We all love a before and after shot right? All those lumps, bulges and bumps that are so humiliating for the person in the photo, and then the stunning, though possibly Photoshopped forward step in time.
But what if you were the subject of the photo? How would you feel about showing the ungracious truth of what you really look like? Seriously, think about…despite the fact it might have the fairytale ‘after’ shot, how would you REALLY feel to let people see you at your worst?
Well, I decided to do that today. I have posted everywhere what I think is the most embarrassing and humiliating photo ever…and I did it intentionally too.
A little while back my husband told me he had been looking through some old holiday photos. He wasn’t specific about any one photo, but rather just commented that “you should have a look at the photos from New Zealand…I’m glad you like riding now.”
It took a while before I even remembered that he said I should take a look back, and when I did I was shocked. What I saw was not just a very overweight woman, but one who actually looked like it was hard to raise a smile. It looked like I was uncomfortable about having my photo taken (and I was)…but at the time had you asked me, I think I would have said all was just fine. I was in denial.
We grow so familiar with what we see in the mirror each day and sometimes it can be hard to see what others see. I look back now and wonder what image I projected to others. What I do know is that at that time I know there was not a lot that made me feel terrific – I was a grump, I was buying clothes in sizes I had only ever heard about in magazines. The reality was that I was obese and unfit.
The larger I became, the greater my risks: mature onset diabetes, risk of heart disease, increased risk of some cancers such as breast and colorectal , lung capacity decreased due to lack of fitness and a poor self image. Yep, call me the ticking time bomb!
Despite my better judgement, I really wanted to post the photo because so many people have asked me:
‘How much weight have you lost?’, ‘What diet did you use?’, ‘How long did it take?’, ‘What foods did you cut out?’
Truth is, I have absolutely no idea! I never measured myself on the scales, and I still don’t. I never used any formulated diet from the magazines and never will, it didn’t happen in a week, or 12 but is still happening now – slowly, and I haven’t cut out any foods I was having before because I love enjoying great food and wine!
But what I did cut out was inactivity. There is no question about the health benefits of getting off your arse and moving. The sedentary lifestyle we are so often opting for these days is a modern day killer – the Australian Bureau of Statistics states:
In 2011-12, more men were overweight or obese than women (70.3% compared with 56.2%). Rates for both men and women have increased since 2007–08 (67.7% for men and 54.7% for women).
Obesity is associated with many chronic illnesses and disease such as:
- insulin resistance
- high blood pressure
- cardiovascular disease
- some cancers including breast, endometrial and colon cancer
- type 2 diabetes (non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus)
- gall bladder disease
- polycystic ovarian syndrome
- musculoskeletal problems such as osteoarthritis and back pain
- stress incontinence
- sleep apnoea.
I have ridden bikes since I was a kid, but age, career, kids all got in the way and when I decided to get back on a bike it wasn’t a great experience. My husband will still tell you about watching me totally lose it on a grassy patch on the Beach Road bike path, tears and frustration as I said between sobs ‘I hate this, why the hell is everyone twice my size going faster than me…it isn’t fair!’
But you know what, those other riders weren’t twice my size. They were probably half my size. But my self perception had meant I was in denial about my weight and I was kidding myself about where I was at…and truthfully, I wasn’t happy, I was struggling.
So let’s fast forward. Yes, I’ve lost weight and fit in clothes that had long been too tight, but I’m not skinny, or svelte or even a size 12…and I never will be. Aside from the fact my risk of diabetes has reduced substantially, my risk for heart disease has dropped, my pathetic asthmatic lung capacity has improved to the point I carry the Ventolin ‘just in case’ because I don’t often need it these days, my blood pressure is normal and my resting heart rate which was about 70 something is now about 56! I sleep solidly all night, every night and I don’t get sick as often as I did. That’s all really great, but here’s the big bonus…look at the smile on my face in the pic on the right.
My mental health has improved. The thrill of riding a bike, being outside rain, wind or sunshine, working the muscles and sharing it with others is the greatest change in my life. I got off my fat arse and moved, but in doing so changed my lifestyle totally. That first bike ride with tears is still a very clear memory and I will NEVER lose sight of that because I NEVER want to go back to feeling so hopeless not just as a bike rider, but as a whole person. If you are that person right now, maybe it is time to make some changes…and it doesn’t matter what you think you look like now, what matters is that you make the decision and MOVE!
Bike riding may not be the answer for everyone, but we do know there are huge benefits to be gained from dragging that old bike out of the shed. The mental and physical health benefits are huge, not to mention the follow on social and community benefits. Riding in a group of like minded people is also great because the social aspect means riding is not an ‘exercise’ any more, but a social activity!
This may be an altruistic little purge, but the cost on our society of increasing obesity is a burden we will all have to share and the costs of caring for a community with growing waistlines is one we can prevent. I know it is tough to lose weight but there are choices we can make – I didn’t make a conscious effort to diet, I made a conscious effort to get active and move!
So, yes, that photo is HORRIBLE and I hate it!! But I love the photo of me in the Wheel Women t-shirt – when it was taken I just wanted a picture of the shirt, but I didn’t expect I would look back at the face and see someone who is seriously happy because they made a decision to change the way each day was lived!
PS. Why would I post this? Not to blow my own trumpet…certainly not! I posted because I care about all the women I see out there who might be finding it really hard to change things in their lives…there will always be someone out there who supports you. I didn’t have a group of women to ride with back then, but there are 3 men who inspired me to make a change, all at different times in this journey…Tim (my fabbo husband), Peter and Nigel. THANKS!
If you’d like to get moving with support from a whole bunch of other women, then join us at Let’s Move It Melbourne…we have a ride happening on Saturday 29th March. http://www.amcs.ymca.org.au/events/lets-move-it-melbourne.html