A Different Kind of Before and After
I know this isn’t completely photography-related, but there is a tie in… One year ago I began my journey to better health.
Years ago I wrote a personal piece about getting in front of the camera, rather than hiding behind it. It resonated with so many of you. I explained that your family and friends love you for who you are in the present time. They want you in photos. I still get emails from photographers saying they finally are listening to my advice, even if they don’t like the way they look in pictures, and stepping in front of the lens occasionally. At that time, I committed to taking my own advice and getting in photos, both with family members and friends, and even solo. And as much as I cringed, I did it.
That said, I would often have others stand in front of me, hoping to camouflage my weight. I’d rush into Photoshop and use editing tricks to slim myself. Granted, the 10 pounds I’d shave off with the Liquify tool didn’t hide anything from anyone. I was basically being cruel to myself. Everyone knew what I looked like – I was overweight.
I would reluctantly get in family pictures, but every time I would take them off the camera, I was saddened. I knew that how I looked had far more implications than those images. I was unhealthy and unconfident.
In the early summer of 2014, I had enough. I had to lose weight so I could be healthier, happier, and have a more fulfilling life. In addition, I needed to be a better role model to my daughters. I made the decision and commitment that I would no longer hide behind excuses – my twin pregnancy in 2001, my lack of a thyroid gland, or the Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. In my heart I knew what I needed to do to lose weight. I wasn’t a stranger to dieting, but that’s part of why I failed. I needed to stop dieting and start living a new lifestyle. Everything needed to change.
My new lifestyle meant:
- I needed to eat less, change the foods I ate, and eat more consistently and mindfully. With a wrecked metabolism and my medical conditions, I knew that I needed to eat fewer calories than most – and follow a higher protein, lower carb eating plan. Every endocrinologist had emphasized this, but I never stuck with it. I would dabble and give up, as the results were not fast enough.
- I needed to rethink my exercise plan. For many years I did spinning classes and burned a ton of calories. What’s bad about that? Nothing. But it never worked for me. I needed something different. For me, it was lifting weights. I hired a trainer and still do strength training (working muscles to exhaustion) three times a week. Contrary to what you may think, it not only has helped me develop muscle, but also has improved my cardiovascular system, and helped me lose and now maintain my weight. In addition, I also do yoga a few times a week, along with fun activities like hiking or biking.
- I needed to be accountable for everything. I had tried food journals in the past, but this time I relied on My Fitness Pal. I have not missed a day since I started my commitment on July 22nd, 2014. I record every bite of food, beverages if they have any calories, and all workouts.
Here are my keys to success:
- Being 100% ready and motivated when you commit. Do not start until you are physically and mentally ready. Weight loss and getting fit helps your life but it won’t change issues outside of that realm. Don’t expect things that were problems before to be fixed by losing weight.
- Having a support system. You need your family to support, not sabotage, your efforts. Additionally, it helps to have professional help – whether that’s a personal trainer, a nutritionist, a doctor, a counselor, or a psychologist, depending on your needs. I had some other support too. My trainer has helped keep me motivated and on task when it comes to weight lifting. I can even do pull-ups now! And one other unlikely support — Lululemon. Our local store opened in August. The team there has been supportive, encouraging and inspiring. I attend the in-store yoga often, and this summer I’m even doing a community-based Stand Up Paddle Board Yoga sponsored by them. I also belong to a large number of Lululemon Facebook groups with women all over the world, and we push each other (not only to shop more but to work hard on our health, eating, and exercise).
- Logging everything I eat and drink – and all activities – 365 days a year.
- The P’s. Patience and Persistence. Every other time I went on a diet or exercise program, I gave up. It was too slow or too hard or too restrictive. This time I used my determination to push through — I was persistent in working out frequently and eating smaller portions and healthier foods. I knew up front that I did not gain the weight overnight. It was going to take me a while to lose it. Patience was key — half a pound to two pounds a week is healthy weight loss, and that meant I shouldn’t expect pounds to melt off in a month or two. It took 10 months to get to my goal weight and the past two months, I’ve been paving a new path called maintenance.
- Changing how I think about food, as something to nourish me, versus satisfy emotional needs.
- Changing how I move, as I now crave activities and new challenges. I love to “try new things,” from yoga — which is now part of my routine — to paddle boarding, hiking, and even inline skating and rock climbing with my daughters. I feel healthy and strong and confident enough to try these things. I no longer think, “Ugh, I need to go exercise.” I actually look forward to any chance to be active.
In one year, I lost more than 65 pounds. I weigh 123-125 pounds depending on the day. My body fat is 22.6% currently (I started at 40% last summer!) I can do pull-ups. In fact, I did five in a row the other day, followed by seven chin-ups. And I can dead-lift 145 pounds.
More than just numbers though, I am healthier (no longer pre-diabetic), and I am a more confident, happier person. Plus I get in photos, and even take selfies, much to my husband’s chagrin (he thinks they’re for teens).
And guess what? I don’t feel the need to slim myself via editing. I am finally happy with who I am – and it feels great!
So, you may wonder why I wrote about this on the MCP Blog. There are a few reasons.
- I get a lot of questions about health and weight loss from those who follow me on my personal Facebook page, and wanted to give an update and share some thoughts based on the past year.
- I believe that you should get in pictures no matter how you feel about yourself. It is important, and as photographers, we need to be in pictures and as part of the memories. The changes I made throughout 2014/2015 were to start loving myself as much as my family already loved me.
- And lastly, I wanted to inspire others to take this bold step if you’ve felt stuck and unhappy with your body and health – and want to make a change. And if you are ready to do so, I’ve created a support system for you to make changes and get healthier — join our health and fitness Facebook group, appropriately named “Liquify Me.” It’s made up of photographers, and some non-photographers, who either have successfully lost weight and gotten fit or who are on their way – people like me and you who want to live a better life.
Hope to see you there!