It's been two years. I had surgery two years ago—well, two years and a week or so.
Things have settled in. My goal with surgery was always the same: stop dieting, stop white-knuckling, find stability that works.
I've succeeded at doing that.
I never hit my tentative goal, but I also (as readers who were reading back when may recall) didn't really have a goal weight—I never set out to reach a goal of thinness, or of a particular number. I did what I had wanted to do: found a place at which I do not have to diet, a way of eating that can autopilot and course-correct without tipping into obsession. I operate pretty comfortably in the range of about 177-185: when I go above 185, I tighten up a little until I'm closer to 180. I eat basically ad libitum. This morning I made four strips of bacon and a piece of toast with mayonnaise and two fried eggs; I ate all of the bacon and about two-thirds of the egg toast. I drink a ton of seltzer (my surgeon said I'd likely be able to drink carbonated things again & I feel very grateful he was right). These days I'm devoting a little effort, a little thought, to maybe kinda losing another fifteen pounds or so, but I'm never going to be the person who sweats the fact that my BMI isn't below 25. I had surgery so my weight and my eating could stop running my life, not so they could run my life differently. I wanted my weight to stop being the focus of my life. I wanted out of the cycle of dieting, of obsession, of shame. I got what I wanted and now my job is to refuse to give it up. If I'd have to diet obsessively to lose that fifteen pounds I'd kind of like to lose, I won't ever lose fifteen pounds. Stability and sanity are more important to me than size.
I've worked with a therapist (the one I'd already been seeing for years) all the way through this. She's aware around both eating disorders and bariatrics, which has really helped. I always said to her that if I got what I really wanted, I'd be a nice stable size 14-16—I have built a lot of sense of self around fatness, and I was uncomfortable about giving it up. I'm more like a 10-14, but I was pretty on the nose. I do wonder if my identitarian attachment to fatness is part of what makes it hard for me to get lower than I am on the scale, if I'm scared to divest myself from a claim to fatness.
I still have flickers of discomfort, dysmorphia. I was walking through a street market with the person I've been seeing a year now, who wanted to buy me an anniversary present. A bracelet caught my eye, but when I picked it up, it looked teeny-tiny. I said it would never fit. It fit. It's sitting on my dresser. I do the same thing with clothes sometimes. Whose tiny pants are in my closet? (I wear pants sometimes now. Before surgery, I hadn't worn pants since college.) And I frequently begin my weight in my head with a "2," as if I only read the last two digits and then just substitute in the thing I know on some bone-deep level. If the scale says 180, I say 280 in my head. Then I correct myself.
Sometimes people don't recognize me, and that's hard. Whenever I see someone I haven't seen in a long time, I gird up for their surprise, their compliments. Sometimes it's fine. Sometimes I hate it.
It's strange to be thought of as pretty, even beautiful. It's strangest still to begin to be unsurprised by that, to consider it part of the normal way I navigate the world. Beautiful is a hard word for me—the first time this year-long partner used it on me, I said "'beautiful' is not a word with which I identify" (why yes, I AM a delight to go on a date with, why do you ask?) but I've gotten used to hearing it since.
And yet I also think I look pretty much the same. My face is my face—its bones are all still where they used to be, even though they're more visible now. I inhabit my body the same way. I walk the same way, sit the same way. The swagger that sometimes tinges the way I move reads a little (or sometimes more than a little) differently now, but it was all still there before, too: I think often of a time that from behind me I heard a man behind me say, "Girl, I see you, walking like that." I was pretty much runway-stomping it out, I confess; I weighed around 300 pounds at the time.
I think about plastic surgery, but have neither the time nor the money to consider it an immediate possibility. Part of the reason I'm thinking about losing another little chunk, though, is because I'd rather lose it before plastic surgery than after—so I do consider it a possibility. I feel embarrassed about my saggy arms, my saggy breasts, my loose tummy and thighs and @*#. But I can live with some embarrassment. I don't have to like everything about my body in order to inhabit it happily and completely, which I feel grateful to get to say that I pretty much do.
With my weight and size stabilized in a place that feels good, I have turned to my life instead, and have been making some painful progress on things that matter to me. I have learned how many things I was, in secret often even from myself, considering myself not entitled to, afraid of, or simply deferring. It's time to stop deferring and start living. For me, continuing to fine-tune, to perfect, to define myself around what I eat or don't, what I weigh or don't, would only be more deferral.