I am often asked "What you gonna do when you lose all your weight? You'll have to change the name of your blog?" because weight loss of course is the ultimate goal for everyone who is overweight right?
I used to think that way too though, seriously I used to believe that life would be so much easier if I could just lose my excess weight. I would be happier, more successful in my career, and generally more fulfilled...that's when life would really start I used to tell myself.
But that view kept be in a weird kind of weight loss limbo where I was existing rather than living, where I judged my progress in life by what the scales told me or whether I was being good or not this week, and that attitude was sucking the fun out of life.
I bet there are still lots of people who read this blog that think I should just stick to a healthy diet for a few months, ramp up my training and just commit to reaching a normal weight, and then people would be truly inspired by what I have achieved.
I don't buy into that.
You see, we often believe that weight loss in itself should be celebrated, regardless of how we got there and more importantly how likely we are to stay there. That is the basic marketing premise of the whole diet industry that has got us in this mess in the first place. How often do you hear people who barely know you say "wow, you have lost so much weight, you look great" yet they keep their thoughts to themselves next time they see you when you have put some of that weight back on...but are probably thinking "Wow, she's let herself go again"
We are basically conditioned by the mainstream media to think this way. Television shows like The Biggest Loser, Supersize vs Superskinny and a Year to Save my Life have a lot to answer for, and now the internet is full of copycat sites dedicated to women showing how they have transformed their bodies...some real, but many fake and selling some kind of weight loss solution.
Now I have nothing against the women who post these picture, because rightly so they are proud of what they have personally achieved and I must admit when I was at my largest seeing women who had lost significant amounts of weight did inspire me, but more than that it gave me faith that it was possible, even for me. When I was at my largest I felt trapped by my body, I didn't feel like it belonged to me and feared my health would only get worse if I didn't make serious change to my lifestyle. Those pictures gave me hope.
I never took a before photo though all those years ago, I guess because there wasn't really an actual beginning point... instead I had a series of start point and start again points and never really believed that much would change. There are very few photos of me at my largest, as I became really good at the head and shoulder selfie and standing behind people in groups, a series of beach photos of me in Crete in 2006 are probably the closest I have to a reminder, oh and a full length photo of me at the start of a boot camp a few weeks later.
I am of course slimmer than that now, but that is completely beside the point.
My story is not about what I have lost it is instead about what I have gained and I guess that is why I have mixed feelings about the rise in transformational pictures on social media, because in essence they are simply supporting the mainstream view we are trying to fight against...a world where we are judged by what we look like and where health assessments are made in pretty much the same way.
I have seen picture of women who have lost significant amounts of weight via quite dodgy methods, having not made any inroads to changing their mindset or integrating healthier choices into their lives, yet they have hundreds of messages of support, and probably loads of women wishing it was as easy for them.
Health is never a linear journey, we have peaks and troughs, sometimes we come full circle, sometimes we nose dive reaching rock bottom before we can reemerge, sometimes we can influence our health status and sometimes we have to accept that there are limits to what we can do given our personal circumstances...that is just the reality of the situation...and even now I know there are Personal Trainers reading this and thinking "cobblers...you are just lazy and don't want to commit"
Over 60% of the UK are classed as overweight or obese, inactivity is responsible for 1 in 6 deaths but equally as worrying is the fact that only 3% of women in the UK are totally happy with their bodies...that is ABSOLUTELY CRAZY...even the slim people are bloody unhappy with their bodies...don't you get it? slimness shouldn't be the goal...happiness should be regardless of what size you are. I argue that being unhappy is THE most unhealthiest way to be.
What do we do when we are unhappy?
- We make bad food choices
- We don't want to go out much
- We stick our head in the sand
- We chose not to socialize
- Or we self medicate with drink, drugs and often food
And of course the last thing we want to do when we are unhappy is exercise, because often that just feels like an extra dose of punishment when we are already in pain. Yet it is that regular exercise that will eventually lift us out of that unhappy state.
So next time you look at one of those "you could look like me" images, think about that persons journey, think about how happy they are now, how free they are from their past demons and what the true picture of health looks like for them...also accept that they are not you.
You are on your own journey and transformation may look and feel completely different for you, so embrace that and stop comparing yourself to everyone else...you are beautiful exactly as you are.
What do you think guys, are transformation pictures helpful or unhelpful?