Behind the After

No, this isn’t going to be like those posts I’ve seen floating around recently exposing what a sham before-and-after photos are when they’re used to sell snake oil weight loss products.  I want to share some of my thoughts on living and being a successful real before-and-after.

I actually still struggle with thinking of myself as a successful “after”.  I don’t always own this new identity that I now have.  Part of the reason for this is that I am still constantly adapting, reflecting and continuing to implement changes in my daily life for continued growth and progress.  There’s also the fact that I lived 28 years as the “before” and I’ve only been living as the after for a couple of years.

So what’s it like to be the after?

It’s awesome.  I’ve achieved a major goal.  I’ve improved all areas of my life.  I’m happier than I ever thought possible.  I’m healthy, strong and fit.

It’s hard work.  There’s no definite end point on this journey.  I’m continually striving to keep improving, keep making healthier choices, keep learning more about my body, and keep getting fitter and stronger.  I have years of practice on all the unhealthy habits I used to have and it’s hard work to keep building new healthy habits.  But that hard work is what got me here and will keep me where I want to be in life.

It can be confusing.  As I mentioned above, I still don’t fully own my new identity.  I still have instances of not recognizing myself in a mirror.  Buying clothing is always time-consuming because my first attempt at grabbing a size to try is almost never right.  My perception of my body is not the same as what I actually have.  I struggle to think of myself as “normal” or “healthy” and don’t self-identify with much of my new self yet.

It can be hurtful.  Thin people are exceptionally judgmental of overweight and obese people.  Hell, everyone is judgmental of overweight and obese people regardless of their own health/weight status.  Because you now look different, you start to be privy to different conversations and start to hear snippets of how people used to talk about YOU.  Those words and judgements have affected me deeply multiple times and made me unable to find my voice to stand up for myself and others.

It can be frustrating to have a body that bears the scars of years of obesity.  At times I’ve been more frustrated and unhappy with my physical appearance after weight loss than I was before.  When you realize that the loose stomach skin you still carry around is negatively impacting your weightlifting form, a lot of frustration can bubble up.  When you want to wear the cute bathing suits or dresses that you’re starting to feel comfortable in, it can reduce you to tears in the change room when you realize that extra skin doesn’t fit inside a particular piece of clothing.  You get regular reminders of how far you’ve come, but you also get regular reminders of the mistakes you made in the past.

You feel the weight of all the people who tell you that you inspire them.  I love knowing that my experiences can provide inspiration to others who may be in desperate need of that inspiration.  I love helping people see that their goals are completely within their reach and especially love helping them in any small way to reach them.  But when you know that people are looking to you as a role model or an inspiration, it can add pressure to live up to their expectations of you; to live authentically and set a good example while not wanting to let others down or negatively impact them.  Being that positive role model has been a difficult thing for me to reconcile within myself.

It can be disheartening to watch others struggle through the same things you’ve struggled through.  When you’ve found a path through those struggles, you want so badly for everyone to be able to just see the clear path through that you know is there.  Watching people now starving themselves on Lean Cuisines and 1200 calories per day in an attempt to lose weight is so difficult.  You know that these people are doing what they’ve been told is right, but you also know that that advice is shit and that they’d be so much happier and healthier if they ignored the mainstream.  But like so many things in life, this is one of those areas where most people need to find that path for themselves.

On reading back it may look like I’ve really taken a negative slant with this post.  I’m only spending more time on the challenges of the “after” simply because I think the interwebs abound with people proclaiming all the great things about having achieved a significant health/weight change.

It’s a no-brainer that I’d never even consider trading where I am now with where I used to be.  But I want to share all these things I did in the hopes of building understanding of all the complexities of the health journey.  It’s never EVER as simple as just lose the weight and everything is great.  I guess I just feel a little misunderstood.

I feel like sharing these things may help others who only ever see/hear the sunshine and rainbows to feel better about the fact that they still get down in the dumps or frustrated, despite being a successful “after”.  I feel like sharing these things may help others who have never undergone a journey such as this to see a little bit more behind that smiling after photo.

Edit to add…

A few hours after publishing this I saw a link to this post come across my newsfeed.  She nailed it in so many ways.  Though not completely parallel to the thoughts I expressed here, the general theme of not being able to fully appreciate someone’s story from the outside looking in rang true and familiar to me.  Perusing the links on that post lead me to another post on “owning your journey” that struck me most of all with the final line

“And next time you may be the one being judged, remember they don’t know your journey.”

I needed to read that for many reasons, but most of all to affirm my challenge to myself to continue opening up and saying what I want to say.  This post is an effort to share some of that journey, and anyone who happens to read these words will hopefully have a little more understanding of how and why I am who I am today.

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