Many a time, when someone begins their weight loss journey, they take a “before picture” which they use to judge their future progress. These pictures involve revealing clothes, frowning faces, and shoulders hunched over from carrying the burden of excess weight and cultural expectations.
I have no such picture.
I take pictures of moments where I find myself immersed in life. I take pictures of cruising along the boardwalk at Ocean City. I’ve accumulated hundreds of photos of my cat (with and without her sitting in a box). And the pictures I have of myself find me enjoying life at school, hanging around with friends, and enjoying trips to the zoo. Never once have I had the desire to take a picture of my body.
I exercise and try to remain fit and healthy. I do this for my future and the knowledge that I’ll need to keep healthy for my family. I’ve worked out because I legitimately have a blast making a fool out of myself in Zumba class with friends following suit on all sides. And the steps I take towards health include ignoring the junk food perched seductively in our kitchen cabinet, taking a few extra steps before sitting at a desk all the livelong day, and drinking 8 glasses of water each day with a religious fervor.
Never once Rarely, have I had the desire to stay fit to improve upon my looks.
I take pictures to celebrate my love of life.
I exercise to celebrate my love of life.
Wait, is that what I meant to say? Are both of those activities means to the same end? Are both done to love life?
All this time I’ve shunned before pictures as something photographers take when they’ve run out of subjects and as something people striving to lose weight take when their goals are more focused on body image than on health.
Though before pictures have the chance to pump physical and inspirational energy into a faded life, I’ve shunned the camera.
Though before pictures can provide a source of motivation towards movement, I’ve not witnessed the telltale flash.
Though before pictures provide an emotional, inspiring, invigorating, remarkable, tear-inducing look at the toughest journey you will ever complete in your life; though before pictures mark your successes for all the world to see; though before pictures have the potential to build your whole world anew from one moment in time when you happened to have a camera in your hand and a goal in your mind; my photograph remains wholly undeveloped.
All this time, I’ve looked at weight loss pictures as a mistake undertaken by fools. They were a way to cast the happiness that fitness inspires onto body image, a resolute and often negatively unchanging perception of oneself.
But now, I understand. It is possible for before pictures to come from a place of love and understanding.
When the joy of photography meets the joy of fitness (and any thoughts of body image are left by the wayside), you’ve found not only the recipe for beauty, but also the courage for success.
Today is the day I realized the true powerful and potential of the before picture.
And even though you can’t see my face, I hope you know that my smile was just as wide as my tummy 🙂