Two and a half pounds. That's how much a doctor shaved off my chest in the winter of 2011. Enough that my DDDs became pert Cs. Not enough that anyone who knew me assumed something dramatic happened, other than perhaps, an oddly specific weight loss. Not that I had anything to be ashamed of—last year alone 114,470 women had the procedure, making it one of the most popular plastic surgery options.
Before going under the knife, I hadn't voluntarily spent much time in a doctor's office. (From a finger infection streaking up my hand, to a Tiny Tim-style cough, my response was always "let's wait and see.") But armed with stories from a roommate who had survived a similar procedure, and an Internet's worth of guidelines (Pro tip: Be very precise when Googling any part of the female anatomy), I took the plunge. Or accepted the cut. To be honest, I'm not sure what the correct metaphor would be here—two days after the surgery, I found a step by step guide to the procedure in a folder of after-care instructions and momentarily blacked out.
The procedure itself was a non-event. I had no memory of being knocked out, I simply woke up four hours later wondering when they would start. Oh, I also experienced what felt like the world's scariest wheelchair ride, in which I realized drugs are clearly not my thing.
I wore a sexy medical bra for the better part of the month. Even after that white, grandmotherly garment came off, it was another four months before I could sleep on my stomach again. Regardless, as soon as the swelling went down, I began feeling like a new woman. Forget the tiny scar underneath my breasts that would eventually heal to an almost unnoticeable white line, yellow bruises, or the ugly stitches—improvements had been made! I had been the girl who developed fast during puberty and then developed the arms-across-the-chest protective stance even faster. Wearing one sports bra to the gym instead of three felt like the kind of pie-in-the-sky wish suitable only for birthday candles. Suddenly, my nipples were no long holding congress with my belly button. I no longer had the urge to murmur, "Swing low, sweet chariots," every time I took off my bra. And talcum powder previously reserved for chest chafing was reassigned to other, er…more pressing body parts.
Yes, it was a good move for my health. Shoulders, back, even neck, they all suddenly signed up for at least 50 more years of movement. But I also won't knock the novelty of having a size appropriate for the top-half for my frame. I guess I could file this under mental health—but I was too busy trying on lacy bras and cruising through Urban Outfitters' dress section to care.
But it is just that—a novelty. I'm not proud to admit that shortly after healing, I started back up with the ritual of too many adult women: Namely, looking in the mirror and pointing out our flaws. Strangely, no matter how loudly my butt, stomach, or legs called, I never considered more surgery. After all, it's expensive, painful, and intellectually, I know that even Kate Upton must lament the state of her unairbrushed thighs. But for a while there, it did feel disconcerting that one piece of the puzzle felt so perfect (or as close as the good doctor could get it), while everything else just looked, well, so human.
Years later, I still haven't found my magic mental bullet. I don't regret my breast reduction for a second—if anything, I wish I had gone through with it years earlier. But instead of letting one body part touch off a firestorm of mental anguish, I've come to realize body image is a choice. Some days, I'll inevitably choose wrong and torture myself over a cupcake, or pile on the guilt for taking the day off from spin class. But even in the darkest hours, I do have something to celebrate; I'm comfortable in at least one area of my skin. And someday, I'm going to own every damn inch of it.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.