One of my fitness instructors asked me to bring in a Before picture of myself. I looked through photos of a party Polly had in December, photos that showed the damage that all my depressive eating had done, photos that appalled me at the time. It was me and it wasn't. A rounder face, a larger body, a person who wasn't very happy.
Today I am about 40 pounds lighter than I was in that photo. I lost the depression weight, and then lost more. I weigh less now than I did in college. It's possible I'd be able to fit into my high school prom dress.
I'm not an After yet. I've had people say I look great as is and don't need to lose any more weight. I've had people say 10-15 more pounds will do it. I have my own number in my head and I'm fairly certain I'll be able to reach and maintain it in a healthy way.
Being heavy in today's society, especially in New York (one of the "glamour" cities) was not fun. It was akin to being a second class citizen, or even being invisible. There are only so many times you can be told what a pretty face you have. And even though I was still able to attract men, I knew my weight was a liability, a detriment to my "replication value."
It wasn't just being less attractive (by modern standards) externally. I felt terrible on the inside. I had less confidence, less energy, and a part of me believed I didn't deserve... well, anything good. I'm sure last autumn's break-up, my grandmother's death, and a few other things had a lot to do with it, too, but this was one thing I could actually fix. And I don't mean it in the way of women who develop eating disorders because it's one thing in their lives they can control. For me, it was one thing in my life I could improve.
So I changed my diet, brought my exercise routine up a notch, and started becoming more aware of what was going into my body, whether it was food, nicotine, or alcohol. I said no to birthday cake, dinners out, and happy hours if I felt I had overindulged too much that week. I planned girls nights out, dates, and other social activities around my workout schedule. I balanced this with treats when I knew I needed them, whether it was a day to be lazy on the couch or Thai take out. I rewarded myself with an exotic vacation, but chose one that involved a lot of physical activity.
Generally, I don't believe myself to be all that disciplined. Sloth is one of my favorite deadly sins, after Lust and Gluttony (though less of the latter these days). So it's a little shocking to step on the scale week after week and see the numbers go down. It's more than a little shocking to look in the mirror and see a different person's reflection.
I used to say that I would never date a man who would only want me at a lower weight (and I still think "for fatter or thinner" should be added to traditional wedding vows). Dating these last few months has been strange, because part of me wonders if any of these men would have liked me 40 pounds ago. But then I remember something: I didn't like me 40 pounds ago, either. I mean, yes, I'm still the same person I was then, but in other ways--apart from physical--I'm not. I enjoy challenging myself more now. I have much more confidence and better self-esteem. I now believe I deserve those good things, not in an entitled way, but in an I-work-hard-and-will-reap-my-rewards-kind of way.
"Beauty is a currency," I told a man this weekend. He didn't disagree.
By the standards of society, I have raised my value over these last four-and-a-half months. People look at me and treat me differently. It's daunting to be more visible, but also empowering.
I'm not writing all this to brag. I'm actually pretty hard on myself about not achieving enough, not working hard enough, and generally having little to show for my life. This is more a reminder that I did accomplish something this year: I transformed myself into a person I like. It's a process, and I'm still getting there, but it's nice to step back and recognize that I've actually made some progress.