As a male weight loss surgery blogger, I am definitely in the minority. Females dominate the bariatric social network. My observation is that body image is a hot blogging topic in the female community. I have to admit that the topic has never come up in my discussions with my fellow male weight loss surgery post-ops. Now, that’s not saying that they don’t think about it. It just says that they don’t talk about it.
A few weeks back I spent eight days on a cycling tour with my best bariatric buddy. If you cycle much, you know that spandex cycling shorts and jerseys make the ride so much more comfortable and help avoid chaffing in tender unmentionable regions of your body. It was definitely the longest period of time that I wore spandex on a daily basis. I got the opportunity to see myself reflected in mirrors and windows many times during that ride. Girls, it was not a pretty sight!
I found myself thinking seriously about my body image. At 5’7” and 190 pounds, I am far from the tall slender model body that the media inspire us to be. Damn those mirrors and reflections tell the truth. Now I have the photos from the week that add those 10 extra pounds on top and cement the reality.
“Think like a skinny person” is something I have thought about over the past three years. To me that means making good choices from menus, consciously exercising daily, and generally being more active. I fell for that marketing hype that implies that skinny people are happy and healthy people. The truth is people whether skinny or pleasingly plump come in all states of happiness and healthiness. It does boil down to body image.
A healthy, happy body image to me is being happy with the body I am living within and owning that image regardless of what other people say or do. I am happy at 190 pounds. That took a lot for me to admit. I had 175 pounds in my mind as my perfect weight as I began my bariatric surgery. Over the years I tore myself up figuring out how I could reach that weight and what I was doing wrong that kept me from that weight. I finally came to understand that 190 pounds is a weight I am happy with. My health is dramatically better. I am also a very active and happy person.
Owning your body image is something we tend to struggle with more. I meet so many bariatric post-ops who still want to lose those elusive 10-20 more pounds. Others lament on bouncing back a little and gaining those 10-20 pounds. We come down the hardest on our own image. Speaking from my own experiences, I know that I tend to judge myself by comparing my weight to others. Unfortunately, this self defeating behavior can easily wear away the successes and changes we have made to our lives. Owning your body image is being proud of what you have achieved and proud of your appearance. No, you do not have to be at goal or be at the optimal BMI. You just need to acknowledge that you are at where you want to be.
I can laugh at myself in spandex, but I also know I would look a lot worse at my almost 300 pound pre-op weight. I also know that there is maybe 5% of the population that actually look great in spandex. I am actually in the 95% majority of normal folks who just look awkward. You see, it’s really about spandex and not about body image.
Men don’t sit around and talk about body image. It’s just not a man-thing to do. Women acknowledge their and other women’s bodies. This is far from the male mentality to avoid the topic so as not to be considered too gay. Women, I am here to tell you that men do think about body image. They have similar concerns and feel the same pains when the image in the mirror is not what they want to see. It boils down to looking beyond that reflection and looking inward for your real body image. As we often say in the bariatric community, “It is not always about the scale.” Body image is really about our mental state and being comfortable with who we are.