Swimming in Judgement

Fun Fact: in my nighmare that's always mint chocolate chip...

Fun Fact: in my nightmare that’s always mint chocolate chip…

I live in Los Angeles, California- arguably the epicenter of vanity. As an overweight woman, there’s a thin layer of loathing that I sometimes feel from men in this city. “Why are you here? You’re supposed to be hot. Everybody here is supposed to be hot for my viewing pleasure.” Sometimes the guy giving me that look has bigger boobs than me.

When I topped 200 lbs one of my first paranoia-driven nightmares was that, while taking in the sights of the Venice Boardwalk or the 3rd Street Promenade, my ass would be featured as “camera-about-town” stock footage of the obesity epidemic.

You know how the segment goes:

  • 1.) A 90lb Anchorwoman declares a new study has found being fat is even worse than previously believed.
  • 2.) An Anchorman gasps, and both talk as if fat people (and not obesity) are, themselves, a contagious disease that is costly and unstoppable.
  • 3.) Cut to the fat-asses-walking-down-streets montage footage. With heads cropped out. Y’ah know. For their dignity.

In my worst nightmares the cameraman would catch me waddling around one of these tourist attractions EATING SOMETHING.

To onlookers, a smoker isn’t a smoker until she has a cigarette in her hand. An alcoholic isn’t an alcoholic until he’s stumbling out of the bar reeking of booze. The nose-picker isn’t a nose picker until his finger goes a-digging. But people don’t need to see you stuffing your face with a fistful of cake to know you’re overweight. Your vice is inescapably apparent and is open season for everyone’s judging enjoyment.

I’m especially wary of this kind of judgement as I start lap swimming. Do you want to know what courage is? It’s being obese in a bathing suit. In public. During daylight. But screw it! I’ve decided that the public’s interest in how I look in my bathing suit probably breaks down like this:

And we can't let the Jerkfaces win.

And we can’t let the Jerkfaces win.

So I’ll dive in and start swimming again. And maybe I’ll look forward to a time when a news story featuring stock footage of my ass won’t be about obesity, but about terribly unfashionable pants instead.

How To Take a “Before” and “After” Photo

The faces of the changed. Smiles abound!

As I mentioned, I’m starting turbo fire today. And, not wanting to miss even a workout of progress without documenting the soon-to-be-astounding change in my body, I set out to take my “before” photos. The documentation in this kit is pretty insistent that you do, it’s like they’re farming them for their “Look what we can do!” photo montage of flabby schlubs turning into happier, if inexplicably tanned, muscle machines. But hey, I’m game. Here are their instructions:

The more you show, the more you’ll know. Wear a swimsuit, underwear, or something comparable so you can see where you need the work and where you’re making progress. Don’t be afraid to show some skin. No. No. No. No. And no. Every woman under the sun knows the areas where she thinks she needs some work: thin, small, fat, or tall. We chant these areas in our head like a twisted mantra whenever we look in full-length mirrors. I don’t need to document the beginning of this quest in a two-piece. Eff you.

1. Use a plain background if possible. Mmmkay. Check.

2. Take a few front shots (hands on hips, “bicepts flex” muscle pose). A few side shots (hands at sides), and a few back shots (hands on hips, “biceps flex” muscle pose). “Bicepts flex”? Nah, that’s okay. The front shots I can totally do. Side shots…. okay. But the back shots mean that I have to involve another person in this process, and that’s NOT happening. And is it weird that I feel an obligation to frown in these? Every “before” picture I’ve ever seen on TV the person looks a bit dead inside, like they’re in the home stretch at an IKEA sale on a Sunday afternoon. If you really want a motivating before picture, why not suggest people take the photo sitting, knees closest to the camera, in light-washed tapered mom jeans eating a piece of cake? Nightmare.

3. Don’t suck it in or push it out. You want a true reflection of your body’s appearance. This is not just a “before” photo, it’s a goodbye photo. I’ve spent my whole life “sucking it in”. And it’s obvious I don’t want a true reflection of my body’s current appearance, that’s why I’m endeavoring to change almost everything about it..

4. Repeat this process to chart your visual progress.

5. Visit blahblahblah.com and post your photos online. Free marketing photos for you, irrelevant bragging rights for me?

I get that this “before” picture is supposed to be a photo I can later reflect on when I’m an “after”. Whenever I hear “afters” talk about their “befores” it’s always with an air of disgust or sadness: “I can’t believe I used to look like that!” “I was so miserable!” “Ugh! Chins! Chins everywhere!”

I consider myself to be a happy person. And, save for some requisite weight-centric self consciousness, I also consider myself to be confident. I hate thinking that my future self will look back on me as I am now and see disappointment and sadness. I don’t feel that way now. I feel empowered.

In short: I took my “before” pics. I smiled wide. I might have even flexed in a few. I most definitely did not wear a swimsuit.

I’ve decided to look at my “before” pictures, not as my personal “rock bottom” of fitness, but rather the cheery photo you might take at the beginning of a long hike over a big mountain: It’s a start, I have no idea what’s around the bend, it’s going to be a lot of work, but I’m excited 🙂