When I first sat down at my dining room table last night, preparing to crack crab for dinner, I felt like a kid. The table seemed higher to me, somehow. I commented to Mr. Stuck that I needed a booster seat, and he said, “Me, too!” And we laughed, having found yet another unforeseen effect of our weight loss. Our derrieres are smaller and flatter and provide far less cushion these days. I ended up fetching a pillow to sit on, which brought me up to a more comfortable working level, and I felt like a grownup once more.
But that is just the latest in my constantly adjusting frame of reference. This new old body of mine is taking some getting used to. When I crawl into bed at the end of the day, I must fold my body with origami precision so my knees (or elbows, or ankles) aren’t knocking painfully together. The sleeping positions in which I have historically arranged myself aren’t as effective without padding, so extra pillows are a must. I find myself tossing and turning even more now than before, as my bonier frame has less tolerance for pressure. Now, when I lie on my side, I can feel my hip implants, and while they’re not exactly painful, they’re certainly not very comfortable
I remember Mother teaching me how to stand up straight and carry a book on my head. I was pretty good at it. As I got older and heavier, my posture changed to support the weight I carried around. I slouched more, hunching myself over. With the development of my inner-ear disorder, I realized that my sense of balance was capricious, and I began reaching out and holding on to walls and furniture for stability. I lost my normal stride as the pain took over and replaced it with a waddling, unnatural gait. You’ve seen it – or maybe you have that same walk: you swing your legs out and rock from one side to the other instead of using your hips and knees. It’s the Weeble Wobble. Mine got so much worse when my hips were bad that my physical therapist actually had to teach me to walk the right way.
It was easy to slump, shuffle, and waddle when I was heavy; that’s all my body wanted to do. My balance issues made me worry about stairs and inclines and uneven surfaces. My activity level slowed to a near halt. So now that my range of movement and my flexibility have improved, it’s time to work on my posture. I’m constantly reminding myself to sit up straight at my desk. Even when my back aches, I know I have to pull my shoulders back and straighten my spine. I’ve got some work to do so my default position isn’t ‘Slouch.’
Living in this new old body is wonderful, but not without its challenges. Bruises appear all the time, inexplicably. When I bump into things, it hurts. (But still, I marvel at the bones appearing under my skin. Cheekbones? Clavicle? Yes, please!) Even my feet are different – after many years of wearing size 10 shoes, I now must wear size 11. My feet seem thinner, but longer: when I put on my old sneakers, my toes hit the end. What’s up with that?
I’ve always been somewhat clumsy and uncoordinated. Being fat didn’t help; it made me feel like I took up too much space, and I often felt that I just needed to get out of the way. That’s changing. I sometimes visualize myself unzipping and stepping out of my fat suit. In some ways, I feel like a gangly teenager who’s going through a growth spurt and hasn’t quite gotten used to his body. But I suppose, like that teenager, I will grow into it.