Body Image and Progress Pictures

When first embarking on this fitness ride 5 years ago Facebook was still (fairly) new and smartphones had been out for a while, but I didn’t own one. I remember taking pictures on a flip phone when my 6 year old was born. People didn’t edit profile pics and use fun filters like Instagram like we all do today. None of these are bad things, but it was just a little bit different.

When losing 50 pounds, I snapped pictures all the time. It was so fun being surrounded by people on the same parallel fitness journey, we supported each other, and it was amazing to see our progress via these quick pictures. So often when we start taking our fitness journeys and our health seriously, those successes are not always reflected on the scale. The camera gives a tangible, visual affirmation that changes are happening regardless of weight. Pictures are powerful.

Lori's Before with Jen and Katy

20130211-053344.jpgSee You Laters and Welcome Back! Photo Fun! Warrior Dash 2012 - Professional PicsScan 2015-2-3 0002Lori Dec 2011 After working out for 6 months at DBFPhoto on 4-23-15 at 9.34 AM #2

So powerful, in fact, that they can often send the wrong message. When we look longingly at other people’s physiques, it sets us up for all kinds of disordered thinking. “Oh, if I had her legs (or chest, or arms, or rear or whatever) then I would be happy with my body.” Or worse, it sets us up to critique others because, you know, it’s just some picture on the internet.

I came across this today:

Powerful stuff.

This is stuff that I’ve been ruminating about for a while now. Do progress pictures blasted all over social media really help anyone? On one hand, it’s INCREDIBLE to see real results when you work so hard for them! It’s great showing the progress. On the other hand, does my picture inspire someone else? That has been my intent in sharing the journey.

But not every body is the same.

Genetics, height, build, age, gender, stress levels, support systems, medical history, and so much more contribute to a body’s ability to gain muscle, maintain muscle, and/or lose weight.  If two people eat the exact same diet, exercise the exact same way – they will end up with 2 different results: they are two different people. Again, does my progress picture really help anyone but me see those changes? I suspect probably not. That is in part why this is the first time in a long time that I’ve shared body progress pictures. Who does it really help? We are so much more than just our shell. We are souls, we have minds, we have feelings – we just happen to live in a body.

As a trainer, I know the way I appear is essentially my business card. I get that. I also understand that what it takes to be a figure competitor or professional body builder is not something I am capable of, nor do I have the desire. (Not knocking those things – that’s awesome if that’s your goal. That’s just not my bag.) My niche, and where I feel I have a voice, is the everyday person looking to feel better in their skin. To not be tired before noon each day. To have the energy to lead an active and healthy life and not sit on the sidelines missing out on really living.

When we gaze at a drastic before and after photo, it gives us hope. It plants the seed of possibility. That is a good thing to some extent, provided it’s not a sales pitch and the photos are not altered. While hope is a good thing, we often fail to realize that the tiny divide between a “before” shot and an “after” is where the real story is. In that tiny line lies the sweat, the tears, the backsliding, the frustration, the joy, the camaraderie, the fist-pumping victories – all of it.

Right there.

In that tiny line. 

Perhaps it’s the writer in me, but I’m more interested in the story of the dividing line.

What brought a person from there to here? How long before they realized that they had the power to run that race? Do those pull ups unassisted? Get up the nerve to not hide behind the camera? When did they start to realize their worth?  When did they reach that seemingly unattainable goal? When did they start to feel better? When did their spouse tell them they were proud of them? When did they realize that fitness is about so much more than just bodies?

That’s the story.

That’s where life is.

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Insomniac Ramblings

It’s 12:02 a.m. Day 42 of our PCS/nomad existence. I cannot sleep. When I can’t sleep, I write. My thoughts are all over the place tonight. I can’t promise this will turn out coherent. I can’t promise clarity, just some midnight ramblings…

Robin Williams

I wasn’t alive when Kennedy was shot, but everyone that was knows exactly where they were when it happened. Everyone knows where they were and what they were doing with vivid detail when the towers fell that Tuesday morning. I’m not comparing the magnitude of the death of a gifted man with these other events necessarily, but it does serve as a reminder when impactful things occur, time seems to slow down, or shift suddenly. I remember watching Happy Days with my mom when Mork landed and froze the Fonz. I remember watching his movies. We collectively remember him as a comedic and dramatic soundtrack to our lives. I never knew the man, but because of his gifts, I was able to witness a small portion of his work. I don’t know that I’ve ever been really affected or saddened by the passing of a celebrity before, but this seems different somehow. Perhaps because of the big “D” word everyone keeps rambling on about – telling everyone to “get help” and to call 1-800 numbers and such. I just keep thinking that if a man that had means, access, and capability to receive help, but couldn’t; what hope is there for the countless others of us who have experienced true depression? The D-word is an equalizer. It really doesn’t matter who you are, how much money you have, or what side of town you call home.

Middle East Conflicts/Violence Here and Abroad

Being in a hotel (and camping) for 6 weeks, we’ve had more screen time than normal. In our current location, we actually have 2 televisions, one in a little living room, and one in the bedroom of our suite. (We usually only have 1 television and more often than not, Disney Jr. or PBS is the channel of choice.) Now that the option is there, we’ve been able to watch the news and view other non-animated, grown-up television.

I think I want to go back to not knowing.

I hate watching the news. It makes me feel helpless. I don’t like the world I see on my screen as I hear my kids chattering around the wall. It scares me. It drives me to my knees in prayer. I wonder what kind of world they will grow to inherit. The world has always had hate, murder, war, etc., but it sure feels like we are experiencing a rising tide of evil. Is it because of the 24 hour news cycle? Or is it a true rise? I don’t know.

Grief

It comes in all forms, in varying depths. Family tragedies, anniversaries, birthdays of loved ones no longer with us, or even diagnoses we didn’t want to face bring grief to the surface. It’s as if grief picks at the healing scab just to see if the underlying skin is tender. If it still feels the sting.

It does. It hurts. And it sucks.

Hope

I’ve complained of roaches, living out of suitcases, and other minor inconveniences experienced through a military transfer, but when I look at the bigger picture – I can do nothing but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I’m not on some mountaintop fearing for my life. I’m here. I have a family I would lay down my life for. I have no want for any material thing. And I get to move into a new home and own a small patch of dirt again in just a few days. Grief is real. Tragedy and death are real. But so is love. So is faith. And hope. If there isn’t hope, if there isn’t something good to come out of the dark, what really then is the point? I’m grateful for hope, despite the evidence that points to a lack of it.

Two Notes

It’s been a week.

T-ball fun (and tears), getting difficult news, and capping off the week was a dental appointment that didn’t go well at all. Fillings were to be put in, but after 2 hours of trying to get Jake to drink the sedation medicine, the dentist no longer had time to do them. Jake was a mess of terror, tears, and tantrums, meanwhile Daddy was beyond exhausted. The phrase, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” applies here.

The same day we received the news that Jake is likely on the autism spectrum, I attended my first adult confirmation class. There was great discussion, I am learning a lot, and some tough topics were discussed. Heavy religious themes combined with this particular week we were in the middle of – to say I was a tad emotional would be an understatement.

Randomly, on Friday I received an email from the the pastor’s assistant at our old church checking in with us, asking us how we were doing and wondering if we’d left the area or if she had just missed us. (We haven’t attended services there in over a year.) It was a kind gesture, and nice knowing that we were still thought of, regardless of how long we’d been gone. That very same day we also received a hand written note of encouragement from our current pastor.

I won’t say that one church is better than another, for they are both houses of God and I’ve learned much from both. They each have their strengths and weaknesses, as all communities do. I will say that from our experience, it is very easy to “get lost” in a large church. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily. It was comforting to go and be anonymous at times. Attending a smaller church, we’ve been pleasantly surprised that it’s much easier to be in community with people. It’s comforting during difficult times to really be seen and felt cared for.

Ultimately, the timing of our two notes was a God thing. After a rough week, it felt like a big ol’ much-needed hug.

Bring it on, Monday!

Sunrise

Looking out the back window at the ever changing colors of the sunrise, I paused in the busy preparation of breakfast to just stand there for a few minutes and watch. After slogging through the grey months, this display of dawn was a welcome reprieve. “Autism spectrum….obsessive compulsive tendencies,” the words the child psychologist said the day before still ringing in my ears.

We’ve been down this road before, though it was a few years ago. Screening prompted by his inability to speak at the level of his peers, and irrational terror by simply stepping foot into the doctor’s office. Deep down I think we both have always known there was a difference. Not extreme, not on the far end of the spectrum, but just enough to bring pause, a raising of our curiosity. We’ve never been parents before, he’s our oldest, so there isn’t a barometer of ‘normal’. I still cringe at that word.

In a strange way, having the doctor explain things to us in detail, having him nod in complete recognition at the descriptions of his behavior, was entirely comforting. No expressions of revulsion, no judgement, no surprised questioning looks about his behavior, or our parenting.

We aren’t crazy. We aren’t bad parents.

Those words are huge. Much in the same way our local froyo lady complimented our parenting skills (and turned a particularly rough day around for me) the words this doctor said, the encouragement he gave us, were beyond helpful. I felt my shoulders relax where I had no idea I was holding tension. There was a lifting of a heavy load I have been carrying around unknowingly.

He shows definitive markers on the autism spectrum, but he’s highly functioning. There is no reason he won’t grow to have a family and lead a very happy life.

There are things to be concerned about. You’ll have to find what works for your family. If it doesn’t work, even the things I say, don’t use it. Use what works for you.

Much of it will be trial and error. That’s to be expected. When things blow up and don’t go well, use those as learning experiences. You’ve just learned what doesn’t work. On to the next thing.

We gained validation. We have some new tools in our parenting toolbox. Most importantly, we were given a perspective that is not of the “beat the child into submission” variety, nor a hippy-dippy let the kid do whatever, whenever hands-off approach. More cooperation, less adversarial. Less controlling, lots of boundaries. More respect for sensitivities to overwhelm. For him, sensory overwhelm causes the tantrums and outbursts. Loss of control triggers anger. He’s not an angry child. He’s not a bad kid. He simply gets overwhelmed. It’s our job to continue to teach him how to deal with life as a sensitive person in a not-so-sensitve world.

Seeing the sun finally break the horizon, I sip my hot coffee. I take a deep breath and put the bacon in the oven. Kissing my husband off to work, I glance at the calendar to see what’s on deck for the day. It’s a welcome stark white space. A blank slate, a square with opportunity…24 hours of possibilities.

Hope.

I think I’ll start by doing a bit of writing…