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.


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.


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.

yellow2 green1 blue2

me3 me5

me6 me9


me1 me4

This post was originally posted on Then Heather Said.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Kerry May 20, 2010 at 9:59 am

You are brave to do that. I refuse to be in photos not only because I’m also a little rounder, but as I’m missing my eye brows and eye lashes. I can understand the shame. I am ashamed for what I do to myself (ripping out my eyelashes and eyebrows) yet a little over 6 weeks ago I did my deb. My partner was skinny, most of the other girls were so thin you almost lost sight of them when they turned yet I felt gorgeous. You have every right to look and be who you are. If people aren’t willing to accept that, they need a reality check and to take a good look at the world around them.


Lexxie May 23, 2010 at 2:42 am



Michelle May 31, 2010 at 11:14 pm

You really are beautiful! 🙂


Mickey June 1, 2010 at 7:19 am

Wow, you are gorgeous 🙂
And I actually prefer the photos where you show all of you including your face. And the silly pictures make you look even more beautiful 🙂

But I am in fact the same way, I do everything because I should, and want to be comfortable with myself. When really what I think would be comfortable is a size 5 in jeans 😛


andreea June 4, 2010 at 11:43 am

I just want to say that you have a very strong character.Congrats!


Shanna June 7, 2010 at 7:56 pm

You’re a true inspiration!!!! 40 pounds is AMAZING!!!!!! Celebrate how far you’ve come every day because you deserve it!


Katub June 20, 2010 at 9:02 am

Wow!! You’ve really come far!! 40 Pounds!!! :O 😀 Well done!!
Your Beautiful, dont let anyone else tell you that your not!!


ctall July 3, 2010 at 5:24 am

I love your honesty. I know I’ve done it, too…how many pictures have been taking to get that one “okay” one? Thanks for sharing your story and making me feel like less of a dork. =P


Dusk July 4, 2010 at 4:40 pm

You are amazing! 40 pounds is a LOT, keep it up~!


Celebrate July 4, 2010 at 7:26 pm

Before I read the post, I looked at what picture I liked best. I chose the blue one with the zig zags. I was shocked when I saw the results and I looked at the pictures and realised you did indeed look skinnier in it. But no matter what, even the lower pictures, you are beautiful. Beautiful and quirky and 100% you!


Aimee July 9, 2010 at 1:46 am

You are a very beautiful woman. I love the courage you possess. It makes you all that more beautiful in my eyes. I look for beauty in the soul & not the body. My best friend is a bigger girl but I think she is BEAUTIFUL. I oftentimes beat myself up bc im on the “heavier” side of the “normal” BMI table. But it’s women like you that encourage me. Thank you.


Bee. July 9, 2010 at 3:04 am

you’re beautiful.!


Alycia August 1, 2010 at 7:27 am

Well, looking at your full pictures in all of them I think the blue one is the best! But why are you wearing those cardigans? I think the dresses would be much prettier without them! The disguise your torso and arms.


Heather September 2, 2010 at 5:53 pm

Because it was May! it can still be pretty chilly up north! 🙂


Vitorya August 1, 2010 at 7:56 pm

I looked at the pictures of the dresses, and my first instinct was that the blue one was by far the prettiest dress. I wanted to tell you that in the pictures of your whole body you looked beautiful in all of them, and if you had not said anything, I would not have even thought twice about your weight. You look good the size you are. BMI cannot tell you what you really look like or how healthy you really are.


Calibuza August 5, 2010 at 11:31 pm

Wow! you´ re brave… and beautiful!
I just learned about the Fat Talk today, so I’m still full of questions. How we can balance accepting ourselves with the fact that I have Pre diabetes and back and knee problems because of my weight? Any tips?


admin August 5, 2010 at 11:34 pm

Focus on health, not size, and a lot of your knee and back problems might end up resolving themselves! I think its so important to stop “dieting” and just focus on eating whole, natural foods that make you feel better inside out. Have you tried swimming? I LOVED swimming when I had a knee injury – it was a fun way to stay active and splash around!

The Operation Beautiful book has two whole chapters dedicated to food and fitness.

Good luck with everything!


Andrea @ Run, Eat, Date, Sleep September 2, 2010 at 6:05 pm

Great post, my friend! I like all of the dresses, but my eye went straight to the green dress, but not because you look thinner, but because you look more comfortable and at ease in it. I think the way you’re posing in the picture (the first picture) makes me think you think you look sexier in it and more confident.

You’re an amazing woman!


Christine September 11, 2010 at 3:07 am

You know what I love about your non-cropped-to-be-thin pics? You look SO HAPPY in them!


Lulu October 22, 2010 at 1:51 am

I don’t think you’re fat at all, hunny.
You’re just not “Top model,” which is very healthy. The whole BMI scales thing… they’re just balloney. You just believe in yourself, and if you feel like you WANT to lose weight, then do. Don’t do it because you think you’re fat or anything. And I can truly say you’re really beautiful. 🙂


Lily October 22, 2010 at 9:42 am

God made everything perfect, you are a perfect creation, because our Creator is perfect, there are not fat persons to the sight of God, we must see with His Eyes, because what he sees is our heart, just make sure your heart is beautiful, if not, just look for Jesus His Son, read the bible, and get to know Him.
Jhon 3:16
Prov. 31:10


Rebecca October 28, 2010 at 10:09 am

I can’t see what you’re on about, crazy lady. You look gorgeous in every one of those photos. And I would still say the green dress, the colours just go together so well and make your skin look so healthy!


Yenna November 20, 2010 at 3:18 pm

You are perfectly gorgeous, Heather!


Adelle December 31, 2010 at 11:49 am

Yup, I’ll have to go with the rest of them: You’re beautiful alright! 🙂


Jay Dee January 31, 2011 at 1:59 am

You are absolutely beautiful, inside and out. I am so glad that all women have the chance to be beautiful, because they cam control the way they think. 🙂


D'anna February 1, 2011 at 8:36 pm

The Yellow was my favorite :D…You looked great in all of em ^.^


Samantha February 5, 2011 at 9:11 am

You look really pretty! If you think the other pictures didn’t turn out right, it’s only due to blur and lighting, which have nothing to do with weight. I agree with one of the above posters – I probably wouldn’t have even thought about your weight if I saw you and you didn’t mention it. And I like the blue dress because of the vibrancy, and the green dress because of the simplicity


stephanie September 7, 2011 at 5:31 pm

great post. it really resonated with me. thanks for being beautiful. and brave.


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