For the last few years, I’ve been on a journey towards health which has included some significant weight loss. You may remember my posts about what it’s like to be obese or how I started to change my life.
I find myself now at a new and interesting intersection in my journey. My morbidly obese days are behind me and I’ve now reached the high end of a “normal” weight range. I can shop in regular stores and I don’t even have to look at the very back of the rack for the largest size. People who meet me don’t immediately know that I’ve struggled with food and with weight my whole life. I’m free of the bondage of 90+ extra pounds.
But just because my body is lighter doesn’t mean my brain has changed. I still think fat. I still catch my reflection as I pass by a store window and wonder who that girl is. I still see people running in my neighborhood and think, “I could never do that because I’m too heavy.” I still pick out the XL shirt or pants first, even though I no longer wear that size.
In fact, I’m convinced that it will take far longer for my brain to believe I’m normal-sized than it took my body to become normal-sized. I got a stunning reminder of this the other day at work.
In the next few months I’m going to be going on a couple of business trips, one of which will require a passport. I dug up my passport which was last used five years ago for a family vacation. The picture was taken during my heaviest days and is not my best shot, to put it lightly. I shrugged it off thinking, well, at least it hasn’t expired!
Then I heard a co-worker talking about all the reasons you may need to renew your passport, including any new facial piercings or tattoos, cosmetic surgery, or significant weight loss. My first thought was, “Well, I’ve lost some weight but it’s not like I’m unrecognizable.”
I went home and showed the passport to B. He told me I needed to renew but I quickly dismissed him. He gently suggested I bring the passport to work and ask a couple of friend/co-workers (fro-workers?) for their opinion. When I showed my before picture to my co-worker, she laughed at me and asked, “Who IS that?” She then told me, in no uncertain terms, that she would not travel with me if I used that passport because she didn’t want to be there when I was detained by customs from getting back in the country for not having a believable passport.
You gotta love a woman who tells it like it is.
Yet even after three co-workers agreed that I wouldn’t “pass” for the person in my passport photo, I still couldn’t see the difference. I mean, sure, I could see that I look different – better – now. But I couldn’t see the unrecognizable part. I mean it was still ME in that picture.
But I did the right thing – I got the silly passport renewed. And when it came time to take my picture, I smiled for the camera. Well, half-smiled anyway. (I was told NOT to smile. Whatever.)
And after laying the pics side-by-side I admit… I can see the significance of the difference.
It’s a powerful lesson that our brains, though powerful machines, can be our worst enemy. And sometimes our thinking can’t be trusted.
I need a reminder that my perception of reality can be distorted and that I need to reach out to check my perception with trusted others. Because when left to my own devices? I think that these two pictures look somewhat alike:
And that’s not only sad – it’s a little crazy.
I know today that I can’t think my way to healthy – I have to reach for it. That means getting out of my own thoughts. That means asking for help. And it means trusting that other’s perception of reality may sometimes be more accurate than my own.