What’s in a Picture? Not the Whole Story.

Courtesy of Heather

I’ve lost about forty pounds.  Though I’ve lost a bunch of weight, I still have a bunch of weight to go. I am living a much healthier life now than I was a  year ago, but if you were to plug my stats into a BMI calculator, you would see it steal reads “overweight.”  I know I shouldn’t base my lifestyle, self-image, or health on one calculation, but that 27+ [27.3, 27.7, 27.5, 27.2] the last several times I’m documented my progress [or anti-progress] still reminds me that I’m not where I want to be.

BMI Calculations aside, if you asked people that know me in real life, they would tell you as well, that I am not at a healthy weight.  You may think I’m being too hard on myself, and I’ll touch on this more in a bit, but what they might tell you is that I’m a “bigger girl”, or “a little heavy”, or “not fat but…”

I know how to post a flattering photo.  I know how to delete unflattering photos.  I know that with a certain angle, in a certain mirror, or a certain outfit, the camera doesn’t add ten pounds- it subtracts them.

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This photo that you may have seen 100 times, is flattering.
That hair cut is flattering. That top is flattering.
The fact that you can’t see very much of my body is flattering.
I only have one chin in this photo, and that is flattering.

Yesterday I published this vote page asking for help in making a decision on which dress to wear to Julie’s wedding at the end of the month. I posted three photos, one of each dress.  I posted the most flattering photo of each dress.  Then I realized, through counting up the votes, that most people like the dress in which I appear to be the thinnest in the photos.

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Through blog and facebook comments, the current tally as I type this is:

Blue – 4 (with a different cardigan)

Yellow – 4

Green – 15

It’s no lie – the picture of the green dress makes me appear more slender than the other two photos.  Is it the dress? No doubt, the hand on the hip. The cardigan? The way I am taking the photo from above, holding my arm over my head creating a more flattering angle?

Most importantly, does it matter?

Why do I desire to be slender?  Why do I feel the need to reach the “normal” category on the BMI calculator?  Why do i find myself comparing myself constantly? I say I want to lose weight to not be “overweight.”  I want to drop more weight for my health.  But perhaps the fact that the category on the BMI scale is titled “normal” and not “healthy” says more than we think.

The truth is, as we’ve all heard before, the popular view in our society is that “overweight” is bad. The perception is that body shape aside, weighing more than you “should” isn’t a good thing.   But why?

We say it’s for health. But when we a friend or family member starts to eat more vegetables or joins a gym, we are happy for them.  We want our loved ones to live longer.  We want the chances of certain fatal illness to fall.  We want them to feel better.  But when we see someone we haven’t seen for a while, and they have lost 20 pounds, we don’t say  “Wow! What low blood pressure you have!”  We say things like, “You look great!”

The truth is, I am making healthy decisions for a variety of reasons.
I drink water because it’s important to my health, and my training, that I stay hydrated.  I drink water because it helps me dictate my hunger cues. I drink water because it’s good for my skin.  I drink water because I know I “should.”

I eat vegetables for their nutrients and vitamins.  I eat vegetables to fuel me. I eat vegetables because they are yummy.  I eat vegetables because I know I “should.”

I run because I feel strong. I run because I enjoy it.  I run because it’s a form of stress-relief.  I run because I have set goals and am determined to complete them.  I run because I know I “should.”

I drink water to lose weight. I eat vegetables to lose weight. I run to lose weight. I lose weight to be healthy, to feel good about myself, and because I think I “should”.  In order to live longer, of course, but also in order to look better, or rather, to feel more comfortable with what I see in the mirror.

I’m kind of mad at myself for saying that, but more so because I feel that.  Even more so, perhaps, that I am upset over it at all. Because I know that it is okay to want to lose weight.  Just as much as it’s okay to not want to.
I don’t think I’m being too hard on myself, I think I am being honest.

Some days I look in the mirror and ask myself, “Who are you fooling?” as I remember that I am not as small as I try to pretend to be on the internet. But some days I look at photos of myself from just a few years ago and think, “Wow, forty pounds is an accomplishment.”  I get frustrated with myself that I’ve allowed the weight loss to slow or pause.  Then I realize I have barely anything that fits me properly and that a lot of my clothes are much too big, and I remember that I have made a lot of progress and that shouldn’t be negated.  I remember that when I go into the store and try on clothes, I often taken the wrong size into the dressing room and need to ask for a smaller one.  This is reassuring.

Yet as often as I remember to say, “hooray me!”, I catch myself looking at other people and forgetting all I know.

As i tried on the dresses, maneuvering to take the most flattering photos of myself, i fought to drown out the voice in my head that was reminding me that it didn’t matter WHAT angle i took the photo, soon I would be standing near two healthy living bloggers in photos -during meet ups and sleepovers and celebrations- and probably felling uncomfortable, feeling like a giant next to them. With each photo I snapped, disliked, and deleted, I was helping to produce some sort of lie.  As I cropped and selected which photos to post online, I remember that pretty soon, in real life, I will be in front of a few gorgeous women who up until now, only know what I look like due to photos I choose to place online. Photos that I choose because they are the best ones. And there is a possibility that when they see me they will think “That’s not what I thought.”  I would have fooled them.  Just as I keep trying to fool all of you, and seemingly, also myself, by only posting such “good” photos.

The funny thing is, I don’t compare my height to other bloggers.
I don’t compare my age, or my hair style or lack there of.  I don’t fear how my eyes will look in a photo next to anyone else’s eyes.  I don’t particularly care about my accent or vocabulary when I meet these people for the first time.  Why do I care so much about my weight?  My perception needs an overhaul.

There is nothing wrong with dressing for your figure.  There is nothing wrong with posting the most flattering of photos. There is nothing wrong with a desire to feel comfortable with yourself.

I refuse to act ashamed any longer. Because that’s what the trying to appear smaller than I am really is to me – it’s being ashamed of how I appear now.  I’m not ashamed of my journey.  I’m not ashamed of the forty pounds.  I’m not ashamed of my emotions, or my growth, or my learning.  I’m not ashamed of my desire to set goals and reach them – I can’t be ashamed of this middle place either.  This place of in between.  This place of BMI 27.

Not ashamed.

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This post was originally posted on Then Heather Said.

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