I initially started out this post out as a weight loss success story a while back.
I looked back as far as I could go to find a “before” picture that would make the biggest impact on others. A picture that would make people say, “Wow, congrats on your hard work!” or, “I don’t even remember you being that heavy, you’re so skinny now!”
That’s why we post those pictures, right? To show off our accomplishment of losing the weight. We hope to inspire others, but a lot of us post them for some sort of social recognition. I have posted these photos many times, trying to find approval from my peers or maybe get reposted by the “health guru” I bought the e-book from. While digging for the “heaviest” photo of me that I could find, I found some pictures that really opened my eyes but actually broke my heart.
I have been taking pictures of my body and belly since 2011. Eight years. I am only 30 years old, and I’ve spent nearly a decade taking pictures of my stomach, arms, back, legs, and the abs that never came. Only to get upset over the photos, save them to my “before” file, and keep dieting.
Body image has been my primary focus since my early 20s, and this probably stemmed from modeling when I was young, doing the Special K diet in middle school, taking the pill for 12 years, drinking SlimFast in high school, and taking Adderall in college. I’ve been told my difficulty keeping weight off is due to my genes, hormones, thyroid issues, food allergies, and intolerance. I’ve tried a lot of different diets. I work out five or more days a week and get ample sleep.
Why was I never losing the weight? Why did the e-books and programs work for everyone else but me? I was determined to find out.
In 2011, I lost the weight for the first time but also was taking Adderall and drinking every weekend. I was miserable for the most part. I became obsessed with spinning and made my grandma take my waist measurements weekly, even though she told me I looked perfect. In 2012, I went vegetarian for the first time. I looked a little heavier but was really happy and felt great. I was figuring out what foods worked for me and started to love the gym.
In 2013, I spent hundreds of dollars on Orange Theory, hot yoga, and cold-pressed juices, but most of my weight loss came from stress and under-eating. I thought being skinny was going to make me happy. I would starve myself, work out twice a day, and didn’t feel comfortable going out with friends until the weight was gone.
From 2014 to 2017, I spent hours and hours in the gym, hundreds on e-books and cleanses, and spent weekends in because I was cleansing or exhausted from doubling up on spin classes and boot camps. Sure, I was happy and making memories at this time, but weight loss was always on my mind.
In 2018, I was so chronically stressed that no matter what I did in the gym or at home, nothing worked. I felt heavy, sick, and sad. My cortisol levels were so high and I carried so much weight in my midsection that I became severely depressed. I moved back to Florida into a beach apartment to begin some soul searching. I knew this was no way to live anymore.
I’ve been working on my mental health for about a year and half—deep emotional work that has been so rewarding and difficult at the same time. I enlisted the help of some holistic healers and Chinese medicine doctors to help me address the stress that was causing me so much sadness and inability to love my body. This worked.
Over time, I really started to love and accept myself. I realized that even when I got down to my goal weight in the past I wasn’t happy. I always wanted to be thinner. I always wanted to cleanse more, detox more. I spent years saying no to my friends who just wanted to spend time with me. I knew that I didn’t have the self-control to say no to beer and pizza and would hate myself the next day. I opted out of concerts, camping trips, and cried at the end of vacations because of all the indulging that took place. It was torture choosing between being thin and having fun. I was a prisoner in this body and, if I didn’t learn to love it, I would be trapped forever.
How did I know when I finally loved myself? Well, when I started searching for this before photo again, I finally found the recognition and love I was looking for from everyone else.
When I look at these pictures now, I see a healthy, thin person. In the past, I saw an overweight monster. I really did. I would cry when I took these pictures.
I noticed that, after years of taking these progress pictures, my body didn’t change too much. I could never get past a certain weight, because that’s not the way my body is supposed to look. No one in my family has a rock-hard six-pack, a huge ass, or massive biceps. Now that I think of it, no one in my life has those things. At least not all of the time.
I never looked like the girls I saw online, and I never will. You probably won’t either. These girls sell e-books and detoxes that make a lot of young women feel less than. I know I did. But it’s just business—it’s not real. There is absolutely no coincidence that my time of taking “before” pictures and starving myself began at the rise of Instagram and Facebook.
Comparing my body to others created a monster in me. It took years and experiences from me that I can never get back. The only thing I can do now is continue to work on myself just as I am.
This is the body I was given. This body carries me through life. This body is strong, and I do everything I can to keep it healthy. I eat a nourishing diet, I practice yoga, I drink lots of water, and rest whenever I can. Mindfulness, meditation, and lots of self-care got me here. I never thought the day would come when I would be happy or even comfortable in this body. I only do workouts that make me happy, and I only eat food that I want to eat. No more diets or punishing workouts. I feel better than I have ever felt, and I love myself harder than I ever thought possible.
I can’t tell you how to lose weight. I can’t tell you what program will work for you. I can’t tell you how many calories I eat in a day. But what I can tell you is that I will never, ever, ever take another “before” photo again.
I can share my journey with you, my recipes, and my experiences, but what works for me may not work for you—and that is just fine.
I am learning, growing, and loving, and that’s the only difference I want to make
Lastly, I would like to share the words of the self-affirmation “Acceptance,” written by Deepak Chopra. It makes me feel so good about being me.
“A is for acceptance.
Today I will accept myself, just as I am.
I will reaffirm that I am a beautiful person,
Just as I am…
Today I will say to the infinite divine being,
The mystery that we call God,
thank you God for making me, just as I am.
Knowing this, I will see the world, just as it is.
I will accept the world, just as it is.
And in the reality of that awareness,
I will feel peace, harmony, laughter, and love.”