I was in the process of moving all of my old photos, music, etc. from my laptop into my new computer and ran across these photos. In the orange is me in April of 2011, before I ever started running or even thinking about fitness things, on a spring break trip with Scott’s two sisters and his mom. In the yellow is me in December 2012, on our honeymoon– just a few weeks after I had completed my first half marathon.
To me, I don’t look extremely different. I am probably about 40 pounds lighter in the second photo, but it’s not all that drastic. Sure, my arms are a little thinner, my stomach is leaner, my jawline is more sharp, but I’ve still got my glorious thunder thighs and my hips are as wonderfully broad as ever. I’ve always said that when I was carrying extra weight I didn’t really look as heavy as I was (200+ lbs) because I carried it evenly over my body. But the one thing I notice in these photos, that may not be all that noticeable to anyone who isn’t me, is how clearly uncomfortable I am in the first one. Sure, I’m smiling, it was a group photo with my sisters-in-law and I was so happy to be at the beach with them… but from my stance I can see that I wasn’t at all comfortable in my skin at the time this was taken. my shorts are hiked as high as possible up to cover my hips, my hand is awkwardly placed over my side, a place I was always EXTREMELY self conscious about, and I’m hiding behind my hair. I look awkward and stiff. The other photo though? That’s a real smile. My pose is relaxed, I’m clearly not thinking at all about what I look like in that moment, I’m just enjoying the water and blissfully gazing at my new husband. No effort to hide anything, actually wearing the bottoms that came with the swim suit, and totally loving life.
I have always said that I never really hated my body before I became interested in being physically fit. Sure, I would have loved to fit in a smaller dress size, and jeans shopping was almost always depressing… but I guess I never realized just how self conscious I was. Because I was so happy with all the other things in my life, I never realized that I wasn’t truly happy with myself. I wasn’t proud of my body because I didn’t think it was anything special; I didn’t look like the models and I was acutely aware of that. When Scott and I went to movies with attractive, thin actresses all I could think was how I didn’t look like that, and I wondered if Scott wanted me to. I NEVER wanted to hear him call another woman pretty, because that immediately caused me to begin comparing myself to her. I didn’t realize it then, but my body image was a mess.
And I didn’t even realize how far I’ve come until just the other night, because the change was slow and very gradual. I was laying in the bathtub, my stomach completely bloated from surgery and frankly, I was NOT looking my best. It had been a couple days since I was able to take a real shower, and Scott was doing me the wonderfully-sweet favor of shaving my legs since I couldn’t bend down far enough to shave them on my own. Sitting there in the water with my husband leaning over the side of the tub, bloated, completely unglamorous, feeling no pressure to straighten up, tighten my stomach, or hide my body… I realized that while my body has certainly changed a little over the time I’ve started running, my mind-set has been transformed completely. No longer do I dread Scott finding other women attractive, because I know his love for me runs so much deeper than my pants size. No longer do I cry when I can’t fit into a pair of jeans at a store that caters to size zeros. No longer do I hide or shrink or feel ashamed of what I look like. This is a gift that being active has given me: knowing that my beauty goes so much further than what my physical body appears to be. My worth is so much more than what I look like. My body is strong, it is my tool to experience the incredible world we live in, and that’s why I enjoy feeding it well, taking care of it, and occasionally pushing it to its limits.
I’m so thankful for what this journey has given me. I hope I never forget this lesson.