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Emotional Transformation and The Skinny Girl

Posted Jan 03 2010 12:53pm

By Lynn Haraldson-Bering

In her last blog (Transformational Thriller), Barbara wrote about the physical transformation from obese to thin and how thrilling it is to be “noticed” and in essence rewarded by the accolades of others (and ourselves) for the ways in which our bodies have changed. For some, there is a subsequent let down when people get used to seeing us as we now are, and therefore their comments end and we’re left wondering, What’s next?

I enjoyed the compliments for the most part as I was losing weight, but I admit I was pretty happy when the hubbub died down and I could be just Lynn again and not That-Woman-Who-Lost-All-That-Weight. What has the potential to trip me up once in awhile is not so much the physical transformation as the emotional transformation. I’ve said many times since reaching goal that I finally feel like the outside me and the inside me finally match, but the longer I maintain, the more I think that descriptor may be a bit premature. In many ways, my inside is still catching up.

The emotional transformation from obese me to maintaining me is perhaps even more astounding than the physical transformation. It’s just not as apparent. The transformation began the moment weight loss “clicked” five years ago. Most people who successfully lose AND maintain their weight had an “aha!” moment – that realization that things are different “this time” as opposed to all the other times they tried to lose weight and failed. For me, that moment was followed by an avalanche of changes, not just in the way I ate – that was the easy part – but in the way I related to food and, even more important, how I related to myself. I began to demand from myself respect, forgiveness, and understanding – three things I rarely asked of myself or others. I often hid in my fat or other emotional insecurities and believed I didn’t deserve to be treated fairly.

Physical transformation is, for the most part, finite. We can sculpt our bodies through weight training and surgery, but if we remain the same weight, we pretty much look the same. Emotional transformation is infinite, an evolutionary journey.

I know many of you don’t like the word “lifestyle” to describe the way we live life as maintainers. But lifestyle is a choice, and I choose maintenance as a way of life, just as I choose to be a writer and I chose to become a mother. It’s living within this choice where the emotional transformation evolves, and that has had the biggest impact on my relationship with myself and with other people.

Because I no longer put myself or my needs last, my relationship with my husband has improved – not because I’m thin, but because I am more confident, which in turn has made me a better partner. My relationship with my children is stronger because I’m a better communicator. Sure, Passive-Aggressive Lynn comes out now and then, but like I said, this is an evolutionary process.

Where I see this process jammed up a bit is in my relationship to people I’m not related to. For instance, life before 300 pounds, I was the queen of parties. Threw them, went to them, loved them. Not surprisingly, I became somewhat of a hermit when I got to the top of the scale. What is surprising, to me at least, is that I’m still a hermit. This is the thing I meditate on the most, the part of my emotional transformation that has me the most confused right now.

Is it because I really don’t like large gatherings that I don’t go out much, or is it because I’m tired of defending my “lifestyle” and prefer the company of like-minded people? More times than I can remember I’ve been at a party or out to dinner and have heard, “What’s one meal? Eat!” (Heck, I even get that from strangers on my blog!) To me that’s like telling an alcoholic, “What’s one drink?” or an ex-smoker, “What’s one cigarette?” What most non-maintainers don’t get is that one meal of food I no longer choose to eat would not only cause me great gastrointestinal distress, but it would take me a good week or two to get it off the scale. Say that to food pushers and I’m suddenly Debbie Downer. I’ve tried the “I don’t care what you eat. Why do you care what I eat?” approach, but that usually doesn’t work, either.

Food is perhaps not a good example. Emotional transformation is an attitude that goes way beyond food choices. I’m still learning how to respect myself and my boundaries, both in terms of food and the way I am comfortable moving within and thinking about the world. Things I said yes to before I say no to now, and vice versa. Things I tolerated before I no longer tolerate. I’ve met some incredible people since getting to goal three years ago, largely because I’m no longer afraid (or at least entirely afraid) of what they might think of me. Some friendships have deepened and some have fallen away. But for the most part I don’t sit in regret, not like I used to when I was in the habit of gaining and losing and gaining and losing, not understanding the permanent change that must take place in order to reach and maintain a goal, any goal.

My outside is pretty much where I want it. I’m confident the inside will catch up in time. As long as I stay outside the cycle of self-abuse, self-loathing and delusion and live in a state of emotional transformation, I’ll continue to be more self-respectful and, hopefully, not social inept.

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