Reader Submission: How I Got Over Loose Skin After Losing 92 Pounds
By Tennielle Clark
Flap, flap, flap, flap, flap, do you hear that? It’s the sound of loose skin slapping your body as you do jumping jacks; jumping jacks of pain.
Having gastric sleeve surgery changed my life. I lost 92 pounds and felt like I could finally see who I really was. When I wore clothes, I would graciously accept the compliments from people who would tell me “ You look so good,” “ I see you boo,” and “Look how small you are!”
To the complimenter, I smiled and would say thank you. In my mind, I would think, “If they only knew” Everyday I would go home and take off the spanx, the full back-support bra, the tank top, and finally my shirt. I tried very hard to conceal the lie of what I really looked like. I eventually stopped accepting the compliments and started telling people I didn’t deserve them. Once I took a “friend” into a bathroom and started disrobing just to prove to her that I was living a svelte lie. Why? I have no idea. I guess I just needed people to know that I wasn’t a fraud. Instead, all it did was make my skin the constant topic of concern.
After a follow-up appointment with my surgeon, I showed him my skin and the pictures of what I look like with all of my clothes on. I remember reading his expressions to see if he was going to feel sorry for me or — actually, I don’t know why I surveyed his face. Maybe I just needed him to see what I saw and acknowledge the disgusting truth of my loose skin. Every follow-up appointment ended with a discussion of this unwanted side effect of my weight loss surgery. Every single one. My loose skin became an obsession.
I became hyper-focused on my skin, so much so that when in conversation I would watch the person’s eyes dart to my arm whenever I raised it, feeling insecure. I worked on how to pose, so that folks wouldn’t notice my flabby arms. I wore shirts that covered just enough skin that the truth wouldn’t be exposed. I avoided being touched, as best I could. I can’t tell you the hugs I missed out on. The high fives of celebration. The moments I couldn’t enjoy myself because I just knew that people were looking at my skin.
I have always wanted to wear short-sleeved shirts at the gym when kickboxing, but I could never bring myself to do it because I knew that with every jab my arms would whip around and creates ripples that could move mountains. I couldn’t concentrate on working out and making sure that folks weren’t looking at my loose skin. I was consumed.
It would be ah-mazing if I had $14,000. It would change my life if I could make love to my husband without a top. Better yet if we could get so lost in the moment that I would forget the top altogether. But no. I’m too concerned with holding my jiggly parts. I hold my jiggly parts so that he won’t have to see or hear the flapping of my skin. My attention is not on the moment and, silently, I give in to being a pillow princess.
My husband has made me feel like I am the most beautiful woman in the world despite my issues with my skin. He touches my body like a man who loves his woman. Sometimes, he fights to keep the light on so he can look at me. I mean really look at me. I hate every minute of it. In the dark, I am a size 10, with soft skin and a small waste. In my mind, when the light is on, I am a deflated Pillsbury doughboy. I am unleavened yeast. I am Gumby, left outside in the hot Atlanta sun. I am not present. It hurt him and it started to hurt the intimacy in our marriage. I tried everything, but I tired from running to turn the light off first, from making sure I had the right shirt on, or being satisfied with not making too many sounds with my body.
My body. My body. My body. The notion and the absurdity that I didn’t acknowledge it as such is strange, don’t you think? I was actually apologizing to people for my body. If my arm touched theirs in church, I would apologize. If someone put their hands on my arm, I would mentally apologize. I silently apologized for every moment someone brushed up against me, passed me, or simply saw my arms moving. I apologized. It was absurd.
The more I thought about my behavior, the more I realized I can’t apologize for almost 24 months of ZUMBA, kickboxing, walking, running, cycling, weight training, dropping pant sizes and kicking a–. The more I thought about it, I realized that my body has carried me through a surgery, rapid weight loss, moderate weight gain, muscles, painful childhood memories, disappointments, hurts and hangups. I don’t remember the exact day, but eventually I stopped apologizing for my loose skin. I didn’t say that I was totally okay with it, I just stopped apologizing for it. I decided to wear my arms out, in tank tops and sleeveless tops. I decided to live and because of that my life changed. The intimacy in my marriage changed. The openness, the truth of who I am changed. I made a decision that I am going to wear what I want because the reality is I am smaller, faster, stronger than what they see. My body is what it is. I worked hard for the muscles I have and GOT-Damb it, I’m going to show it; loose skin and all.