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So, I got a message on Facebook the other day from a longtime friend.  She started off by saying that she really needed to talk to me “about something.” She then launched into a paragraph about how proud she was of me for all my successes and hard work.  Immediately, I knew there was about to be a “but.”

Yes, but… She was offended by and felt that my blog is…  judgmental.  Now, these are two words that I think are rarely associated with me, so it took me aback.

Yep, I got defensive.

What put her off so much?  My use of the word “normal.”  Normal BMI.  Normal weight.  Normal body.  What the heck does normal mean anyway?

Well, the medical community would have you believe that a certain BMI range is normal.  Considering the criteria for qualifying for bariatric surgery is based partly (sometimes solely) on your Body Mass Index, is it any wonder that I have set a goal of falling into the “normal” range?  My starting BMI was a 58.2.  I was in the “super morbidly obese” category.  I mean, I was in the same category where people have to be busted out of their homes with a team of burly men and perhaps the jaws of life.  Is that normal?  I don’t think so.  Today my BMI is 26.2.  That is still not considered “normal.”  It is “overweight.”

Well, what about normal weight by other standards?  Well, I’m not sure if I’m there or not.  Do I need to lose 10 more pounds like my surgeon’s office suggested?  On average, based on a 180 pound weight loss, I could have up to 15-20 pounds of excess skin.  I just had 4 of them surgically removed.  That loss isn’t showing on the scale right now because of fluid.  So do I count that?  Do I count the fluid?  What about bone density?  After so many years of being obese, my bones actually weigh more from carrying the weight around.  How do you account for that?  Does it matter?

I weighed in at 143 this morning.  I am 5’2″ and wear a size 4/6 when I’m not swollen from skin removal.  Does that sound fat to you?  Yesterday, I read an article on in which the author talks about her gluttonous habits and how she was the fattest in her family.  In my mind, I’m picturing a heavyset, if not obese, girl.  But then she says this:

Still, by constantly dieting and maniacally exercising, I was able to keep the number on the scale within a fairly healthy range. If I pretended to have a “stocky” frame and that I was 5 feet 4 inches—which I was in 4-inch heels—my 145 pounds were only slightly above normal on the weight charts. I could fit into the clothes I wanted to wear.

Oh yes, I felt abnormal when I read that.  Stocky?  I do not wish to be described as such.  Are you going to say I’m just fairly healthy?  Look where I came from!

Okay, well…  Normal body?  Normal body image?  Well, it certainly isn’t “normal” to need to have an apron of skin removed from your body at the ripe old age of 32.  It isn’t normal to go out in 105 degree weather with a cardigan sweater and long jeans on to cover up the wrinkled, sagging skin.  Oh, I suppose I could go without it, but my image of myself is so ABNORMAL that I feel as though a spotlight were being shined upon my physical imperfections.

Then again, I also realize how NORMAL it is for women to feel that way about themselves…

So when I say, “all I want is normal,” what exactly does that mean?  It means I want to find that balance between acceptance and the desire to achieve more. Living in the tension between contentment with who I am and what I’ve achieved without the complacency that leads to sliding backwards.  So, when I use the word normal, please realize that I am not referring to some absolute value that everyone must aspire to or else you fall short.  I am referring to normal as it applies to me, who I’m meant to be, and who I desire to be. Nothing more.

What does “normal” mean to you?


10 responses »

  1. I don’t know your friend and I’m not trying to judge, but with your writing I’m assuming this lady is jealous of the new you. I really, really hope that is not the way she is feeling cause we have had to deal with to much when we weren’t consider “normal”. Normal to me means I’m happy with myself, and who cares what others think. I can’t be labeled anymore by anyone, cause life is too short and if you don’t like then don’t like me, move on please.


    • shanasparkles

      That’s all I’m trying to do, live in the balance and become content with it. Far be it from me to decide what’s “normal” for someone else!

  2. It sounds like your friend is insecure about her own weight and is reading too much into what you are writing. I believe we all have our own definition of “normal”. For me right now, I finally feel somewhat “normal”. I no longer have to lift up my belly or my boobs to clean myself in the shower. I no longer have to wear horrendous shapewear to keep everything in place. Although I realize my body is still far from perfect, I finally feel “normal”.

  3. O-O

    You’re not normal. We know this. Freaky people of the world unite.

  4. Thanks for the blog post – after two years out of WLS, this is something I think about a lot. I think we all go through levels of new “normalness” especially as we age and especially for those of us who have gone through WLS and are experiencing body transformations. Normal is what we define ourselves and where we are comfortable with us and that in itself takes time to get to. Keep doing what you are doing and let the freak flag fly!

  5. I struggle sometimes in my writing with how to describe certain sizes and weights. I think using the term “normal BMI” is fine because that’s the technical term for it. But what about when describing sizes? We talk about Plus Size but there is no official name for the sizes below that. I wouldn’t want to call them the normal sizes because that implies other sizes aren’t normal. I call them the “regular sizes” but that doesn’t seem right either.

  6. Normal to me is wearing clothes that fit regardless of which department or store I buy them from. Retail close sizing is specific to the manufacturer and depends on the cut of the garment. Think about it enough and you will go blind, crazy, or both at the same time.
    Weight fluctuation happens. When my scale battery went dead I couldn’t be bothered to change it.
    Welcome to the rest of our lives – I say we live them. Shana – I like your writing. A lot.


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