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Saturday, October 01, 2005

Is that what I really look like?

Originally published Oct. 1, 2005, in Our Town for the Tracy Press.

As the excess weight melts from my body, I’m surprised by the form that has begun to emerge. One coworker said the other day, “Who knew you had such a little person hiding in there?”I sure didn’t, and I’m glad I’m not the only one in shock.Before surgery, I resembled Humpty Dumpty in my roundness. I looked broad. I was almost as wide as I was tall. I credited my Azorean heritage for my “big bones.” Well, I may have inherited a lot of traits from my Portuguese parents, but it seems big bones weren'tamong them.My shoulders have narrowed, my waist and hips have slimmed down, and as I’ve written in the past, bones seem to be poking out all over.
Stepping into the GapI even went shopping at the Gap outlet store here in Tracy for the first time ever over the weekend. I wasn’t there to buy anything, but I wanted to gauge what my size would be in a “normal” store. I took a variety of items into the dressing room, mainly XL tops and size 18 bottoms.The tops were fitted but looked good to me. The pants, on the other hand, did not. I had no trouble getting them on, but they weren’t as attractive as I had hoped. I spent a good 10 minutes examining the softest pair of jeans ever to cover my behind. I thought the mirror or my eyes might be playing tricks on me.My shopping companion said she thought they looked good. When I told her I didn’t like them because they made my thighs look wider than my hips, her response floored me.“Well, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Besides, that’s how your body is shaped.”Excuse me?! Since when?I don’t recall ever having that body shape. My hips have always been the widest part of my body, though at my heaviest, my stomach was quickly catching up.I put the pants back and left the store without buying anything.
'Measurements don't lie'The next day, I decided to take my measurements to see if my friend was right or if the jeans were just evil.Measurements don’t lie. In fact, many weight-loss professionals recommend using measurements over body weight to monitor weight loss/muscle gain because they are more reliable.I wish I didn’t know that.At my heaviest, my hips were 64 inches around — yes, that means my hips were about 5 feet 3 inches, and that’s equal to my height.Imagine how excited I was to measure them now at 48 inches. A loss of 14 inches in seven months is pretty exciting, even if it was helped along by gastric-bypass surgery. Then I measured my thighs. The left one is 27 inches around, and the right one is 26½, down a bit from 33 and 32½, respectively.So, the combined measurement is 53½ inches, and that means my hips are now about five inches smaller than my thighs. If only I could blame the jeans.
A plan of actionThough my findings are shocking to me, I’m not losing sleep over this. Getting worked up over one’s body shape is akin to fighting the color of the sky — not worth the effort. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to work hard to see if this new body shape might be temporary.To achieve that goal, I’ve increased my cardio to 35 minutes four days a week. I’ve also switched from using the elliptical cross-trainer to the treadmill, just to see if that might make a difference. But I’ve been careful to keep my intensity high to ensure I’m getting the same level of workout as before.I know some women fear weight training bulks up the body, but I know better. Building muscle burns fat, and I want to burn all I can. And that means I’m lifting weights five days as week as well, but I’m making sure to give each muscle group 48 hours to rest before working it again.
Not aloneAs I work with this new challenge, I must say I find comfort in knowing I’m not alone.Reader Pat King, a 59-yearold Patterson woman who works at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, has also noticed unexpected changes since having gastric bypass about 6½ months ago.Earlier this week, she e-mailed to tell me about the thrill of receiving a bag full of cute career clothes from a daughter who just had a baby.“Now I just have to sit down and shorten all of them, because not only has my weight gone down, but I’ve also shrunk a couple of inches in the past two years thanks to osteoporosis,” she wrote.Though I’m sure Pat would love to have those two inches in height back if possible, I like her attitude. I’m going to make sure I keep the same frame of mind as I go through my own changes.

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