Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Before-After Trap

My first week of making healthy choices for my body generated a 5-lb weight loss. I was excited to see the scale finally going down instead of up, and considered whether I should post a "before" picture on the blog for all the world (okay, the 2 or 3 of you who actually read this) to see and compare to my slimmer body in a year or two from now.

And then I realized that this whole way of thinking is a trap for me.

That's right. You heard me. A trap.

In order to explain this concept, I need to back up a little. I have noticed that there are several people in my life who judge what I know about healthy living according to how much excess weight I am currently carrying. If I mention anything to them about making changes to be more fit, I can count on listening to a few minutes of well-meant advice on how to get started. I will hear phrases like:

"Just start moving a little every day, like taking a walk every night."
"If you only eat carbs for breakfast you will be hungry all day long."
"Veggies, veggies, veggies!"
"Don't lift weights, you need to focus on getting cardio."

While I appreciate the good intentions behind these comments, the people saying them obviously consider me to be ignorant on some basic principles. After all, if I knew them, then why would I let myself be so obese? I'm sure they don't know that I have already lost over 100 pounds once in my life. I know how my body responds to most food and exercise. In addition, my bachelors degree was in Exercise Science. While I didn't learn much about practical nutrition application (i.e. how to eat healthy at a reasonable caloric level), I learned a whole heck of a lot about how general exercise principles and the proper and safe ways to work out.

I had mentioned this observation to a friend of mine who would also like to make changes to become more fit, and she summed it up perfectly with this statement:

"What I look like does not reflect what I know."

Amen, sister!! So, what does all this have to do with the trap of having a before/after picture for weight loss? What makes these pictures so dangerous for me?

A before picture implies that I cannot be obese and healthy. This just isn't true. Every day that I eat consciously and conscientiously, I am healthy. Every day I exercise and drink water, I am healthy. Every day I care for my emotional and spiritual needs, I am healthy. When I feel healthy, I act healthy. When I feel obese, I binge on junk.

A before picture suggests that I am not beautiful right now. It implies that I am not sexy or desirable to my husband. Yet I feel attractive and desired. I feel loved by my husband. I feel beautiful in many ways, and not just physically. My heart is open and giving. I can love and be loved, without feeling insecure.

A before picture is thought to motivate people to make positive changes. Since when has negative motivation ever generated sustainable, healthy improvements? Not once for me.

An after picture says that getting to a specific size or shape is the ultimate goal. In my reality, weight loss is a side effect of eating right and exercising. Lifestyle change is the true goal. In some ways, I have already achieved it. Now I just need to maintain it.

An after picture implies there is an end to being conscientious about how I treat my physical body. That's why so often people will gain back about 10-15 pounds after losing a significant amount of weight. They get to that number/size and then they relax, because it's "over". However, if my goal is maintaining my good habits, then I am never done, am I? There is no "after".

I recently saw this on Facebook and LOVED IT. Don't you??

I cannot take a picture of my soul. Perhaps that is why I am writing this blog. It helps me to create an image of my heart with words. It's a positive image that I can look to for inspiration and resolve when I hit the highs and lows that are bound to come. For today, however, it is just enough to know that I am already a success.