Between "Before & After"

I think it's fair to say that our society is pretty fixated on the idea of "improving" things. We love renovations, trash to treasure, corrective surgery, and Transformation Tuesday. Never heard of that last one? Do a Google search and check out the images.

We love that shit. 

Those side-by-side photos of dramatic weight loss do a horrible job at telling the story of the individuals journey. I know, because I am one of those stories. And I've been blessed to be an integral part of so many other people's stories. 

In actuality, my weight loss story would feature a TON of before/after images. Before I started dressing my size and I wore oversized shirts to hide the fact that my pants were unbuttoned and unzipped ( I refused to by jeans in a size 20 so I squeezed into 18s). And after I started dressing my size when I was a teenager shopping at Lane Bryant. Before I binged, after I purged. Before I I hit the gym, after 2 hours on the elliptical. Before depriving myself of energy and nourishment for a full day, after going to bed with an empty stomach and feeling proud and accomplished. And so on. Those are just a few of the small details that reveal the in-between. All the shit a person might endure before and after a substantial weight loss. 

Rarely is it ever as pretty a picture as the one we show. In fact, I deemed my images and writings so ugly that I destroyed them all a long time ago. I was disgusted with myself. Embarrassed, ashamed, and most of all, angry. So I destroyed the evidence; almost everything that linked me to my past. I have almost no photos of me from before about 2006. No journals. No old "big girl" jeans. No artifacts from my inner travels. I'm lucky when I uncover one of these rare relics in my mother's garage or a family storage unit. They make me smile now, whereas they made me sad before. There's another before and after for you.

Besides hiding the story, these images also create a sense of insatiable yearning for some viewers. I'm still, after 5 years in the health and fitness industry, shocked at how many times I receive a message, inquiry, email, or face-to-face exchange about someone wanting to look like someone else. I get it ALL the time. "I want her results!" or "I want to look like him!" It's as if for a brief moment, we forget we are individuals and have our own bodies. You will NEVER look exactly like anybody else. Nor will you EVER share the same story. I happen to think that is amazing and I wouldn't want it any other way.

Of course, that wasn't always the case. I too used to fantasize about other bodies. But most often, an extreme version of my own. I wanted to be thin. Very badly. My weight goal was far below what was healthy for my body but I didn't know that, and I wouldn't have cared anyways. All that mattered to me was the number on the scale and the number on the tag inside of my jeans. And any way I could measure a decrease in those numbers made me happy. Well, a funny thing happened when I would do anything to lose weight: I didn't lose any weight. 

So, why do I share my before and after photos then? Probably for some of the same reasons other people do. To inspire and motivate. To encourage and support. But most importantly, to educate. I share my photos to reveal just a small part of my story. A picture is worth a thousand words. Which means a before and after photo is worth two least. My intention is to educate others so that you're not led astray like I was. Yes you can change your body, if that's what you would like to do, but it has nothing to do with buying diet books, fake food, or joining the gym. It has everything to do with being honest and vulnerable; sharing your innermost fears, embarrassments, failures, and feelings with others so that you can empower yourself to WANT to do and be better...however you define that betterment. Share your story with the world. Don't hide. Don't be embarrassed. And most importantly, don't compare yourself to anyone else. 

Get Unplugged

So my vacation was ___(insert the most positively exuberant word in existence here)___. Truly. Traveling is a necessity in my life. I HAVE to go somewhere new with some kind of regularity. The world is such a beautiful and interesting place. Plus, I love people. People are amazing. And I'm always just blown away at how different cultures, customs, environments, governments, religions, opportunities, education systems, etc. can shape a person. It is incredible. I want to see it all. 

I've been to Germany several times before. And I've traveled around both western and eastern Europe a few times as well. This trip was unique for me because I have evolved so much since the last time I traveled there. It's only been 2 years but so much has happened in that time that I returned as a different person. More free-spirited, more open-minded, more tolerant, healthier inside and out, more positive, filled with love for myself and others, happier, and more relaxed and willing to let go. That's what made this trip so enjoyable.

Unexpectedly, I was without internet access for the time I was away. I fought it at first, but only for the first couple of days. I brought my cell phone with me every time I went out in the hopes of finding a store, cafe, train station, restaurant, or house with an open wifi network. I felt so distant and worried that I was missing out on something important. But I wasn't. Not through my phone or on the internet anyways. I was missing out on an opportunity to fully take in my experience. And almost instantaneously I realized that now I had the perfect chance to do something that I've been wanting to do for so long now but lacked the willpower to commit to it: get unplugged. 

Now, I've had vacations in remote areas and trips to the wilderness without my phone or internet access a bunch of times before. But not since I've seen my world and almost everyone in it make the shift from respectful, face-to-face, personal, meaningful conversation and communication to anonymous, impersonal, pointless jibber jabber via Facebook. I despise Facebook. I despise it's grasp on me and how it makes people feel badly about themselves and how it creates a space for people to say or do ugly things that they would normally never say or do and how it sucks the life out of you and how people are constantly posting the same things over and over again and how others post about things with no real significance and how everyone always talks about living their life yet they're on a constant Facebook stream. Facebook is not real life. Nor is it a proper means of meaningful connection to others. I do not want to know about my friend's lives through Facebook and vice versa. I actually had a GOOD friend recently tell me that she "just assumed everything was great" in my life because she follows me on Facebook when I asked her why we didn't talk more often. WHAT?! Do you realize how absurd this sounds? Most people do no post about the heartbreak, the disappointment...the darkness. They want you to see them as great, happy, achieving, unbreakable. They share the good, not the bad. It's a waste. 

When I returned to the states, I gave myself a day or so to get acclimated and then I made phone calls. I didn't announce it on Facebook. I called my family and I called my close friends. Normally, I would have switched my phone on immediately after landing, checked my email, logged on to Facebook and checked in at SFO with a message for the world like, "It's good to be home" even though I literally just touched down and haven't even stepped foot into my house yet. I just don't want that kind of life anymore. If it wasn't compulsory to have a personal page linked to a business page, I would have deleted my personal page long ago. 

But having 4 weeks of forced detachment was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. I feel so free without Facebook, aside from my business page. That is where, I have to say, Facebook has been SORT OF a good thing. It has brought me many new clients and I love to read my personal messages from fans and followers. However, recently Facebook changed the reach potential for pages and now only about 10% of my followers actually see the content I am posting. Thank you Facebook, for implementing yet another way for me to waste my time. It's a damn shame! I refuse to pay for ads or to "boost" my post. That's horseshit. If something is free, it should be FREE. But there is, unfortunately, nothing free or freeing about Facebook...except when you're not on it.  

Since I've been home, I've managed to do all those "things around the house that there's never time for" with plenty of time to work, cook, maintain relationships, and LIVE my life. I'm talking about the kinds of tasks that you just find impossible to get to and therefore they have been on your to-do list for ages. I also deep cleaned my ENTIRE house from floorboards to ceilings and reorganized my closet and all storage compartments in the garage. I donated 5 bags of clothes, blankets, pillows, shoes, and 3 boxes of household goods and appliances. Because guess what, without being glued to the computer or television (I also didn't watch TV at all while I was away) you CAN actually get those things done. I probably spent less than the average person on my phone, tablet, computer, and TV and already this change has made a HUGE impact in my life. I can only imagine what it would do for you and others...

And now for some photos! 


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