QUESTION: I reached my goal weight in January, and I have kept it pretty steady since then. Highs and lows are to be had, but I never give up, and I forgive myself for the “oops” and surprises that happen. I now wear a petite medium and say that loudly and with pride (not to the point of bragging but when appropriate in conversations). One of the last vestiges of my former life is my hair. I’m interviewing for a big job very soon, and have to cut my hair, which is almost to my waist. Changing it is scaring the snot out of me. Is this normal? Was it hard for you to let go? Did it take time? Or did, did you go out and get a whole new look the minute you reached and kept your goal weight? — Heather
DEAR HEATHER: Congrats on reaching your goal! If you’ve ever watched “What Not to Wear” on TLC, you know that lots of women hold on to aspects of their appearance that may not do them any favors fashion-wise. Blue eyeshadow, for instance, super-mini skirts, spandex and polyester—it’s amazing how difficult it is to get folks to let go and consider more flattering alternatives.
But maybe we shouldn’t be all that amazed. I’m not the first one to say that clothes and hair can be a way of hiding from the world, either by distracting it from the woman we truly are with over-the-top accessories or using color (or the lack thereof) and layers to make us blend into the background. Not only that: We start to identify with aspects of our look, too—just as your weight became part of who you are, so has your hairstyle.
That is, I think, only normal. It took me a long time to make that transition, to find my style. For me, it was a combination of insecurity about my body and my femininity. For many years, I wore tights under my shorts while running, afraid to bare my legs. I never wore dresses except on the most formal of formal occasions. As I was losing the weight, I started experimenting with makeup, with perms (yes, perms), with style and color. This was the 80s, so there were lots of shoulderpads and multiple eyeshadow colors and baggy pleated pants. I was really all over the place stylewise for many years, trying to find myself and my body, figuring out what it meant to be me at this weight, at this age, at this point in my life. And I am still figuring it out. I tend to dress too severely—jackets and pants, with lean lines. Very few (if any) prints. Lots of collared shirts. I’m trying to soften up, outside—wearing cardigans and colors, skirts and (gasp!) jewelry.
My hair too, has gone from spiky-short to longer, softer layers—a reflection of what I’m trying to do internally, too: be gentler, easier about schedules and life and expectations.
It’s a process. I am continuing, even 20 years after losing my weight, to see rough edges that need to be addressed, inside and out. And I always will. We are never “done,” you know—just when you think you are, you stumble on something else that needs addressing. You have done a great deal of work—good work—and now it’s time to address the hair. Don’t beat yourself up for holding on to it. We do what we need to do when we need to do it. And I’m pretty sure, once you’re rockin’ a flippy new ‘do, you’ll discover something else, some other little habit or tendency or trait that needs a makeover. That’s just life.
Spry editor Lisa Delaney is one of the rare souls who know what it’s like to be an “after.” This journalist and author of Secrets of a Former Fat Girl shed 70 pounds—and six dress sizes—and has kept it off for 20 years. She answers your questions here each week.