When I decided to write about my weight loss and its lingering effects, I went back and forth with how honest I wanted to be. How much do I want to share? Will the info ever cross into “too much information” territory? Ultimately, I reached the conclusion that there’s nothing that’s off limits, nothing too raw, no reflection that could possibly be too honest about this topic. I often think that media presentations of weight loss stories are cleaned up and packaged like modern fairy tales, when really there’s a lot more going on than dropping sizes.

How often do we come across sensational articles about men and women that have lost 10, 40, or 100lbs., and post-weight loss they suddenly met the partner of their dreams, they scored some awesome job they always wanted, and all their personal struggles disappeared as the number on the scale got smaller and smaller. In essence, their weight loss helped them to win the lottery of life. It’s stories like these and the unrealistic standards of beauty perpetuated by our culture that give people in the process of losing weight some far-fetched expectations about a future they have little hope of reaching.

When I started losing weight, it was appearance-driven. I have no problem admitting that vanity was the catalyst. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than perusing the women’s section for a size 2X they’re unlikely to have. I can’t adequately explain to you how awful it is falling in love with a dress you know someone your size could never fit into. I acknowledge my own fault in that misfortune; if I had embraced better eating habits and got off my ass and went to the gym a long time ago, I wouldn’t have had to suffer through that. It’s all so easy to see in hindsight, but it’s less clear when you’re halfway through a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, assuring yourself you’re not that fat.

But I was that fat–I was obese and unhealthy. When I committed to losing weight near the end of summer in 2012, I was amazed at how great I felt after losing that first 20lbs., I still had 100 to go, as it turned out, but I was amazed by the difference I noticed in my day-to-day activities. When I got to 40lbs., I was more amazed still. What had originally been motivated by the promise of a better physique was soon replaced by my attachment to the amazing feeling that accompanies being healthy, both emotionally and physically. Gone were the days of feeling guilty from overeating out of sheer boredom, and the time finally came where walking up a flight of stairs didn’t make my heart race and my breath shorten.

That’s not to say I abandoned all expectations for my appearance. I loved the early changes I was seeing in my body. I was finally starting to have a defined shape, in the vein of hourglass or pear, instead of what could best be described as, “potato.” I uncovered collarbones I didn’t know I had. I could walk around without hearing the swish sound of my jean-clad thighs brushing past each other. I had high expectations. I’ve never been thin before, so I anxiously looked forward to seeing what my body would be like at a normal weight. I dreamt of slutty, form-fitting dresses and bikinis. …It was an exciting time.

I look like this. Kind of. In my mind. ...It's not nearly as cute, in my case.Image from www.valdaro.co.uk
I look like this. Kind of. In my mind. …It’s not nearly as cute, in my case.
Image from http://www.valdaro.co.uk

Sadly, no bikinis will be had, not any time soon or possibly ever. You see, when you’re overweight for so many years, your skin stretches to accommodate the unnatural levels of adipose tissue you’re hoarding. So even though I weigh a moderate 130lbs. now, I’m still lugging around extra skin like a human Shar Pei.

It’s not awful by any means. There have been television specials demonstrating the results of body contouring surgery for those who weighed 300+ pounds before their epic weight loss–their cases are truly bad. (I’ll let you Google the images on your own time.) For my part, I have a tiny pouch on my tummy like a hairless, loose-skinned kangaroo. I have skin draping my inner thighs. I have flesh hanging from my upper arms which causes a minor breeze whenever I do the Funky Chicken Dance (…just one of many reasons I abstain). I’m exaggerating the severity of this excess skin, but can you blame me? It’s on my body, unwanted, and I had great things planned for my post-weight loss form.

There are two sides to this. Naturally, I’ll take skin over fat rolls any day, and being in good health is worth some extra skin. I can laugh about it–I have to, because the other side of this is the fruitless rage and disappointment I have towards myself for letting myself be overweight for so long that these shar pei similarities exist.

I look at my body in the mirror, and while I rationally know what I’m seeing are the results of a dramatic, considerably quick weight loss that my body is still getting accustomed to, I’m still also seeing failure. This little pouch on my stomach covers up the muscle I’ve worked so hard to strengthen and tone. The skin that makes my thighs meet thwarts my efforts to separate them once and for all.

In between these bouts of self-criticism, I remember where I started from, and I realize just how overwhelmingly I love my body–skin and all. I appreciate the magnitude of the goal I accomplished entirely on my own. It’s jarring, this dichotomy between lingering disappointment and consuming pride every time I see my reflection.

I’ve learned something through this experience of half-disappointment half-success that may seem obvious. It’s something that’s easy to preach about in the abstract, but when you actually go through it’s harder to embrace: we each should have our own concept of our ideal body. Not all stomachs can be perfectly flat, not all thighs can not touch, not all arms are worthy of a gun show, not all legs can be defined, not all double chins are vanquishable, not all cheeks de-chipmunk, six pack abs aren’t always achievable. I’m not advocating throwing your arms up in despair since you’ll never reach the point of the perfect body, I’m merely suggesting there is no singular perfect body: there’s your perfect, ideal body, and that’s what your inspiration should be.

There’s nothing wrong with having expectations for the changes you want to see in your body as you lose weight, that’s half the motivation, after all. But should having a 32 inch waist necessarily be among them? We need to downsize, people, literally and metaphorically. Let’s start first with getting to a weight where you can see your feet again before you start ordering your first bikini from Victoria’s Secret. I know it may seem like a defeatist notion to let go of your high standards, but you might surprise yourself. I had no idea what to anticipate my body looking like after losing weight, and despite my frustration with my shar pei qualities, I love my body. And the second I (sort of) accepted that, okay, having Adriana Lima’s body isn’t in the cards, is the day I started seeing the value in my own shape.

When we hold ourselves (and our weight loss results) up the standard of other people, famous or ordinary, we lose sight of the merit in the changes we’ve worked so hard for. So shar pei similarities or not, this is my hard-fought-for body, and I’ll defend it against my harshest critic, myself, until my last breath. I’ll continue to take care of it, I’ll continue to try and tone that pesky skin (that I think is improving! Slowly.), and I’ll make a valiant effort to stop beating myself up over the effects of a past I can’t go back and change. All I can do is appreciate what I’ve done for my present and future, love my killer bod, and move forward. That’s all any of us can and should do. We all have our own shar pei similarities, our body issues that are typically only noticeable to us, but we need to learn to love ’em–because they’re ours.

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26 thoughts on “Shar Pei Similarities: An Honest Weight Loss Happily Ever After

  1. Katie, you are BEAUTIFUL! Congratulations on your efforts to get healthy! As long as you feel better and now possess good health, THAT’S all that matters! You did succeed. We’ve all got flaws, no one’s perfect. Even those that appear to be.

    Growing up on the other spectrum, I was always the kid who was “too skinny”, people would stare, poke and laugh, ask why I was always sick when I wasn’t, make fun of the fact that I always had to wear 36 belts to keep my clothes on…it sucked. It wasn’t easy to be that person either. So while you were wishing to be thin, I was wishing I could gain a few pounds and get curvy. At least then people wouldn’t think I was alien. We would have made a good balance for each other. LOL I think the image of “perfect” is so far fetched. I’m sure getting close to it is achievable. I know some pretty hard bodies…but they spend their lives in the gym. I just couldn’t do that.

    Now that I’m older, I packed on the pounds. I went from 99 lbs to 140. It’s a little shocking at first, to see myself fill out in places I never had before. (calves! I have calves!!!) And I’m only 5’1 so it’s extremely noticeable. (I still wear kids shoes…so what..) I’m not proud to say that it’s not all fat though. I’m a little shy about my stomach area. I have big giant hips that now hold everything I’ve ever eaten and my stomach makes sure to remind me I’m no swimsuit model. But I’ve accepted it. When I was “skinny” it was too gross…now that I’m not anymore, I still feel a little gross. Perhaps we’ll never be “happy” with ourselves, but that’s ok because that means we have something to improve on. While I’m not “thrilled” with my body, I’m content. I’ve definitely got the curves I was looking for and now I look normal in my clothes and not like an aids patient!

    Even though our weight issues were on opposite sides of the scale, I feel the same way you do. Isn’t it weird?! That we’ve now met in the middle where we “wanted” and it’s not at all what we expected?

    For what it’s worth, I’m proud of you Katie! 🙂

    1. I have a toothache from how sweet your comment was. 🙂 Thank you, you’re too far too kind.

      I know a few people that went through the “too skinny” phase, too. As someone that’s always been bigger, I admit I always kind of scoffed at that issue, “Too skinny?! PAH!” but now that I’ve lost weight, and depending on what I’m eating, I get that, “Eat! You need to eat more!” I have a new appreciation for what that must be like. It’s not pretty.

      The way my life is, I don’t have time to spend 2 hours at the gym. Personally, I don’t have any interest in doing that anyway. I work out enough as it fits in my life–I think anything more than that isn’t healthy, but that’s just me.

      I think we all experience the grossness about ourselves, but what’s important is you’re happy, and it’s so refreshing to hear someone say they were glad to put on a little weight! How often do we get to hear that?!

      Thanks for sharing your experience with it, it’s fascinating to hear the perspective of someone from the dark side! 😉

  2. Fight the power! You gotta fight the powers that be! ‘Public Enemy’. Honestly good job and continued sucess in whatever goals you might want to acheive. I didn’t get this bitter overnight, it took time to hone my craft and you can also do it. FYI, I put your blog down on my ‘Awards that I didn’t Deserve’ page that links to blogs I like, so you may see one person that comes over from my blog. Enjoy the minor uptick in traffic!

    1. Thank you, Ben! Yesterday I actually experienced negative traffic, because all of your followers came here, saw that I wasn’t as bitter as you, and somehow took away the traffic I had already accumulated. I didn’t even know this was possible.

    1. Thank ya, and I personally do, too. That’s a topic for a future post. I just assume all skinny people are assholes, which is bizarre since I guess technically I’m “small” now.

  3. I don’t know where I heard it from, but the gap between the thigh is really just a myth of beauty for the models on the run way, much less than a ‘health sign’ concern…No I’m not making it up,

    Great post (: It’s amazing to actually hear from someone who’s I’d like to think of ‘alive’ instead of on the magazines or TV.

    1. Oh, I know it’s not related to health whatsoever. It’s just one of those you see on the Internet and in pictures, and as I started losing more weight it became, “Gee, that would be kind of nice.” So I’ll keep doing squats and crossing my fingers, but if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen.

      Thanks!

  4. I love this post! I used to be overweight too. Discovering my collar bones was beyond exciting “I HAVE COLLAR BONES!!”. I haven’t reached bikini worthy yet, I probably never will. And that’s okay. Those slutty dresses though, we’ll get there someday 😉
    Personally, I’m kind of glad I was so overweight. I know what my body used to be like, and I know what it’s like now. I don’t think I would’ve appreciated it as much if I’d always been in the normal weight range.

    That gap between the thighs? I recently learnt that not many people have it. The newest surgery trend is to create a gap down there. I don’t have a clue how (or why for that matter) they do it.

    1. Really? I didn’t know that! I’m glad you understand the magnitude of the collarbone discovery. That was like a veritable archeological adventure, and when those showed up, I feel like I hit pay dirt.

      Honestly, I agree with you about being glad you used to be overweight. If I only had 15lbs. to lose, I’d probably just shrug my shoulders, but when you lose a lot of weight and you compare the before and after, any complaints you have about your post-weight loss body seem trivial in comparison.

      I don’t think I’ll be booking that procedure any time soon. It’s just one of those silly aesthetic things perpetuated by the Internet and our society that I had looked forward to. …The fact that I’ve even come close is really good enough for me, because I used to have some pretty thunderous thighs, man.

  5. Thank you for doing an article on weight loss from such a positive standpoint! It’s awesome that you have such a powerful and positive self image, which sometimes people lack during these processes (I’ve known a couple people to throw themselves at both extremes… either they lose everything and stop eating, or they give up and eat everything because they hate their bodies and themselves). Balance and moderation and a little self love. 🙂

    Also, reading that made me put away my candy. Not today Kit-Kat. Not today. *sigh*

    1. Oh, I don’t know that I’m always coming at it from a positive standpoint. Some days I have my share of ridiculous, negative, unreasonable thoughts, but I try to keep everything in perspective. I’ve come a long way–I’ve earned a little self-back patting now then when I’m feeling low. 🙂

      I’m sorry to have gotten in the middle of things with you and Kit Kat! I need to mind my business.

  6. Great post- so honest and real. You’re totally right about how we need to find our own perfect- I’m still trying to get there myself, but hopefully someday soon!

    1. Thanks! You and me both. I’m hoping when I get close to 30, and my life is so close to being over, maybe then I’ll be content since I’ll be so close to giving up.

  7. You should be so proud of yourself. I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life… your story is very inspiring and makes me want to get up and go hit the gym! Thanks for sharing something that originally may have felt nerve wracking to do so!

  8. I believe the ultimate test of one’s true body image this very moment would be:

    If someone walked up to you today and said that they considered you to be fat, what would your honest internal reaction be?

    A) That’s right, motherfucker, P-H-A-T. All damn day.

    B) Oh, my gosh! They’re right, I AM fat. Who was I kidding? I’ll never look good.

    What if it was a guy you found really attractive?

    What if it was an always-been-skinny-eat-what-I-want-and-I-only-go-to-the-gym-to-get-laid-and-laugh-at-fat-people cun- I mean, chick?

    What if it was yourself?

    I believe when the answer is (A) no matter what, you’ve won the battle of self-image.

  9. Oh, damn… I got so wrapped up in my own cleverness that I forgot to post what I really wanted to say about this article.

    Look at yourself, sister! You literally lost your whole current self, plus FOUR 5lb bags of sugar.

    You removed a whole entire person from inside your skin in less than a year and a half.

    That improvement you *think* you see, it’s there. You’re young. Your 22 y.o. skin is still resilient enough to bounce back from expansion (unless you’re like me, with skin so un-pliable you got stretch-marks all over your body the second puberty hit), but either way, give it a little time, and I doubt very seriously that you will have much to worry about in the way of ‘loose skin’.

    Rock the bikini any-fuckin’-way. You earned it.

Don't you sass me! ...Actually, please do.

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