What Getting Healthier Looks Like
August 17, 2011 § 21 Comments
This is one of those rare posts that explains why this blog is titled “More Than Just the Food.” I want people to know what real bodies look like. I want people to understand how hard it is to grow beyond the bad habits that surround us and that we are saddled with from our youth. I confess that I have never had a bad body image per se, but I have never had a confident one. It’s one of the places I struggle most in my life. It’s not that I’ve ever believed I’ve been ugly. How can I believe that when I’ve been deliriously in love with my Prince Charming for the past 20+ years? But I do know now that my view of my body in my head needs work. I’m going to do a rare thing here and tell you exactly how much I weighed over time.
There was a time in my life when I destroyed absolutely every picture taken of my full body. Face shots were barely passable, but not body shots. I didn’t like them because I didn’t believe they reflected the true me. I still don’t think they do for the most part. At one point I approached 270 lbs. No one believes this. I have no pictures to prove it. I’ve always carried my weight well and evenly and even that heavy, I looked good, I dressed very well, avoided full-body pictures like the plague, and I was especially adept at fooling your eyes into thinking I was taller or thinner by what I wore or how I stood if I knew you were taking a picture. I was, to put it bluntly, lying to myself completely and utterly. I’ll claim survival instinct at the time, but I think now I’ll just define it as lying to myself.
Now I want to show you something. This first picture shows what I looked like in September of 2009, just after I really started in ernest working on my personal health education. This is not me at my heaviest, by any means, but it’s completely unposed. If I remember correctly, I weighed about 230 to 235 lbs at this point.
By this time, we were eating very well, but I needed to understand more about how what I was eating, how much I was eating, and how little I was exercising really made a difference. I also needed to understand what was causing me to crave the things I was trying to avoid. What’s more, I really felt like I needed to get over the whole don’t take pictures of me thing. So at the beginning of 2010, I took on a pictures of me project. I still wouldn’t take full body shots, but I felt like I should take pictures of my face at least, so that I would start getting ready to have full on photos of me taken without me constantly on the look out for someone who would do something completely unflattering like catch me unawares. After nearly a year of personal photos, I finally just let it all go and stopped caring about who was taking pictures of me and why. I smiled more. I laughed more. And I realized that the people who know me, the people who loved me, just did. Not because of some 2D digital representation. They loved me for me.
Now, let’s flash forward a ways to the point where I started taking pictures of my full body intentionally. Here’s a shot of me in March of 2011, about a year and a half after starting my personal re-education about beauty and health and nutrition. I weigh about 195 lbs here and I look fantastic if I do say so myself. With the exception of a few lingering back injury issues, I’m about the healthiest I’ve ever been at this point.
But here’s the kicker: at this point I still thought in my mind that I looked like that first picture. No lie. Every time I saw myself in the mirror, I was startled that it was me. There was more than one occasion that I waited patiently in front of the sink at work (the one backed by full-length mirrors), for the skinny woman in front of me to finish washing up. And then I promptly realized that the skinny woman was me. My mind’s eye still didn’t have an accurate view of what I looked like, so I commenced to taking photographs of my full body like the one above, reasoning that if the pictures of my face were successful in getting me to stop caring, maybe the pictures of my body would give me a real sense of what my shape was like and that it was beautiful.
Let’s look at two more shots so you can see what I look like most recently. This picture is one taken of me in June of 2011. I weigh about 180 lbs at this point.
This is actually kind of a nice shot of me. But what’s notable about this picture, aside from the fact that it’s not a complete body shot, is that I’m wearing shorts and actually exposing my thighs. I never wear shorts. Or, rather, I never used to. What’s more, when I took this shot it didn’t really originally occur to me that I was taking a picture that exposed my legs (which would have been expressly forbidden in my personal brain world when I was heavier). I just wanted to prove to my friends that yes, I did own and wear shorts. You have no idea how huge a leap that was for me. Rule #1 of being heavier was always “Thou shalt not expose yourself except under the most dire of circumstances. Controlled, intentional nudity only.”
Now let’s look at one last picture of me compared to the one above of me in shorts.
This picture was taken within the last two weeks with my “sisters by choice.” Without running upstairs to check for sure, I can comfortably say that right now my weight hovers between 178 to 182 lbs, which is still not the “goal weight” that companies like Weight Watchers would have me target. They want me at 174 lbs or less for my height and activity level (EDIT: since someone asked, I’ll let you know that I’m 5’10”). And yet, in this picture, I am at the absolutely healthiest I have every been in my adult life. So while, this picture is not especially flattering of me at all, it does show me several things:
- I am still willingly posing for photos after a long avoidance of said activity and I don’t care.
- Pictures lie, but I still wear some of my clothes far too big. This outfit is huge on me and it shows. I look large and yet I’m roughly the same weight as the shorts picture above. I can see it now where I didn’t see it before.
- I’m with women I greatly admire in this shot and think of myself as just as beautiful as the rest of them. I would not have thought that two years ago.
- Maybe those companies that tell me what my weight should be aren’t entirely giving people the full picture and the best info they can.
The fact that I recognize these things is huge is a positive step in my body image and in my life in general. I’m proud of that.
So, what’s next? Well, I’m working on adding more martial arts training to my exercise regimen. I’m continuing to remove more crap from my nutritional life and from my mental baggage. And I’m using my weight not as a goal to reach any more but as a recognition of how much I’ve changed. Instead of weight being the ultimate point, measurements of various body points have become my focus. Have I reached a goal weight? Nope. Do I plan to? Planning is a strong word. My plan is to get healthier and stronger. If the weight goes down, then bully for me.