Maintenance · Weight Loss

Before and After and…

Since shifting my focus away from weight, I’ve been contemplating the multitude of “Before and After” pictures I have shared and what to do going forward.

I have very mixed feelings about those pictures, to be honest.

On one hand, I want to take them all down. This isn’t about what I look like, it’s about lifestyle. Health. Fitness. Happiness. Inner peace. Etc. When people see those pictures everything is all wrapped up in an outer package. What does that really mean? It means less than people think it does. It can mean so many different things. This image, of a large body made small, is a ubiquitous symbol of success. A montage of bad and good. Failure and victory.

In reality, you can’t see much in these pictures. You can’t see my health. Yes my health has improved and I am in much better shape than I’ve ever been fitness wise. Coinciding with that, my body is smaller. But one does not necessarily equal the other. One can find her body shrinking for reasons other than improved health. A person in the grips of an illness or eating disorder might be able to produce a before and after picture of a larger body turned small. Conversely, a person may add daily exercise and better foods to her life and remain in a body of the same size. It’s all more complicated than I realized when I initially created those pictures. I wonder about the message they send and if I stand behind it.  There is nothing “wrong” about my before picture or any of the in between pictures.  I’m still me!  Still Kate.  Still awesome.  Just looking different on the outside.

On the other hand, this is my personal story and my personal truth. All of those pictures are still me. I am proud of them. For me, they do represent a positive change in my lifestyle and my overall well-being in addition to the smaller body. For me, it did all work that way. I am not ashamed of any picture in the montage. I embrace them all. Steps on a ladder. A record of change. Pictures of different points in my life. I have decided not to take any of them down, just as I do not edit my old blog posts no matter how much I have changed my mind.

Even now, I like looking at them. No, they do not tell the whole story and they don’t tell a story everyone experiences. But they do tell a big part of my story. This is my personal truth.

I vividly remember taking each one.

The first picture is the only picture I can find of myself before I started losing weight. I was checking out the house I ended up renting in Phoenix, AZ and I caught myself in a picture of the bathroom mirror. I knew I was in the picture, but I was very far away. I had to crop this picture from a much larger shot intended to show the rooms of the house, not my body. It’s an accident this picture exists. I was in Phoenix in August and I had never experienced anything like that desert heat. I remember the smell- like dry asphalt baking in the sun. But the scenery was amazing. I felt like I was on Mars.

The second picture is from the locker-room of the 24 Hour Fitness I belonged to for a total of three years while living in Phoenix. I had just run a continuous mile on the treadmill for the first time in my life, ever, including high school. I was very excited. I remember the feeling that anything was possible. “I got this.” I said to myself.

The third picture is the day I hit my initial goal weight of 180 pounds after 18 months of calorie counting and exercising 5-6 times a week. Making a goal and meeting it after so much effort is a very rewarding experience indeed. My confidence was through the roof. I wanted to do this, I did it. I rule.

The fourth picture was taken shortly after I reached my lowest weight ever, around 160 lb. The pictures I have of myself at this time give me a strange feeling to look at. It’s the smallest I have ever been in my adult life by a lot. This picture is probably the only picture I’ve ever seen of myself and thought, without a doubt, “I am skinny.” This is a bizarre experience for someone who has always been larger. Surreal. I don’t remember anything about the day or the circumstance of the picture. I took it in the bathroom of my house because I thought the outfit made me look a lot thinner than I usually felt. It’s strange to look at this picture and think about how much I thought about what I looked like. I’m glad I don’t spend that much time thinking about it anymore.

The fifth picture was taken last year in June. I hadn’t hung the Kandinsky painting on the wall in my new apartment in Redwood City, CA. I was settling in to life in California and my new job location, new gym, new climate. In this new place, in my smaller body, I felt gloriously anonymous. No longer did strangers approach me at my gym, at restaurants, at the grocery store and comment on my body size. In Phoenix, it would frequently happen that someone who had seen me “before” wanted to come talk to me about the “after”. Suddenly, I wasn’t Kate-Who-Used-to-be-Fat, I was just me. Average sized person. Nothing to see here. It was very freeing. I felt that I had left that chapter behind in a way. Now I was free to just live my life.

The sixth and final picture I took today. The painting is on the wall and the place is kind of a mess. That’s how you know I live here. I just ate brunch with my boyfriend; scrambled eggs with spinach, mushrooms, green onions, and garlic and roasted potatoes. I am almost finished with the novel I’m reading (Jennifer Egan’s Look At Me – so good.) After I finish writing this I’m going to go outside and walk around the neighborhood for awhile. Everything is blooming. California smells like blossoms and spices- sage, cilantro, eucalyptus, jasmine…

to be continued...
to be continued…

So, I’m keeping them up because this is part of who I am, but they mean something different to me now than they did when I started making them.  When I made them, I wanted to showcase my “success”.  I wanted to say “look, I did it!  You can do it too!”  But that’s not how I feel anymore because I have changed and grown as a person.  What I did in my life means nothing in terms of someone else’s life.  We’re all different.  I did this, but it doesn’t mean others can do it too necessarily.  You are you and I am me.  We will all be happier if we accept this.   My body is a good body, large or small.  And I am a good person, regardless of my body size.  I don’t believe in Before and After pictures anymore because life is a continuum, not discreet points in time.  So instead of showcasing my “success story” I want to showcase something else.  Be true to yourself.  It’s what inside that matters.  Your outside will always be changing as you grow and age, but real growth is something you can’t see in a picture.

I am not a Before or an After, I am me.

15 thoughts on “Before and After and…

  1. I think you should stop agonising and keep your pictures up. As you said- it is your truth, and while I agree that they do not show the whole story of your improved health and fitness – I think you can trust your readers and give them more credit.

    I am truly delighted that you have managed to achieve your aims and can now shift your focus to non weight related matters but please don’t forget the rest of us who are still on or just embarking on a similar journey. I am an avid reader and will definitely look into the book you recommend but that is not why I subscribed to your blog. I subscribed because I have 100 lbs to lose and am trying to find my way through this minefield. I find it difficult and like your blog because i find it sensible and measured and yes – because you’ve been very successful. I find it so challenging that at times I wonder whether it’s possible. But I have to accept it is when I see Success stories like yours (I know you’d prefer that in invested commas!)

    There will always be people with eating disorders and maybe some of them will just focus on your pictures but frankly – you can’t be responsible for all of them. Your smaller body is a visual record of the loss of a lot of weight. I know it’s about lifestyle but I suspect (and i honestly mean this with no disrespect) that you’ve forgotten what it’s like to stand at the bottom of the mountain you’ve just scaled. I need to lose a lot of weight and I’m interested in people who have done so and how they have done it. This does not make me shallow or body obsessed – I too have many other interests. I think your blog has been balanced and sensible and you can cut yourself some slack and stop agonising over whether it’s a good thing. Maybe it’s time to start a new blog? Or if you must – take this one down. I find it hard to read some of your recent entries as I have started to feel a little defensive. I need to shift a lot of weight for my health (I’m doing it by learning to change my lifestyle) so I’m interested in the subject of weight loss. I am not obsessed with tiny bodies or other silly things, and I have found your blog interesting, inspirational and useful.

    1. My journey is my journey. I am where I am now. I can’t go back or forward. I can only write about how I feel now. If how I feel is not helpful to you, I understand, but I can’t change it. I have definitely not forgotten. But I have learned a lot and I have moved on. I really have nothing else to say about weight loss. It’s just not on my radar anymore and I don’t think there’s any one way to do it or even that everyone can do it healthfully.
      I will continue to write posts that are true to myself, it’s really the only way I know to be.

  2. A fair point. I have very much enjoyed your blog and will certainly refer back to it, but it is now irrelevant to me. I wish you well in the future.

  3. It’s so interesting to read comments on a blog. You’re leaving your opinion about someones opinion…. (hmmm..) whatever.. Great blog… amazing journey.. keep it up! The only person you need to impress is yourself. DONE.

    1. I can only be me. It would be silly to keep rehashing the past over and over again. It’s all here for anyone to read, I have not edited any of it. But I will continue to move forward, not back. Thanks for your support.

  4. Love this!! I am almost ready to leave My Fitness Pal (or drop my Pals) because most are so obsessed with macros, or eating an exact certain amount of calories each day, or bragging about eating a ton (of sometimes crap) because they lift heavy. Well, good for them, but they don’t have to talk down to every person who chooses their journey different from them. I appreciate you being open and honest that one particiular way isn’t going to work for all people.

    1. That is why I left all of the weight loss sites behind. At some point, it’s just too much mental anguish. We are all different and deserve to live out our own lives as we see fit. No reason for everyone to be the same. How boring would the world be? Best wishes to you.

  5. Life is about growth and there’s just NO way you can (or should) continue talking about a single subject that really is no longer the focus of your life. That’s one of the gifts of losing weight and becoming at peace with your body and eating… you no longer have to think about your weight every waking moment! You have so much more to offer than weight loss/maintenance guidance. Thank you for all that you have offered – it is valuable info!

    I began my weight loss journey in 2004(ish) for the last time (because lets face it, I think many many years of my adult life were spent “losing”weight) and I stabilized after losing about 125 pounds a year and a half or so later.( i was around pix 3-4 of your set) In the past 4 years, I have dropped 50 more pounds..(not on purpose, from stress and some illness – but boy did i get congratulated for looking better).. i gained 10 so i’m not looking skeletal, but I’m still very thin – i wear size 0 dress pants which i cannot seem to find anywhere! 2’s are too big! ….. enough with the numbers – our culture is obsessed with it. I do confess that I weigh daily – just to see – mostly now to make sure it’s not going down.

    I stumbled upon your blog because of recipes – i love em – you are right – “this” is not a diet – it’s life and we make choices every day that will affect our body and health one way or another. It would be BORING and dissatisfactory to continue to have food & exercise still be the hottest topic in your life. It’s now just how you live your life and hiking IS more fun than the elliptical You have new ventures to embark upon, new challenges to overcome, other “issues” inside of you that you may want to work on, things you want to blog about… and that really is the key. Your words are here eternally for people to be inspired. You said, rightfully, there are a myriad of ways to lose weight – there’s no RIGHT way. Keeping it off is where people struggle – creating a new lifestyle after the weight loss “project”. The most important weight loss exercise is addressing the reason you misuse(d) food. There are times, times when I’m blue, that an oatmeal cookie (or two) look awfully good and I have it and move on and deal with feeling blue and don’t try to numb the feelings with sugar or some other gastronomic comfort. Most days I eat to live and I eat mostly live, unprocessed, food because it feels good in my body – and my body feels good moving, so i move (not really blog worthy stuff). I’m glad for you, you shared your journey and help so many others – the pictures are part of the inspiration! That’s important – making a difference on the planet – you have in this blog. Bravo! stay curious and excited about life and as you say, be true to you. I look forward to what new things will capture your attention. PS – you are brave – I never put my before’s out for the world to see; I felt shame about them and didn’t like them; i share them only with a few people who I coach and encourage. honestly, i’m ready to reassess my feelings about them after reading your thoughts about yours.

    (i may inbox them to you) 🙂 . sorry for the long soliloquy, but i wanted to give you support in your decision, coming from someone who has also taken the weight loss journey and been here on the “other side” for a longer while.

  6. You know what strikes me about those pictures? You look happy in all of them (except the first one). In the post you can remember that you were happy for different reasons when you took them, but just looking at them, it’s the happiness I notice most. You look happy. And that matches the text above the pictures – all bodies are good bodies. I love it!

    1. Yes! I was pretty happy in all of them. And I’ve generally always been a pretty happy person, although I used to be more cynical and sarcastic than optimistic, regardless of my size. I can look back on all my life so far and I don’t feel miserable about any of it. You always see the before and after pictures and the heavy woman is scowling and angry/sad looking, then in the after picture she’s having a blast! There’s more to life than size though. I’ve managed to have fun along the way and plan to continue.

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