So Much More Than a Physical Transformation

I must confess that I feel a little guilty about all that I’ve kept from you this summer. Though I definitely think some of my titles (“If You Don’t Want to Be My Boyfriend Maybe You Shouldn’t Act Like You Are”…”Taking Applications for a Male Sidekick”) sort of screamed ‘I’m a little bitter and let down,’ I hated not being able to bring you into what was going on behind them. The timing wasn’t right though. Both because I hadn’t had that final conversation with my friend and because I’ve needed to catch up with how my life is changing.

Yesterday my mom got after me for stating that I’ve transitioned from the “heavy girl I was to the beautiful woman I have become.” She was offended by the implication that I was not beautiful 85 pounds ago. I respect her opinion, but that isn’t what I was implying. What my statement reflects is not simply how losing weight has changed me physically, but how my definition of myself has changed.

85 pounds ago, I firmly believed that I was pretty and absolutely believed that I was desirable but I didn’t think of myself in terms of beauty. Losing weight alone didn’t change that.

Two years ago, when I was basically the same size I am now (minus 5 pounds or so), I felt less attractive and less desirable than I ever did at 240lbs/260lbs. Even though strangers were hitting on me and asking for my number frequently, there were days when I didn’t want to change out of yoga pants and my sweatshirt or leave my apartment because I felt utterly unattractive. For the first time in my life, I was pretty convinced that I was ugly.

There were a lot of contributing factors to this crisis. Overall, it happened because for years my identity had been wrapped up in being heavy. And all of the great things that it implies, like that I stake more value in who I am than in what I look like. Like that I have a big presence and an insatiable love of life. For about a decade, that term meant more to me than being beautiful. I didn’t know who I was or how to love myself without that qualifier.

In the process of rebuilding both my confidence and sense of self, I discovered that I’d never believed I was entirely beautiful. I thought I had beautiful legs and hair and eyes but I didn’t think the whole package of me was beautiful. I thought that aspects of my personality are lovable but not all of me was. I accepted partial attraction because I only believed I was partially attractive. This has changed.

As I’ve come of age over the last two years, I’ve come to believe that I’m entirely beautiful and entirely lovable. When I say this I don’t mean to imply that I’m perfectly beautiful and perfectly lovabe. Let me tell you, my body is still not flawless. It is not “bikini ready.” My face is not completely clear of acne. I still think too much. I’m still too loud. I can still be petty and tempestuous and impossible. I can still be completely awkward and totally graceless. But we all have flaws and faults. As a whole, I think I’m lovable and beautiful. That I am well worthy of being wanted and desired in my entirety.

The fact that my desire for my friend died the moment I found out that, like all the leading men of my past, he just wanted part of me and not all of me reflected this change. Even so, it’s been hard not to believe that all men who seem interested in me will just follow in these footsteps. As my dad has said, there is a rule of three. Once you’ve had three similar experiences, they set your expectations.

Though, over the last two months, I’d noticed different men’s interest, I internally doubted my instincts. Men have always seemed attracted to me. And all that attraction has ever boiled down to is an insane amount of admiration or respect or whatever. While I’ve never let this stop me from humoring hope (how boring life would be without some petty crushes), I wasn’t going to believe it until I knew the actual nature of their interest.

I think it was that need to know which prompted me to bring up the topic with two of my coworkers this weekend. When one of them asked me to name off the guys I thought liked me, ‘cause he could tell me if I was right or not, part of me expected that he’d disillusion me. Instead, I was dead-on.

It’s surprising to me how much I’ve changed through these years and how much my life has changed as a result. When I said that I’ve gone from being a heavy girl to a beautiful woman, I am referring to a transformation that has been so much more than physical (technically, my BMI isn’t even “normal” yet-though it’s very close). What it reflects is how I have redefined myself, as well as how others now define me. It’s important to remember that beauty is not merely a physical attribute. When I use that word, I mean it in that much broader sense.

I am much more beautiful now than I was two years ago. Not because I weigh less (which I hardly do). But because I know myself and love myself better. That has happened because I’ve fought to find the beauty in every bit of me. Despite flaws and imperfections. It’s happened because I know that I’m desirable to God, no matter what, and that means I must be deeply and essential beautiful. I think that the men in my life are responding to this as much as they are to my physical transformation.

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