A Refinery29 guest post written by a woman named Elna Baker and titled “What Losing 110 Pounds Really Looks Like” offers readers a firsthand look into the reality of what losing a significant amount of weight actually looks and feels like. We’ve become so accustomed to seeing Before and After pictures — on billboards, on television ads, in magazines — featuring slim, tan, and smiling people showing off their new figures, but the truth is, unless someone has only lost a moderate amount of weight, these ads are a complete lie. In a touchingly honest fashion, Elna describes in detail the changes her body experienced after losing 110 pounds:
After dropping the weight, I had so much extra skin that I could lay on my side and pull it a half-foot in either direction.For a long time, I tried to get the skin to go away with lotions and exercise. Eventually, I resorted to plastic surgery. I didn’t do it to alter the way I look naturally; I just wanted a chance at the body I could’ve maybe had if I’d never put on weight.
She had four procedures in total: breast augmentation to restore her breasts to their previous size and shape, a body lift, a circumferential body lift, and a thigh lift. She now has a number of scars, and despite all the surgeries, still has a lot of extra skin. She jokingly states that she looks like a flying squirrel when she holds her arms and legs out.
Obesity is challenging for many reasons, not the least being that it often gives rise to body image and confidence issues. Every day men and women are bombarded with images of what we are supposed to look like, and at some level, those images affect us all. The very fact that the other gender is also brainwashed by these images doesn’t help, knowing that they are probably seeking someone with what we’ve defined as a ‘nice body,’ whatever that means. Imagine losing all that weight, only to be confronted with another problem — one which is represented in the media even less than obesity itself — that lifestyle changes can’t solve. Elna shares the moment when her illusions of what losing weight would be like shattered:
I’ve joined the world of average-sized people now. But, it doesn’t mean I’m fixed. Sitting in that tub at the “spa,” I thought about all the things I’ve done to my body: hating it, hiding it, starving it. Cutting it open. Hurting. Healing. Promising myself that every time I looked at that scar, I’d feel grateful for my body — and then forgetting that promise.
How am I still struggling with this? I thought. How am I back at the very beginning, just trying to have a relationship with my body?
It’s Your Choice: You Can See Your Body However You Want To
Elna goes on to share some helpful advice she received from her therapist that created a shift in her viewpoint: “Stop using the past to poison your present. Don’t let who you used to be prevent you from getting the things in life that are available to you now.”
This is great advice, valuable for people struggling with just about any problem. It’s easy to fall into the ‘victim’ mentality, a place from which nothing productive can ever be accomplished. If you continue to see yourself as a victim of your circumstances, you will never be able to rise above them, and you will continue to feel the same way over and over again.
This advice prompted Elna’s ‘aha’ moment, helping her to realize that she could see her body however she wanted to. And all this time, she had been choosing to hate it:
It really hit me. I can see my body however I want to. I choose to dislike it. And I do so because after all these years, disliking the way I look has become a part of my identity. Instead of owning my body, I let the world tell me who I’m supposed to be and how I’m supposed to look. I feed off the downward spiral of shame and self-hatred, because it gives me something to strive for.
I don’t know about you, but I am so sick of striving for fucking beauty. It has taken up 10 to 20% of my time and thoughts on a daily basis for the past 20 years. It has robbed me of doing more important, loving, honest things. And, after all this time, I’m not even that good at it.
Elna truly believes everyone should accept themselves for who they are, even though she herself is still struggling to do so. We are our own worst critics, after all. Maybe we could all benefit from directing some of the compassion that comes so easily to us when it comes to other people towards ourselves. Self acceptance does not mean not having goals — striving towards a healthy weight, better eating habits, or more physical activity are all worthy endeavours — but the mental abuse we subject ourselves to is incredibly damaging and can actually prevent us from reaching those goals. Elna referred to this as “the disease” she is “still trying to overcome.”
We All Have Our Issues — You’re Not Alone in What You Are Feeling
One of the most powerful moments of her blog came when she told the story of her boyfriend taking her to a spa retreat in California. You can imagine how she felt, surrounded by stereotypically beautiful and slim people. The spa included a naked bath, and she ended up going in for 10 minutes until moving to a solo bath to be alone.
It wasn’t until sharing her experience in group therapy and realizing that everyone struggles with body issues that her perspective began to change, and she began to understand she was not alone in her struggles.
“The weird thing was, the room of strangers — all those beautiful people I’d been naked with the night before — said that they struggled with the same things,” she says.
Sometimes, just realizing you are not alone in your thoughts and feelings and that nearly everyone beats themselves up at least a little bit can help break the cycle and reveal just how ridiculous our negative self talk is. Nobody’s life is perfect, and everyone has their issues — even ‘pretty’ people.
This is a great story to show everyone that we don’t have to let the world define who we should be, what we should look like, and what we should do. Think for yourself, follow your heart, and do something because you want to do it, not because somebody else tells you you should.