by J. HUMENAY
Most people have struggled with some degree of loathing toward a particular part of their body. It could be as unavoidable as a scar or a crooked nose, or as avoidable as morbid obesity. Have you ever looked around a room and felt a sense of relief that you are (or aren’t) the skinniest/fattest/shortest/tallest/fill-in-the-‘est’-here in the room? The tension of constantly comparing and ranking yourself is exhausting, isn’t it? Or maybe you looked at someone several times your size and felt as though you were still the biggest person in the room?
True Body Dysmorphia gives us such a distorted view of our bodies that it can turn into depression, social avoidance, exercise and eating disorders, just to name a few issues. I’ve been there myself to some degree. Even the fittest people on the planet have probably been there too.
“The Elephant in the Room”
Taller and heavier than most women by the time I was 14, I felt like the elephant in the room.
In my mid-30’s, I was ready and desperate for a change. For something that would stick. I needed to change that view of myself — and, aside from hiring an amazing coach — what helped me along the way wasn’t something he suggested. It was something I did on my own.
Progress Photos & My Journey Book
The scale turned out to be a poor measure of my progress, and yet I allowed that machine to have control over my mood and feelings of self-worth, as so many do. My first 3 months on strength training, I packed on 10 lbs! I had signed up the lose weight and here I was, gaining! It was frustrating to notice that weight loss wasn’t happening. I still wore the same size clothes (generally speaking). But the photos were proof. The body shape was changing. “Fat loss” was happening.
I started to ignore my weigh ins and pay attention to my progress photos instead. Every 2 months, I’d whip out my goal swimsuit, and take a front and a back picture. Then I’d compare them to the previous photo, or the previous year’s photos. The obvious improvements helped me see the scale for what it really is — just a simple machine. (Above you’ll see the natural, unedited images – progress from March 2013 – March 2014.)
Sure, I still see areas on my body that I am working on, but the leaning out is happening. That’s enough to keep me coming back for more.
To reinforce the progress photos, I also track my PRs in the gym. A year ago, the bar was heavy. Today, I was repping with 85lbs. A year ago, I was falling over doing a back squat. Now? I PR at 215lbs — about 107% of my body weight.
Sure, I occasionally wish my shoulders were a bit narrower, but then I realize that they are strong enough to push 100lbs+ over my head over and over again. They couldn’t do that this time last year. They help me flip 400lb tires! I never would have dreamed of trying that a year ago. They help me with the snatch that I’m still learning to master, and they recently helped me conquer handstands.
I am still working on my thighs, but that’s okay. This time last year I was dying for a 12-minute mile. Now, I average about 9:30. They’re powering that ride. The photos don’t show that they survived the Smolov workout sequence in champion style. My journey book reminds me of my progress every time I look at it.
Though it’s just a simple notebook with dates, workouts, maxes, and times in it, it’s handy to flip through every now to combat the voice in my head that still wants to live in the past. I’ve included a few photos of myself in the book as reminders of progress made and proud moments.