Overexposed: A Self-Love Project.

Overexposed: Body Dysmorphia After Weight Loss.

“Does it fit you?” I look down at the new outfit that came in the mail and begin to nitpick at everything about it.

“It fits, I just need to take it in a bit to make it fit better,” answered. The truth was that I didn’t know if I would ever go and get my clothes tailored to fit me better; most of the clothes that would fit me this way sat in my drawers until I was ready to donate them. “It’s cute though.”

It’s been like this for a while now. The jeans that I purchased three months ago are now too big for me. The shirts I bought for work are now too big for me. I look down at the floor where I last left my belt and begin to loop it around my jeans. Remember the days you didn’t wear belts, Liz? I look at myself in the mirror on my wall before I leave the house for the day; I remember when I didn’t like to see myself in this mirror and if I did, I wouldn’t look at my body.

When I look at it now, I don’t feel like this is my body.

Hi, my name is Liz and I sometimes experience body dysmorphia after losing 135 pounds since having surgery.

I guess you can say that this is normal for someone who’s been through this process and has struggled with their weight for most of their life. Prior to having surgery, I was overweight for most of my life. I’ve only ever seen my body get bigger as I grew older; I mean, that’s just the natural way of life. So many things factor into weight gain, especially if it’s something you always struggled with. It’s like you grow up to accept the fact that your body will look this way forever; it was something I accepted as I entered my 20s and visibly saw my weight gain as the years pass. I mention this all of the time, but this series started out as me documenting all of the moments in my life when I felt like I hated my body and the things that contributed to that hate. As I spoke about the things that factored into this self-hate towards my body, I began to accept the fact that this is my body, my skin, and the space that I live in. Shortly after, I decided it was about time to take care of the space I was living in for the long run.

I told myself as the weight began to go down that no matter what, I was still in the same body I was in back when I was 323 pounds. I was still in the same body I was in back when I was in high school being 200 pounds. I was still in the same body I was in back in middle school when the boys used to bully me for my weight. Yes, the exterior was changing and maybe how I carried myself was changing due to my change in confidence, but it wasn’t like I was an action figure and someone popped off my head and placed it on a completely different body. I still carry the scar on the top of my stomach from my gallbladder surgery 10 years ago. I still have minor scars from when I self-harmed in high school. Shit, I still have the tattoos I started to get when I was 20 years old back in 2014.

But then there are days when I look in the mirror and feel like the body I am in now isn’t the one I started with. There are days when I look at my body and consider that this time last year, or even the year before that; this isn’t me. This isn’t the person that needed to shop in online catalogs because the biggest size in other department stores was still too small for them. This isn’t the person that felt like a bad co-worker because they weren’t able to keep up with the physical work that came with being a bookseller at a bookstore. Like when people only know post-surgery Liz and say “I can’t even imagine you being anything else than who you are now”, is it bad that sometimes I’m like, “me neither?”

I remember fragments of the versions who lived in the body I once accepted. I remember some of the good and bad of those times, but what I mainly remember is how I felt about myself and the situations I was in.

I look in the mirror and remember that while I’m still learning that this is still my body in a new form, I also remember everything that this body has gone through in its lifetime. And maybe, just maybe, the reason I am who I am today and everything that I stand for now isn’t because of being in a “new body”, and maybe it isn’t even because of the “new confidence” I have because of this “new body.”

I am who I am because of my inner child. My inner teen. My inner self. All of these versions of myself are still alive in some sort: through trauma, memories, triggers, and in my chapters of life. Weight loss does not silence your past. It’s not an automatic fix to your friendships, romantic relationships, and even the relationship you have with yourself. Those things have to be worked on their own. If those things were built on a poor foundation or during a time when you thought poorly of yourself, it’s more than likely those relationships will not be the same once you start projecting your self-confidence and self-worth.

And just maybe I can finally protect my inner person because I know they deserve better.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I look at myself in the mirror as a protector of some sort. The person I look at in the mirror isn’t the same person that was looking at this same mirror almost two years ago. Mentally, I’m not. Emotionally, I’m not. Physically, I am not. But I still have the same body, skin, and space, and that’s something I will always protect since I wasn’t capable of doing that before.

Next step? Protecting my present self.

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