When you lose a lot of weight (and yammer on and on about it all over the internet), all sorts of people start coming out of the woodwork with their own weight loss stories. Recently I met three people who have told me they’d lost 60-100 pounds at some point in their lives. I asked them each to show me a picture of their previous selves; all of them said something like “I didn’t keep very many” and I found that to be an odd response even though all three said it.
My first thought was why would anyone throw away their pictures, or perhaps, more realistically, be shy about sharing them? I’ve always loved my pictures, I’ve got over 3500 photos of my various adventures on my Flickr page and they’ve had nearly 100,000 views. Even at my biggest, I always thought I looked good and was pretty photogenic. But recently, after looking back at my photos since meeting these three people, I realized that my opinion of how I used to look has changed, or at least shifted a little.
I recently looked back at some of my travel photos from 2010 and 2009 and found myself squirming when I saw how fat I’d become. I’d always felt that people are essentially socialized to be repulsed by fat and I suddenly wondered if I had been, too. So many photos of myself that I used to be proud of were suddenly starting to feel embarrassing to me. Other photos I looked at caused me to remember how many photos I never posted, because they couldn’t be strategically cropped to make me look less fat.
It’s hard to describe this feeling that maybe the last 15 years of my life were some horrible mistake where I deviated from some path where I might have been happier, healthier, or at least looked better. I have never thought of myself as unhappy, but now I’m suddenly concerning myself with “where might I be had I lost this weight sooner?” Have I been in denial (perhaps to protect myself) about looking and feeling good over all these years?
About six months ago I decided that I needed to focus on the present in order to reach my desired future. But sooner or later, one does need to take a good look at the past. I’m having a hard time reconciling 15 years of solid self-esteem with how great I’m feeling about myself now. Maybe when I’ve finished this weight loss “journey” I’ll have enough distance from it to put this all in proper perspective. I’m thinking that right now I’m simply too close to it to really understand it.
One thing is for certain…I want to be mindful about completely divorcing my present self from my past self. I cringe whenever someone says “you are a different person now.” No, that is not true. I am the same person; I just look different, and perhaps I think and behave differently. But I am, and have always been, me.
I know that I won’t appreciate being thinner if I can’t remember being fat. So I’m not going to hide my pictures from anyone and I’m not going to hide them from myself.