I Am Not a Before

Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between giving up and accepting reality. We are bombarded with “inspirational” stories about people who persevered in the face of daunting obstacles only to come through the other side triumphant. We also hear about those who fail as well as those who give up and later regret it and vow never to be like them. But what about those who don’t regret it. Those who’ve make a decision that they are going to redefine success? We don’t hear much about those people and when we do we are left wondering if they’re just trying to justify their own failures or abandoned hopes.

Perhaps it is justification; how can we really tell when we’re in the thick of it? But at this moment in time, it doesn’t feel like giving up. It feels like accepting (again*) that I am more than a number on a scale or clothing tag. It feels like deciding that other areas of my life deserve more attention than the shape of my body. It feels like acknowledgement of the fact that the times I’ve actually improved my health, in real, measurable ways, were the times that I wasn’t at all concerned about losing weight.

Rand I at Ha Ha Tonka.

R and I at Ha Ha Tonka.

You see that picture. That is neither a before picture nor a cautionary tale. That is a picture of a full and complete person, enjoying a getaway with her husband. A weekend that included hikes and spelunking, spa visits and scenic plane tours, romance and laughter. I see so many ads for diet plans on TV, in magazines and online that include a picture of a person who is overweight next to a picture of their new, better self. The before and after. They usually have an inspiring story about someone who was tired of sitting on the sidelines, tired of being left out, tired of feeling bad about themselves so they lost weight in order to enjoy life. Well, excuse me but FUCK that.

Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not disparaging anyone’s particular story and am genuinely glad that the people featured in these ads seem happier and healthier. What I am not overjoyed about is the idea that weight loss is a necessary element for it to happen. I am beyond pissed at these companies who prey on women (and increasingly men) and tell them they can be worthy of a good life if they just drink their shake, order their processed food or go to their meetings. Again, don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that the people who use these services are the problem. It’s the marketing of fat = misery, thin = all my problems are solved that I’m angry about.

I bought into it for a while and still find myself being drawn to some of the lingering ideas at times. But for the most part, I’m done with it. I will eat foods that are good for my body. I will move in ways that help make my body strong. I will not weigh or measure myself anymore. I am not a before.

*Yes, again. This isn’t the first time I’ve had to figure this out- I was slightly derailed by the discovery that I’m diabetic. My old notions about recovery from disordered eating were put to the test as I navigated through an entirely new kind of recovery. It’s really not a surprise that I lost my way and had to find my way back; this is common among most kinds of recovery. There is no reason to assume that setbacks equal failures. We don’t assume that with physical disease and shouldn’t with mental health issues either.

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18 responses to “I Am Not a Before

  1. By the way, I meant to say something yesterday when I saw you talking to Karen, but the moment got away from me and really, what exactly would I have said, but you look GREAT! It has nothing to do with weight either–you were talking and laughing and your hair was swinging back and your face looking alive and glowing and you had that cute tunic shirt on, and I thought, “oh my, she’s so gorgeous!”

    I know that this post isn’t about personal appearance, but it made me remember that your personal appearance specifically attracted my eye just yesterday!

    • Thank you! No, not about physical appearance but just because we learn to accept that it’s not *all* about how we look that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy hearing that we are beautiful! I’m so very lucky to have people in my life that remind me of this- my friends and my husband especially. I think that’s part of the “secret” to loving yourself- surround yourself with people who lift you up and remind you of your own unique beauty, inside and out. 🙂

  2. Perfect. Perfect! I love the sentence “That is a picture of a full and complete person, enjoying a getaway with her husband.” I hate how closely we tie body shape or thickness of hair or presence of wrinkles or whiteness of teeth or whatever to happiness (and you’re right to point out it’s increasingly happening to men). I hate that I can’t figure out how to stop doing that to myself, because I don’t do it to other people. I LOVE THIS POST.

    • Hi Nicoya! Thanks for reading. 🙂

      I think most of us are so much harder on ourselves than we are on other people. And you’re so right- we use so many things other than body shape to measure ourselves. With all of those messages it’s no wonder our inner critics can be so difficult to silence.

  3. I think it makes sense. I think it’s all about how you perceive you. I am awe at people who can love their bodies as they all (all shapes and sizes) I know I personally don’t feel comfortable in my own skin. I do think that the media and others have influenced that feeling I won’t lie. But with recent health issues I now know that this body needs to be taken care of a little better shall I say. While there is a before and after for me personally, there is because I am ever changing so its like my past and my present 🙂

    • Hi Misty, thanks for commenting!

      I’m not always comfortable with myself but sometimes it has nothing to do with my shape but my height or age or hair or intelligence or… well, you get the idea. Loving ourselves, as we are in this moment doesn’t mean we don’t strive to be healthier, accomplish other goals for ourselves. And for me, there are other layers. I’m dealing with recovery from disordered eating so things that work for others don’t work for me. I’m at my healthiest when I only think about choosing food because of how they make me feel, affect my blood glucose, energize me, etc. instead of what they do to the scale. Sometimes I wish I could diet like other people but that’s just not possible for me and I’ve finally figured out that it’s okay.

      Good luck on your journey to feeling comfortable in your own skin. That’s a worthy goal, no matter the path you take to reach it! 🙂

    • Thanks, M.A. That truly means a lot coming from you since those are some the very qualities I most admire about you! 🙂

  4. As a woman who has been on this same roller coaster, I love this blogpost! Take care of yourSELF, and your body will thrive no matter what shape or size it is!

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