep heart. It’s out there, as are the eight things you won’t miss in your future.