I'm sure you've heard the term, "seeing through rose-colored glasses." That would probably describe me, the eternal optimist. Many of us also see the world through fat-colored glasses, with lenses that look clear but drastically distort our perception of fat and thin. I've been going through a strange and frustrating period of seeing myself as fat every time I look in the mirror even though my weight has not changed. The other day I realized that my vision is also distorted when I look at other people, thanks to a lesson I learned from my friend Lisa B.
Lisa lost 114 pounds after having RNY (gastric bypass) in 2001. She was proud to be thin, and with obnoxiously big (her term) augmented breasts and movie-star smile, she was smokin' hot.
But eventually her stomach pouch stretched out, she ate more and more, and her weight shot back up, a 44 pound increase. In May 2009, Lisa had what's known as BOB surgery - band over bypass. Since then, she's lost 70 lbs. and is back to being that smokin' hot lady. Because I'm always recruiting before/during/after photos to help inspire other bandsters, Lisa kindly gave me permission to publish hers in the Bandwagon on the Road newsletter and in the 2nd edition of Bandwagon. When I first saw Lisa's after photos, I was disturbed and told her, "You look very scrawny. Have you seen your doc lately, and does he/she think your current weight is healthy?"
Lisa's reply was illuminating on several levels. She wrote (in part):
"I still see my surgeon every 3 months as well as my NUT and they both said that because I am small-framed, I am at a really healthy weight (I always thought I was big-boned, turns out I was just fat LMAO). All of my stats are where they should be...body fat percentage, waist-to-hip ratio, etc., and my labs are perfect each time too.
"This is the exact weight that my body stopped losing at 18 months ago and has remained at ever since...literally haven't fluctuated more than 2 lbs up. So my doctor said this is where my body is happy - this is my 'normal' now. He also said early on that if a "normal" (meaning never obese, I guess) person was my size their whole life, it would not be an issue...they would be considered a "naturally thin person," (you know, the ones we grew up hating lol) but since I have never been a normal size until now, I can expect people to comment that I'm too thin (rather than normal and/or healthy). Which did happen when I first reached this weight a long time ago...but now everyone around me is used to it - not to mention they see how much I eat (7-8 times per day) and what I eat (healthy food choices 95% of the time) and so they all know that clearly this must be my body's 'normal'."
Well, those 2 paragraphs gave me a brand new view of body image! And who am I to judge what's normal for another person? Lisa's words immediately reminded me of one of my coworkers at JCPenney, a “naturally thin” college girl named Hailey. Her mom is short and heavy while her dad is tall and thin, and Hailey looks nothing like her mom and quite a lot like her dad. She’s in good health, with beautiful skin, good muscle tone, thick shiny hair, clear eyes, lots of energy, and as far as I’ve been able to see, eats well (for a college kid, anyway). As much as I tend to focus on body size, I've never thought much about Hailey's body size or shape. Her prominent characteristics to me are her kindness, intelligence, sense of humor, and (in terms of appearance) her great sense of color in her clothing choices.
The other day a customer (an elderly man) said to Hailey, “Girl, you gotta put some weight on you,” and Hailey laughed and said, “I think this is the way my body is meant to be.” When I look at Hailey, I don’t think, “She’s too thin.” She looks normal to me. I've known her for 2 years, she's been thin the whole time, and thin is her "normal". So it’s really interesting that I looked at Lisa's “after” photos and thought, “She’s too thin”!
Why do I look at 2 thin, attractive, healthy women and think one looks normal and the other looks too thin? The only difference is that I know Lisa is a WLS patient, and with that ID tag on her, I assume a host of things about her, including a tendency of some WLS patients to develop anorexic behavior and become too thin. And we all know what happens when you assume, right? Assuming makes an ass out of you and and ass out of me. So shame on me! If Lisa walked into my JCPenney store tomorrow (which would make my day!), I'd just be blown away by her slim good looks and that movie star smile. "Too thin" wouldn't even be on the horizon!