Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Before and.....WAIT! I'm Not Done Yet!

Before and After.   There's a deceptive magic in those three little words.   And I am realizing, they are words that have haunted me for a while.

Before.   In the health and fitness industry, before is the sad faced woman in an outfit a  size too small, wearing no makeup, and glaring at the camera.   Her hair is stringy, and usually in a ponytail.  She's clearly unhappy with where she is in her life.   She would never smile, and in fact, she might not even have the confidence to look directly into the camera. 

After, is the same woman with great posture, a tan, great lighting, and a great outfit.   She is smiling, no....BEAMING at the camera.   She has great makeup, and her hair is perfect.   The image is flawless.   She's achieved.   She's won.   Everyone can SEE how much better her life is now.   After.    It's a place you go win you succeed.  And to get there, you should really LOOK the part. 

This thinking makes me sad.  

Not for all those folks out there who are basking in their afters.   I applaud you.   I know you.   You have achieved some great results, and you SHOULD be proud.   Your hard work and dedication is visible to all who see you.   You should be happy.   you've earned that.  Please don't think I am trying to take that away from you.  

But for me, I see those shots, and I somehow feel like a huge part of the story is missing.   I know for me it would be.   Because, you see, I am not an "after" that would sell magazines, or product, or even workout services.   My "after" isn't bikini clad, or tan.   I have wrinkles and gray hair, and on the glossy pages of a magazine, I doubt that my photos would impress.   I look different, yes.   I've lost weight.   I am light years healthier.  But the "afters" I am most proud of aren't things you can see.  I don't just look different....I AM different.   

It feels sometimes that unless you physically fit the part, your success on your journey is somewhat invisible.  I realize that the physical change is what people want to see, but I have to fight my own thinking sometimes to remember that my changes are just as valuable.

The biggest changes I have made in my life aren't all things that can be seen with the naked eye.     I am stronger, both physically and mentally.   And if you look at me and don't believe it, I'll meet you at the gym tomorrow.   I am STRONG.   Just because my body isn't the public ideal, doesn't mean I haven't made great progress.

I eat healthily on a regular basis.  I have learned what my body can and can't handle digestively, and I have been working on embracing the changes.   I have mourned the loss of some foods I loved, and I have found many things I never knew I liked.  And to someone who has used food to cope with life for so many years, this is HUGE.

I have worked really hard to see my value regardless of weight or appearance.  And you know what?   Although I sometimes still struggle with this, I see more now than ever what my good qualities are, and they have nothing to do with my appearance. For truly the first time in a lot of years, I can see those parts of me, even if a scale has a higher number than I like.

I keep going.   Even when I am depressed, or sad, or frustrated with results....I keep going to the gym.   I keep seeing my trainer.   I keep working on myself.   I don't stop.   And for me, this one is probably the biggest success.  I have lived this life consistently for a long while now.   It's become part of who I am.    HUGE!

I work hard.   And I will continue to work hard.   No matter what my "after" may appear to be looking like.  I know that these changes have made me a better person, and a better work in progress.   

Don't get me wrong.   I would LOVE to be featured in a success story somewhere to inspire others.

But for now, my "after" doesn't look like that.   I get it.   It doesn't mean I can't try to get people to recognize that for everyone the journey is different, and the place they choose to find contentment is not all the same.  Just because my before and after photos might not show dramatic physical changes, if you stop and look closely in my eyes, you will see just as dramatic a transformation taking place.  And I work just as hard to get it. 

So "after" for all of us on this trek is different.   I wish we'd honor those less visible, but no less important, successes as well.

And I guess finally, I'm not sure "after" is a place I want to be content to sit.   My hope is that I will continue to be a work in progress until I take my final breath.   I want to continue to try to be the best person I can be and to improve upon the foundation I have laid out for myself.  Physically.  Emotionally.   Spiritually.

So maybe I'll start a new trend.   "Before and after" may become instead......"Before and where I sit now.....cuz I am still working."