Editor’s Letter: Half the man I used to be

As 2018 begins, I’m nearly two years on from being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. In that time period, I’ve lost more than 100 pounds and put my diabetes into remission thanks to diet and exercise. My A1C level is now 5 (down from 8.1), my blood pressure is normal and I regularly walk four to five miles a day. And while I’m still constantly told I’m “half the man I used to be,” adjusting to the slimmer me has had its challenges.

When I look in a mirror, I sometimes don’t recognize myself or, even more disorienting, I see myself from long ago when I was slimmer. It’s like a weird visual echo. This sensation is coupled with a nearly life-long recurring dream of looking into a mirror and seeing someone else staring back at me. Now that it’s happened in real life, it almost feels like a form of depersonalization disorder. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve walked into my own bathroom or a fitting room to try on clothes (more on that in a moment) and thought someone else was in there with me.

Ah, yes, buying clothes. It’s been so long since I could walk into Target or Macy’s and buy clothes off the rack, I only recently realized that was an option again. Most of my clothes came from the big and tall offerings from Amazon. Going from a size 46 to 34 is fantastic, but relearning to wear “normal-size” clothes has also been a challenge. After years of wearing loose fitting, baggy t-shirts and jeans, I have to keep searching my memory bank to remind myself how clothes are supposed to fit and feel on my body.

Perhaps the most jarring thing about weight loss is how people react to you. At my heaviest (300 pounds), I felt both hidden and exposed at the same time. I was often concerned that people were looking at me because of my size, but came to realize I was also being ignored because of it. When I first started losing weight, a couple of acquaintances assumed I must be deathly ill; one even asked outright if I had cancer.

Photo by Jacob Nguyen

While getting a compliment on your appearance is always nice, I spent at least a year having to grin and bear it, hearing variations of “how much better you look now that you’re not fat.” I didn’t think I was terribly unattractive when I was heavier, but people have made it clear that was not the case. The scrutiny – from the fit of my clothes to the slimness of my face and arms to the way I walk – made me feel more exposed than ever.

There is a myth sold by gyms, diet programs and the media that once you’ve lost a large amount of weight, you are a happier, sexier and more fulfilled person. I felt those things before I lost weight. If you’re in the process of losing weight, don’t listen to the voices that tell you that you will be a better person in the end. You already are. Lose the weight for you and no one else.

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