Documenting the “before” version of you

May 13, 2011

When you lose a lot of weight, it’s always nice to be able to see “before and after” photos of yourself, partly to remind you that you don’t want to go back to “before,” and partly to marvel at how far you’ve come. We like to look at other people’s before and after shots too. They can motivate and inspire.

Very few of us are able to escape being in someone else’s photo at some point, even if we’re historically camera-shy, so likely there are “before” photos of us floating around already. Who hasn’t been forced to be in a wedding or graduation photo because the family shot wouldn’t be complete without them? But unless they’re very clear, it’s often better to take one with the idea of making comparisons later, such as a full frontal and side shot.

Today I spent some time making sure that the “before” me was documented in several ways. I’ll admit, it wasn’t something I’d do for fun. It’s downright painful to see myself the way others do and it was not easy making myself press the “record” button. But I know that when I reach my goal—and I will reach my goal (positive thinking, right?)—I will want to make comparisons. I don’t know yet whether I’ll share those comparisons here or even with friends, but I’ll leave that decision to be made when it arises.

The button test

The first thing I did was try on a couple of tops that I knew were too small and made note of where they were tight and how much.

This button-down shirt (size 12) with half-sleeves was very tight on my arms; I was barely able to get it past my elbows, and I think if I had bent my arm too much the seam would have burst. I would have been able to button it—except for the one at the waist—but of course buttons straining within an inch of their life is not the goal here. At the waist, I was able to make the two sides meet, but only if I sucked everything in with all my strength.

In other words, I have a LONG way to go before I can wear that shirt. Not that it’s such a gorgeous shirt—it’s pretty plain—but because of the buttons, it’s serves well for this test.

This jacket below (size large) I love, and I can get it on over a T-shirt, but the sleeves are quite tight, and there would be no way to button it. I might have been able to, maybe early in the morning before breakfast, lying flat on the bed, having expelled all the air I possibly could from my innards. So yeah, another thing to shoot for. It’s not that I would necessarily button it when wearing it, but choosing not to button and not being able to button are two different things.

Then there is the pair of jeans below that I bought and have never been able to wear. Yes, I am in the habit of buying things that are too small for me. I’m weird. Right now, I can pull them up, just barely, but there is no hope of even beginning to zip or button them. They are a Misses size 10.

So as I go through this weight loss journey, I intend to try these on again periodically. I’m thinking maybe two months from now I’ll see if I’ve made progress. Hopefully, by the time I’m done (or possibly even before), they’ll be wearable.

The outfit test

One thing that I don’t like about a lot of before-and-after pictures is that the person is often not wearing the same thing in both. Obviously, in some cases that’s not reasonable. But when the amount to be lost is not so much that it makes it impossible, I like to compare apples to apples. (Or pears to pears, depending on shape, haha.)

So the next thing I did was select an outfit that I can get into now and took a video of how it looks on me. I chose a basic black long-sleeved shirt and my favorite pair of jeans. The shirt rides up because it has so much ground to cover, although not in the right places, and the jeans, while I do regularly wear them, are definitely tough to get into when they’re fresh out of the dryer, let me tell you.

When I get to my goal weight, I’ll take another video of myself wearing the same outfit. At that point, the clothes will hopefully be hanging on me. It’s possible I will post the videos here, not sure yet. Then I will gladly donate the outfit to Goodwill. Or possibly burn it.

Of course I will also take photos of me wearing things that actually fit so that my new body won’t be hidden behind baggy clothes, but I just wanted to experiment with the same outfit.

Recording a message to Future Me

I got this idea watching “The Biggest Loser” recently. Once the contestants had reached their fitness goals, they watched a video of themselves at their fattest, made as a message to their new selves.

They talked about how they felt being overweight, the challenge in front of them, and then they encouraged their future selves to stick with it, don’t backslide, don’t ever go back to the way they were, because they weren’t happy with the way they were.

So I turned on my webcam and had a little chat with myself. This is something I will probably never share with anybody; it’s just from me to me. It will be interesting to watch it many months from now and compare my feelings about myself and my weight struggle. It will also be obvious how my face will have changed by then. The faces of some of the people on the TV show had changed so much I wouldn’t have recognized them. I don’t have as much to lose as they did, but I know that I can get rid of some of these jowls at the very least. And maybe there are cheekbones under there somewhere.

You may feel silly talking to yourself on camera. And it may also feel weird to compliment Future You on her accomplishments and tell her how proud you are, when you’re used to criticizing and downgrading yourself. But give it a try. You don’t have to watch it back if you don’t want to, not even once you’ve achieved your goal. But if you decide you do want to take a look, it’ll be there. If you don’t want anyone accessing it, put it in a password-protected folder on your computer (with a password like “IamTHINandBEYOOTIFUL.”) if you know how to do that, or store it online somewhere on a site for which only you have the password. Or you could just name the file something really boring that no one else would think to open (as long as you remember!).

The obvious

Of course, the most obvious documentation I’ve done is to take my measurements and record my weight. You can see those starting numbers here. I think it’s important to take measurements as well as weight, because sometimes the scale doesn’t budge for a while. It may say the same thing for a few weeks in a row, but if you check your measurements, you’ll likely find that they are going down. And size is what’s important, right? I wouldn’t care if I weighed 250 pounds as long as I was the size and shape I wanted to be. That’s not realistic, but you get my point.

So have you documented?

You might think you don’t want a “before” photo or video, but consider doing one. You don’t have to do it in a bathing suit, but it will definitely be easier to see the difference that way. If there’s no one in your life you would ask to handle the camera, use one with a self-timer or use your phone or computer if they have cameras.

You never know what the future will bring. You might wish later that you had taken one. If it turns out you wish you hadn’t, it can always be destroyed.

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