Tag Archives: body image

Fun Facts Friday!

I weighed myself this am and I see I am down another pound.  I thought I was down two pounds.  The first time I weighed myself, the scale said 170.  I ran and grabbed my phone to take a picture. Then weighed myself again and it popped up to 171.  Mean old scale!  Still, I’ll take it.


Here’s the proof!

Another Friday fun fact, I can now wear a size 12 jeans!  I did not think I could ever get here.  Granted, the first time I tried them on, I could not really button them.  So, I laid down on the bed and I was able to get them buttoned!

I told my mom this qualifying my news with the, “Well, they don’t really fit yet.  The only way to button them was to lay down on the bed.”

Her response?  “But if you can button them while lying down, that’s how you know they fit!”

And I wonder why I have body image issues.

Well, the good news is, I’ve lost a couple of pounds since then, and I do not need to lie on the bed to button the size 12 jeans.  I won’t lie.  They are a tad tight, but still. I CAN FREAKING WEAR A SIZE 12!!!!!

That makes me officially out of the plus sizes in pants.  I was always a little bit top-heavy, so it will be a few more pounds before I come down to only a large and not an extra-large in tops, but I’m pretty happy with where I am right now.

I have three pairs of size 11 jeans in my closet.  I tried them on and tried to button them.  Not even close.  I have been wearing the size 14s since March I think  And it’s taken me about 40 pounds to go from 14 to 12.  I’ll give it another 15-20 before I try the 11s again.

So, when I saw my former work buddies last weekend, one of them showed me a picture from two years ago.  I had her text it to me.  This was taken December 2011.  I had already decided to do the gastric by-pass surgery to help me lose weight.  Compare that to this other picture which is me from about a month ago.


Aug 2012

Aug 2012

What a difference, huh?  I guess that picture was two months ago, now that I look at it.  I have to get some new pictures I think.

If you would have told me two years ago that I would look like I do now, I’m not sure I could have believed it.  I would have wanted to believe it, but the possibility that I could look and feel as good as I do now was something I just could not fathom.  It just goes to show you that you can make big changes in your life.  The results may not come quickly, but if you keep plugging along day by day, you will get there.  And the results can be bigger than you imagined.

Never give up!

My 15 Nanoseconds Of Fame

So, I have to admit, that I squeed with crazy fan-girl joy last Friday night when a famous person re-tweeted my tweet with a link to my blog.  And a week later, I’m still talking about it.

Last Friday, I wrote about Mika Brzezinski tweeting her weight.  I tweeted the post and copied @morningmika.  Later that night, she re-tweeted my tweet and replied that I have a great blog.

So, of course, I immediately texted a friend of mine, “OMG! Mika Brzeznski retweeted me!”

To which she replied, “Have you bragged about it on Facebook yet?”

“OMG! I didn’t even think of that!” I typed back furiously.  “I’ll do that now!”

(I think she was making fun of me, but I was too stuck in a fan-girl crazed haze at the time to realize it.)

I had a teeny uptick in Twitter followers and a huge increase in traffic to my blog as a result.  (As well as delusions of grandeur and fanciful dreams of appearing on Morning Joe to personally tell Mika, ((and I guess Joe, if I must)), about my upcoming, nonexistent book about how I lost 175 pounds through gastric by-pass surgery and how that changed my life.)

A week later, things have returned to a somewhat normal state.  I am reading Mika’s book, Obsessed, about her own struggles with food and body image.  I am also reading Eating My Feelings by author Mark Rosenberg, who I met this week at Politics & Prose in DC.

He is absolutely hilarious, irreverent, and foul-mouthed.  I thought he was pretty great.  I hope to have reviews and my thoughts on both of these books up soon.

Anyway, I am heading to Pittsburgh this weekend to check up on mom.  Her cast is off, things seem to be normalizing in her life.  She can drive, eat, and is doing physical therapy several days a week.  She finally found out from social security what her monthly stipend will be, so she can set her budget.  She’s starting to come out of the broken arm, husband dying, surgery, living with a cast portion of her life.  I know she still has a long way to go before she is totally comfortable with her life again, but for now, she’s doing good.

Have a great weekend!


Living For Myself

illusionSometimes it is hard to tell when you are living according to your own dreams or when you’re living for your own dreams.  For years, I allowed the opinions of others to be more important than my own.  What other people thought of me was more important than what I thought of myself.  This was an enormous mistake.

Of course other people are always going to try to impose their will and expect you to live according to their expectations.  I was a shy and insecure child, who turned into an insecure teenager.  I had low self-esteem and I always looked to others to for approval.  I also had a habit of surrounding myself with people who needed to put other people down to make themselves feel more important.  So, myself esteem was really in the toilet.

Living like this almost destroyed me.  I weighed 315 pounds at my heaviest and my body was really suffering the effects of long-term morbid obesity.

Fortunately, I realized my life was going in the wrong direction.  I cut out of my life the people whose vision of who I am did not match up with who I thought I was.  I stopped associating with and seeking the approval of anyone who had to try to make me feel bad to make themselves feel superior.  I started befriending people who treated me with the respect I deserve.

In some cases, the end of a friendship was mutual.  In other cases, I was not able to cut a person out completely, either because they are married to  a friend or family member, or closely connected with one of my groups of friends.  The difference between now and before, I know who I am and how I feel about myself.  I can keep their negativity in perspective and give their opinions no consideration whatsoever.  In short, I do not listen to them or allow them to affect my own self image.  What they think of me or how they treat me says more about them than me, in my opinion.

None of this was easy.  It is never easy to end long-time friendships, or distance yourself from people you care about.  I learned that I had to care about myself more and that if they cared about me at all, they would have to learn to accept the new me on my terms.  Some of them, I’m happy to say did. Others did not.  Those friendships have either gone by the way side, or I only associate with them on special occasions.

Once I made the decision to care about my own opinion over the opinion of others, I was able to make choices that helped me improve my life.  I feel and look better than I have in years.  I am happy.  And for the most part, I feel I am making better choices.  I’m not all the way there yet.   But when I look back at where I’ve been and realize how far I’ve come, I know I can get there.


Redefining Pain & Other Musings on Changing Your Life

So this past week, I threw myself into the exercising ring all pistons firing.  I have gone nearly every day to the gym and exercised my heart out.  I’ve done Bodyflow, Yoga, Zumba, the stationary bike, the treadmill, and Monday I am meeting with the personal trainer to learn more about the weight machines, etc.


And now I have a whole new understanding for the word pain.  OMG!

This is what you get from a lifetime of not taking very good care of yourself.  When you finally do start taking care of yourself and make significant changes to alter the course of your life, you experience significant pain.  The surgery was painful.  Learning to eat differently to accommodate my new stomach can be painful sometimes.  The effects of the surgery are sometimes painful (see posts on constipation and other problems I have had).  And now the exercising to get in shape is painful.

Bottom line, I think the pain is worth it to have a better life.

To be perfectly honest, I was living with tremendous pain before I had the gastric by-pass.  My back hurt pretty much all of the time whether I was standing, sitting, or walking.  I could not walk very far or very much.  I had difficulty breathing.  My feet hurt.  My legs hurt.  And I had flare ups with my different organs hurting from time to time.  I had a couple of very scary episodes with my heart, my liver, and my kidneys.

I was headed down a very scary road that did not have a good end in sight.  I was really afraid that if I did not do something to change course, that I was on a path to an early grave.  I had a choice to make; continue doing what I was doing and accept the fact that I was slowly killing myself or find a way to change course, however extreme, and try to live a better more full life.

I am not ready to give up.  Not yet.  I love to quite Stephen King’s The Shawshank Redemption when the main character, Andy Dufresne says to his friend Red, “It comes down to a simple choice, get busy living or get busy dying.”

But another of my favorite quotes is from the poet Dylan Thomas:  “Do not go gentle into that good night.  Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

I do not plan to go gently from this life.  I made the choice to live and I will do what it takes to make sure the life I live is fulfilling, worthwhile, and as long as possible.  If it takes a bit of muscle pain and inconvenience to achieve that, so be it.  I may whine and complain about being in pain, but I recognize that I did do this to myself.  I let myself become this out of shape.  It is going to take a while to get back into shape.

Now, there are some naysayers out there who have told me that I will not stay committed to going to the gym.  They were also the same people who said I would never go through with the surgery.  And the same ones, who after I had the surgery, claimed I would never stick with the plan and I would revert to my old ways.

I don’t know what about this whole process has led people to believe I will not follow through.  Maybe they haven’t been paying attention, but I did have the surgery.  I have stayed on target.  And despite one or two minor setbacks, I have not reverted to my old ways.  Oh and hello!  I’ve lost 118 pounds, so suck it, haters!

Maybe they are jealous of all that I’ve accomplished and they feel they need to pull me down to make themselves feel better.  Maybe someone changing their life is such a foreign concept to them, they cannot get their tiny little brains around it.  Or maybe they just cannot understand that this is not about them, and pleasing them did not factor into my decision.  Who knows.

All I know is that I’m not going to let their low opinions keep me from doing what I must do.  So, bring on the pain!

Oh, Go On…

I read this article this weekend on Today’s Health called “Why Women Are Terrible At Accepting Compliments.”  It was a great article.  They also embedded a video from Comedy Central’s Amy Schumer where she pokes fun at this phenomenon.  This video is quite over the top, but I think it illustrates the ridiculousness of deflecting compliments.

A few months ago, I posted how my friends called me out when I did just that, deflected a compliment I received.  After having been morbidly obese for about a million years, (OK 25 or so, but who’s counting), I have really been struggling with the fact that I am no longer invisible.  Also, being morbidly obese means you do not like to hear about how you look.  You know you look awful and generally if someone is complimenting you appearance, you believe it is a lie.  Or you believe they are talking about how fat you are behind your back, which let’s face it, they probably are.

People are commenting on how I look to my face now pretty much all of the time these days.  And it is taking me sometime to handle hearing good comments on my appearance.  I especially have difficulty handling it when men compliment my appearance.  Gay, straight, young, old, married, single doesn’t matter.  I get flustered and I blush.

It’s easier to deflect than to simply say, “Thank you.”  Saying “thank you” means that I have to openly admit to being attractive, or at least more attractive than I was before, and that’s something I have never been comfortable with.  It appears that I am not alone:

“When someone tells me something good about myself, I always have a reason why they’re wrong,” she says. “I think we all feel ‘less than’. Less than what we should have been. Less than what we thought we were going to be. Or we listened to people who said we were less than. This is a big issue with women.”

Renee Engeln, a psychology professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., says it has to do with the mixed messages women receive about what behaviors are desirable or acceptable.

“[We’re told] love yourself, but not too much. Be confident, but practice a style of humility this culture never requires of men. Believe in yourself, but never admit it out loud, lest you make another woman who doesn’t feel good about herself feel bad,” she says. “If you’re raised to think it’s arrogant to ever say something positive about yourself, it makes it hard to accept a compliment.

I’d say there’s a lot of truth in that.  I was always told that I was fat and unattractive.  To hear that insult constantly and then to suddenly hear how good I look is frankly, difficult to believe.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, it is easier to believe that bad stuff.  I don’t know why that is, but it is.

I’m getting better at it.  Having my appearance change and look better pretty much monthly helped.  My friends making me sit through compliment therapy where they complimented me and I was not allowed to say anything but “thank you” helped as well.  But learning to, if not always believe, at least embrace the good things in my life helps the most.

Now when people tell me how great I look, despite my constant blushing or my stomach my exploding into a million butterflies like teenager on her first date, I just smile and say “Thanks!”

I think if I do that enough, maybe one day I’ll actually believe it.

Have You Been Brainwashed?

Apparently, Dustin Hoffman has been, at least that’s what he says in this AFI clip on YouTube where he discusses the making of the movie Tootsie.  He talks very openly about society’s critical view of anyone who does not fit the standard definition of beauty and how that affected him as a man who was tasked with playing a woman on-screen.

I remember seeing this movie years ago, but admittedly, I do not remember much about it.  I am going to have to go back and watch it now, if for no other reason than to watch it with mindfulness and a critical eye to traditional definitions of beauty.

As a woman who spent her life struggling to find a way to fit into the world of the beautiful people, I certainly know what it is like to feel inadequate by comparison.  I think this is something all women, (and a lot of men, quite frankly), feel.

I spent the better part of my life totally brainwashed, thinking that I was nothing if I was not beautiful, or beautiful as defined by fashion magazines, movies, TV, etc.  But the truth is, I am a beautiful person.  I may not have perfect skin, or the best figure in the world, but I am smart, capable, funny, cute, thoughtful, helpful, caring, loving, the list goes on and on.  I have a lot of great qualities to share with the world, as did Tootsie from what I do recall from the movie.

The only thing that ever stopped me from sharing those qualities was my own self-imposed limitations because I never felt that I measured up.  Granted, those limitations were reinforced because I put too much value on the low opinion of others.  I guess it is easier to believe the bad stuff.  Why is that, exactly?

Well, I am done with that.  Yes, I still struggle with body image and the like.  I may never fully get beyond that, although I wish I could.  But I do not let it destroy me or override all of my other good qualities.

At the end of the clip, Hoffman opines how he allowed himself to be limited.

“There are too many interesting women I have not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed.  This was never a comedy for me.”

I am going to turn this idea on its ear a little bit here and look at it from a slightly different angle.

I have allowed myself to limit my own experiences in life because I had been brainwashed; because I never felt beautiful; because I allowed the low opinion of others to matter more than my own dreams and wishes.

Too many people do this, especially women.

When I started this weight loss and blog project, I began the process of putting that behavior behind me forever.  I am not completely there yet, but I feel as if I have made a lot of progress.  I am taking care of myself.  I am writing more.  I am putting myself out into the world and opening myself up to all of the good possibilities that are out there.  Yes, there is the risk that I will fail, get hurt, be rejected, but I no longer care about that.  There is also a chance I will be successful and embraced by the world.  Either way, I’m not going to allow anything to hold me back any longer.

Have you ever allowed yourself to kill your dreams because you didn’t feel as if you were good enough?  What is stopping you from achieving them now?


A couple of my friends called shenanigans on me last night.  I wrote the other day about feeling uncomfortable with some of the new attention I have been receiving, especially increased attention from men whether it is compliments, touching, hugging, or being ogled by random men while on a business trip.

Well, last night after my writer’s group several people complimented me on my weight loss.  I usually handle that well.  Then a guy friend of mine, we’ll call him Bobby, came up to me and complimented the t-shirt I was wearing and said, “You look really good in green, you should wear it more often.”  A really nice, neutral, fairly innocuous compliment.  My response?

“Oh my hair is just a mess today!  I look awful!”

When I said that, another friend, we’ll call her Joanna, jumped in and said, “Oh no, no, no, no, no!  That is no way to respond to a compliment!  How would you feel if I came up to you and said, ‘I don’t want you to get all bitchy on me Colleen, but you look really good in green.’  Rude huh?  That’s basically what you just did to him!”

I turned back to my friend and sheepishly said, “Thank you, Bobby.”

Then a bunch of them spent the rest of the night complimenting me and then applauding when I said “thank you” instead of deflecting the compliment with a self-deprecating comment.  One guy even told me I am simply going to have to get used to it because I am apparently a “looker.”

What can I say to that other than I know, right? 🙂

Anyway, this picture of me was taken last week at my training class in Texas, so it is fairly recent.


What Is In A Look

photo (38)


I have experienced so many changes over the past few months it has been difficult for me to mentally catch up to where I am.

First, I forget sometimes that I am not as big as I was.  I sometimes have to do a double take when I look in the mirror.  I cannot believe how small I am sometimes.  I definitely sometimes experience a disconnect between the Colleen that is in my head and the one looking back at me in the mirror.  I also sometimes forget that other people see me differently.

When I was in Texas, I had a training class every day, so I dressed like I would for work.  I wore dresses every day except for my last day there.  My first day of training, I was walking from the shuttle through the hotel lobby towards the elevators to get back to my room.  There was a group of men standing in front of the hotel check-in counter.  I caught one of them looking at me as I walked through the lobby.  I watched as his eyes moved up and down my body and finally stop at my face.  He smiled and said, “Hello!  How was your day?”

My first reaction was disgust and I immediately thought, “Creep!”  My next thought was, “OMG! Did he just check me out? ME? Holy cow!”  Then I felt my face turn about 2,000 shades of red.  I simply replied, “Fine,” then turned away and walked a little faster towards the elevators.

I really did not know how to respond to that.  I’m not used to being looked at by men with anything other than disgust or disinterest.  Not that I think there was any real connection.  It was just a look.  But the look left me feeling unsettled.  I realized that I have no idea how to handle myself if anyone does one day show real interest in me.  To date, no one has.  I have noticed a small increase in overall attention from men, but no romantic interest.  And that’s OK.  I’m not sure I’m really ready.  Maybe I am.  Who knows.

When I returned to the room, I checked myself out in the full length mirror.  I do not have a full length mirror at home, so I really do not know what I look like in my clothes most of the time.  I can only see myself down to my waist in mine.  The first thing I noticed when I looked in the mirror was my dress.  The dress I was wearing was too big.  I immediately tried on one of my other dresses.  That one was too big too.  Then I tried on the rest of the clothes I had in my suitcase.   I could not believe the difference I saw in myself.

Still, I could not understand what the man in the lobby was looking at.  I couldn’t get beyond the fact that my dresses were too big.  I mean, my legs are definitely looking much thinner.  I lose weight in my legs and face before I lose anywhere else.  I’m smaller on the bottom than I am on top.  Always have been.  But that is all besides the point.

The point is, I need to recognize that I really do look different from before.  People notice.  People who have never met me do not see me as I was.  And I need to learn how to better handle the attention the new me is receiving.

Eating On The Road

Eating when away on a business trip is crazy.  It has been years since I have had to do this.  I had forgotten just what a difficult experience it could be for someone who is trying to eat healthier.

First, I stressed out about the flight and airport/airline food and water, not to mention my potential lack of protein/vitamin supplements. That actually ended up being OK.  I was able to take vitamins and protein bars through security and onto the plane.  I also had a few supplemental protein bars and my standard vitamin supply packed in my checked bag for my stay in Dallas.  I was able to get a bottle of water and lunch just near my gate.  I arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare so that I could have lunch before my flight boarded.

As an aside, I just have to insert here what a joy it was to fit in the airline seat like a normal person and not need a buckle extender.  I was even able to cross my legs.  Of course, I’m 5’1″ and I have short lets, so I’m sure that helped.  I also managed to scam a seat in the third row of coach due to my upgraded “gold” status.  I have to somehow manage to get that every year because it made the whole airline experience much more pleasant.

Once I arrived at the hotel, the whole diet thing fell apart.  I got some chicken wings at the hotel restaurant.  They were the best wings I have had in a very long times, and I’ve had wings a couple of times since the surgery.  They give you ten of them, I could only eat 4 1/2 with the celery and carrots.  And the sauce that came on the side was phenomenal.  I ordered the sweet and spicy Thai wings, but I think they just brought me the regular buffalo, which was fine by me because they was scrumptious.

Then there was the breakfast buffet.  I did OK at first, I had a tiny bit of scrambled eggs with some spicy salsa on them and mixed fruit.  Then I had two pieces of bacon.  OMG!  What was I thinking!  Well, I came to my senses by lunch and got a small salad with cranberries, blue cheese, and chicken.  Then a side of cheese for my protein snack in the afternoon.

The sales rep took us out to dinner to this very nice Italian restaurant.  Of course I cannot have pasta, so I ordered the artichoke encrusted steak medallions with roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes.  I can’t have the mashed potatoes either.  I mean, I guess I could have a little bit of them now, but because they are starchy, they have been on the restricted list.  I ate most of the vegetables and one of the steak medallions.  They were 1 1/2 or maybe 2 inches around, but man they just seemed huge to me.  Then the server packed them up for me to take back to the hotel, but really, I’m not sure what I am going to do with them.  (yes, I have a refrigerator in the room)  I’m not sure I want to have red meat two days in a row.  That might be a bit much.  Plus, I’m going out to dinner tomorrow with a writer’s group friend who recently moved back to Texas for some Tex-Mex food.

Don’t even get me started on all of the decaf cappuccinos I’ve had today.  Well, OK one of them had caffeine!

I had to hit the exercise room after dinner tonight.  I rode the bike for 30 minutes and did another 5 minutes of cool down.

I am just not used to eating out this much.  OK, maybe once or twice a week I will got to the buffet place near my office for lunch.  But still, I usually get salmon and vegetables or the chicken with broccoli.  I stick to the plan, though.  Low fat foods.  Protein and veggies.  After my emotional binge eating last week, I have been very strict with myself about the food I eat.  The last thing I want to do after everything I have been through since October is go back to where I was before the surgery.

I have to do better tomorrow.  I sure will be glad to go home!

Is Perception Reality?

How we see ourselves affects every aspect of our lives.  It affects the choices that we make, the clothes that we wear, the friends we choose, where we work, the list is endless.

For years, decades even, I have always viewed myself as the largest person in the room.  Not the tallest, mind you.  That’s something else entirely.  I’m 5’1″.  I am short by nearly anyone’s definition.  Maybe my 5-year-old niece thinks I’m tall, but that view will soon change I’m sure.

I have weighed somewhere between 250-315 pounds for a very long time.  Any time I see pictures of myself, I am nearly always the largest person in the photo.  As a result, I have avoided having my picture taken as often as much as possible.  I posted a picture about a week ago I think of me and a group of women at a friend’s wedding.  I will re-post it here now.  I am the one in pink on the left.


I do not like the way I look in this picture.  I hated to admit that I was really that big.  Having my picture taken was just a reminder.  I felt so unattractive and unhappy.

Recently, a friend of mine in my writer’s group took a picture at one of our meetings.  One of our group members, Jeff Miller, has had some success with his new novel, “The Bubble Gum Thief” and he was talking to us about is experience finding an agent and getting his book published.  (Btw…buy this book.  It’s awesome!)

I am sitting in the “audience” in this picture.  The girl who took the picture posted it on our website and tagged me in the picture.  It took me almost 2 minutes to find myself.  I immediately looked for the largest person in the picture and it was not me.  Not to mention, I couldn’t figure who the biggest person in the picture was.  I recognized the dress that I was wearing before I recognized that it was me.  I am the one in the yellow dress with flowers on it.  I’m on the left.



I was shocked when I saw this picture.  I know people have been telling me how small I am compared to before.  And I do see a difference, definitely, but I am still sometimes surprised when I see myself, especially when I see myself next to other people.  I look almost average.

I know that I have changed, but it may still take a little while longer for my internal perception to match what is actually happening on the outside.