THE BLOG

Confidence Is the New Skinny

08/23/2013 03:30 pm ET | Updated Oct 23, 2013

(See reader poll at the end)

Not long ago, I came across an intriguing philosophical 'ism while shopping for workout clothing online: A black shirt that bore a hot pink declaration that "Strong Is The New Skinny." Loved it. Even if I still take issue with 'skinny' as being an enviable state. What I didn't really dig was the fact that the shirt was sleeveless. I haven't worn anything sleeveless in public since The Brady Bunch aired every Friday night.

Weighing 300-plus pounds for 20 years meant an unchanging wardrobe of billowy, long sleeved tops and spandex leggings with plenty of give. I was never one of those self-loathing fat women, but I also wasn't comfortable baring skin. Here's my confession: even though I made an avocation out of being confident and self-accepting during the heavy years, I was never one of those big girls who had the courage to wear above-the-knee skirts or tank tops.

As a survival strategy, and because I long ago decided self-recrimination wasn't the answer, I learned to hold my head high when entering a room, even if it meant I was the biggest one present, which I usually was. But revealing my upper arms? Unthinkable. I felt tremendous shame at their overstuffed size. And guess what? Up until this morning I still did.

I may have dropped 185 pounds through DDPYOGA and clean eating, but my upper arms never got the memo. I've got a pair of bat wings fit for handgliding off a cliff. And I don't say this as a put-down, it's just a fact. One day, that fact that may change if I keep up the clean eating, DDPYOGA, and other forms of exercise I indulge in regularly. However, I refuse to let a little residual flab be an excuse for unhappiness. What sense would that make?

There was something about the beauty and sassiness of that black and fuschia tank top that stopped me in my tracks and forced me to no longer hide from my upper arms. As I placed the order and hit 'send,' I knew that this was a shirt I'd be unveiling in the light of day, whether it was on a walk through the neighborhood, hoisting dumb bells at the gym, or rifling through bunches of fresh kale at the farmers market.

This morning, I wore it to a hot yoga class, a place where virtually all shapes and sizes of people are grunting and sweating on their mats...all of them attired in sleeveless shirts. For a month, I suffered through the 90-degree classes wearing 3/4 sleeve shirts. This morning I showed up dressed like everyone else, realizing it was time to give up the old beliefs of how I should look, time to give up the shame, and time to just start being who I am in this particular moment.

I even, for the very first time, lay my mat in the front row. I had nothing to hide. It was OK to be front and center. For decades I followed, like a catatonic sheep, the 'beauty' industry's directive of how I should look. Well guess what Shape, Self, Elle, and all the others...THIS is how I look. Period. No explanations or apologies.

Of all the e-mails I get from readers, the number one question by far is from women who are at the start of their journey, and already in a pre-panicked state over having loose skin when the weight's gone. This concern has always puzzled me for a number of reasons:

1. If you haven't gotten to the end of the road yet, you don't really know what the outcome will be.

2. If you don't take drastic measures, like crash dieting or bariatric surgery, the weight will come off at a safe pace and loose skin won't be as likely.

3. Regular exercise tightens muscles and skin.

4. Even if the worst case scenario pans out and you have (gasp!) loose skin...wouldn't you rather have that than the burdonsome 50, 100, or 200 extra pounds you were saddled with?

This I know from experience: All the years I wasn't ready to stop binge-eating and take an honest look at myself, I'd look (often subconsciously) for any excuse in the book to sabotage plans to clean up my life and get the weight off.

If you've decided that loose skin is too big a risk or too hideous an imperfection to live with, then I'd say you aren't ready. No judgements. Just be honest with yourself about it. I wasn't ready for years. I dropped the weight when I'd done copious amounts of inner healing and practiced self-love until I was fluent in it.

For decades I would not and probably could not give up the binge-eating. But I started with movement. If that's all you're able or willing to do, that's PERFECT. Start with walking...or DDPYOGA in your living room if you prefer privacy. But movement will begin to heal you on all levels.

On the biggest, most fat-retaining parts of me, I have loose skin where there were once pillows of fat. My upper arms and inner thighs are not areas I'm enamored with, but I don't dwell on them. Why would I? I'm 185 pounds lighter. I'm immeasurably freer. I'm leaps and bounds happier because I can move easily and without embarrassment. Last night I had dinner in a crowded restaurant where the tables were only inches apart from one another. Five years ago I would have broken into a cold sweat knowing that taking a seat would mean knocking a table or two askew. Believe me, that was a regular occurrence at 345 pounds.

Do you have any idea how wonderful it felt to slide into my seat without incident? And get up to use the restroom instead of painfully holding it in throughout the meal because I didn't want the embarrassment of asking the party next to me hoist their table away from mine to create enough space for my departure? It may sound like no big deal, but after being imprisoned by nearly 200 extra pounds, such freedom of movement is unmitigated glory.

Those of you hoping for a Sports Illustrated ending to my story, well, I think it's safe to say that, at age 48 and a half, the bikini ship has sailed. Maybe with some lipo, all my free time spent on cardio and sit-ups, and subsisting on egg white omelets (that's how the fitness models do it, I'm told), I'd have a shot, but I'm just not interested in that unreasonable a price tag.

I look good with my clothing on. I'm happy. I'm healthy. And I can take flights of stairs without sounding like a locomotive. All things I'd never thought would be a reality for me in this lifetime. Do you really think I'm going to spend an ounce of energy lamenting loose skin?

2013-08-22-Tank2.jpg

For more by Stacey Morris, click here.

For more on emotional wellness, click here.