I had a revelation that rocked my world today. I have not been fit my entire life. In fact, I used to be fat.
What catalyzed this realization? I had a conversation with a friend yesterday who shared his story with me about being very fit when he was young, but then becoming overweight and unhealthy without realizing it as an adult. I had a hard time understanding that. How do you gain a ton of weight, but still think you are healthy and fit? How do you not see what you are doing to your body?
Today, I was looking at some old photos I had nearly forgotten about. What I saw shocked me. I looked at a couple of pictures from me back in 2006 (after graduating college) in Rocky Point. I was horrified. I cannot believe how heavy I was. I know that my weight has gone up and down over the years, but the story I have always told myself was that I have always been in shape and within a healthy weight range for my height, even during my “heavier” periods. That being said – pictures don’t lie.
When the first two pictures below were taken, I worked in a gym. I had a personal trainer that I worked out with regularly. I definitely thought I was in shape. Six years later, I look back and see what the reality was – yes, I was working out. I was also eating like shit and binge drinking all of the time. This illustrates three important points about health/fitness:
- Working out is simply not enough. Your diet is even more important to maintaining a healthy weight and being fit. You can work out an hour a day every day, but if you take in excess calories and use In-N-Out, pizza, soda, and booze to refuel your body, you are effectively cancelling out whatever good you may have done in the gym and still gain weight.
- No one is immune to weight gain if they eat like shit and don’t take care of themselves. I am no exception. I am healthy and in shape now because of the choices I make every day – not because I am blessed with a fast metabolism, not because I have great genetics, not because I am a freak of nature that can eat whatever I want and not gain a pound.
- It’s not that hard to slip into denial. For both me and my friend, it was a photograph that finally jarred us awake to reality (mine in hindsight, but his actually led him to do a complete 180 and now he is in phenomenal shape). Prior to that, we had both deceived ourselves into believing that we were still healthy and in shape because we were active. Many people who are overweight or have poor body image don’t look in mirrors and don’t like taking photos, but that kind of avoidance behavior just gives you permission to continue living in a fantasy. While I am certainly not condoning becoming obsessive about critiquing your body in the mirror or in photos, it can serve as an objective check in from time to time about where you really are.
So, as embarrassing as this is for me, I’m posting my “fat” photos below. I think accepting and owning that part of me and my life is important. It’s a jarring reminder that I have to work for health and fitness just like everyone else. The third photo is a progress picture I sent my trainer about a week and a half ago (I took the photo at 4 AM, so please forgive the zombie sleepwalker expression on my face) to illustrate how far I’ve come and what a difference it makes to not only work out, but to also eat healthfully and in moderation.