6.3 Editor's Pick
December 6, 2013

The Before & After Photo I Never Wanted to See.

Photo: Jamie Khoo (author's own)

That’s right: this ‘after’ picture of me is at least about 20 pounds heavier than my ‘before picture’.

Not quite the ‘after’ result I’d always hoped for throughout my life. I would have balked at the idea that the slim, svelte me so-many-years ago would be overtaken by a softer, wobblier, rounder me, standing there all proud and happy, taking a selfie of myself in a bikini under a badly-lit bathroom light.

But there it is—all 20-pounds-more of me, eight years later.

And here’s the most surprising thing of all—that I actually prefer this softer, wobblier, rounder version of me.

See, I’m so sick of seeing these before-and-after shots of women where the before is always ‘fatter’ and the after always a skinnier, more smiley version of themselves. In many cases, I can’t even really see why the ‘before’ version is so bad—they’re rounder, sure, but not so grossly overweight that you’d imagine it affecting their health in any truly serious way.

I’m sick of the fact that ‘after’ necessarily equates to someone being thinner.

Why can’t ‘after’ be something happier, healthier, more content—no matter what size that means?

My ‘before’ picture was taken at a time that I used to think I was at my physical best (whatever that means anymore). I was working out like crazy, the weighing scales told me beautiful numbers and my collarbones stuck out at exactly the right obtuse angles.

If you’d shown this ‘after’ photo to that old version me, she would have screamed, horrified, and then consciously made herself not feel hungry at dinner that night. Because no matter how thin I was then, the old me kept herself permanently in the ‘before’ box, aiming always, for a thinner, smaller ‘after’ photo that would see even more contorted angles of her collar-bone.

So what about happier, healthier, more content?

I’m heavier and ‘bigger’ now than I have been in over a decade. But for the first time in my life, I’m also enjoying my body just as it is, where it is. For the first time in my life, I’m learning to love the jiggles, the roundness, the way things blob out just that bit more than they should (!).

I catch my reflection in the mirror and think—no, know—I look cute. There is a happiness in my gait now that I’ve never known, no matter how thin I was before.

I like that there is now a fullness in me and that when I laugh, I can feel things wobble a bit, as if every part of me and my cells are laughing along with me. I like that there is more of me to dance, to feel movement, to wrap my arms around things.

I think, that as life fills up, I fill out. I love that this time, my body isn’t trying to run away from something (fat? calories? dress sizes?) but is embracing all the lovely things that have recently come my way, shifting and expanding somehow to let in all kinds of goodness. My plumpness now signals just what my old Chinese grandmothers would have loved to see, for a little extra meat on the bones meant prosperity, abundances, a good life. And that is exactly what I feel I’m living now.

I’m not saying I’m ‘letting it all go’, not bothering anymore and going at the doughnuts with abandon. I’m enjoying the food I love but also learning (over and over) again to be mindful of what and how much I’m eating. I’m learning to enjoy food for what it is rather than to constantly gauge it for how thin/fat it would make me. I’m celebrating the many good things that come of every meal—nutrition, new tastes, the thousands of hours of conversation over dinner plates— rather than fearing what passes my lips.

And exercising: it’s ironic that behind every fabulous photo of the ‘thinner’ me were hours of intensive workouts that eventually caused my knees to wear themselves down and cause persistent pain. I will never be able to smack a step board, or on a treadmill with quite as much zeal as the thinner me could, but it’s okay. With physiotherapy and a real slowing down, I’m relearning how to exercise in a way that’s as safe and loving of my body as it can be. I’m discovering new ways to move, to listen to where my body wants me to take it and to enjoy what it does for and with me.

So my body has led me to being right where it should be. I may never be able to boast a thin ‘before’ photo again but I’m learning to trust that my body will know where it needs to be and I will love it all the more. I know now that no one else in the world will have a body like mine (or yours, or yours, or yours) and so it should be loved for being just the way it is, whatever size or shape it eventually decides to settle on.

I’ve spent enough of my life wishing I could have a stomach like hers, or legs like hers, or boobs like hers. Even if I did get that stomach, those legs and a perfect set of breasts, I’d then spend the rest of my time worrying about maintaining everything as it is and feeling terrified that every meal might make me explode into a fat factory.

Then one day, as I went on yet another diatribe about my body to a friend, she quipped back, “Never to wish for someone else’s body. Wish for the best version of your own.”

So, this is how it came to be that I decided that ‘best’ for me doesn’t necessarily mean ‘thin’. It means, for me, an ‘after’ photo that shows a chunkier, heavier me; where my tummy can be seen and my collarbone can’t; where I feel full in so many ways that aren’t just about weight.

It means happier, healthier, more content.

Relephant reads:

This is What a Real Yoga Body Looks Like.

What does a yoga body look like? {Adult}

How to Feel Satisfied with Your Weight.

Relephant Read: 

The Burlesque Dancer Who Inspired My Heart to Roar 

Bonus: A 21-day health cleanse for dummies.

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Editor: Bryonie Wise
{Photo: author’s own}

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