I could love myself and appreciate my body, and still do something that would take away the physical pain that came with weighing 368lbs. I wasn’t required to live forever with the physical consequences of what I did to survive those mean years.
So I paid a doctor to remove 80% of my stomach.
And I kept looking at myself when the parade-floaties came back. I kept reminding myself that self-hatred isn’t something that comes standard -- it was learned, and I had worked hard to unlearn it. I still work hard to unlearn it.
The surgery helped, but the mental changes were as important
A year later, I can breathe when I sleep again. I can move again. I don’t hurt anymore.
And I still have to make myself look until I normalize in my own eyes, until I’m just me and I can be as kind to myself as I would be to any other human being. Until I don’t want to cut away parts of myself anymore.
I can’t manage the bad things with food anymore, so I have to feel them and move through them and face them. I can’t try to stop up loneliness and shyness and frustration with tacos and Cherry Garcia any more. There isn’t room. And I don’t want to, anyway.
I eat Cherry Garcia because it feels perfect on my tongue. A spoonful or two now, not a pint or two. I eat normally, non-disordered, and it feels good.
I don't eat like it's my drug anymore. I don’t eat to hide or numb or in a blind panic of someday going back to a place where I have to try to feed five brothers and a sister and me with four frozen burritos and a can of chicken noodle soup.
It was a long time coming, but it was worth the ride, this road to knowing how to respond when I flinch at my own reflection, this trip toward love and peace and self-acceptance and trust that really didn’t have a whole lot to do with being less fat after all.
A version of this story originally appeared on Medium.