The Weight is Over – Week 61: Before, After and Beyond

I do some of my best thinking when I work out. In fact, I've lost count of how many column and story ideas come to me at Align Private Training, whether I'm on Satan's bicycle or on the rowing machine or when I'm doing 1,000 ropes or 100 crunches.

It's as if while my body takes care of the business of working out, my mind goes a wandering.

Last week, as I worked out at Align with super-trainer Matthew R. Lister, I told him my two decisions: First, I told him that sometime in early July I want to do a photo shoot of me all dolled up to show the full effect of the weight loss I've achieved by then. Lord knows I've had plenty of photos taken of me working out in sweaty clothes.

Doni working with weights at Align, July 2016.

Doni working with weights at Align, July 2016.

For my July photo shoot, I'll have my hair and makeup done, and I'll wear something other than workout clothes. That's the month I turn 61, and I want to really celebrate this new life and new body. I want to show it off.

I want to show it off.

Those are words I've never said, and they match a mindset I've never had. I have a few months to get comfortable with the idea.

My second proclamation to Matthew was that with this new year I was done posting my awful before photos in these weekly columns. Those before photos are uncomfortable to the point of being painful for me to look at. They're embarrassing.

I told Matthew I was ready to move on; ready to leave the old photos and old body behind, and go proudly forward with new photos that show my new body. In fact, it would be fine with me if I never saw one of those horrible before photos again. Furthermore, I was toying with the idea of deleting them. Gone forever. Good riddance.

Matthew smiled a little, but didn't say anything. Whatever. I returned to my workouts and let my brain wander some more.

You know how Facebook publishes those little time-capsule pages as reminders of posts from previous years? My daughter shared one this week that originated from January 2015, one I'd completely forgotten about. Once I saw it on her page this week it took me back to when she posted it on Facebook. I remember that at the time, I'd looked at it, and although I wasn't thrilled (I avoided having my photo taken), I thought, "Well, I don't look that horrible. I've looked worse."

This is what Doni's daughter wrote on her Facebook page January, 2015.

This is what my daughter wrote about this post a few days ago:

Doni's daughter posted a message on the two-year-old post.

Of course, I was super touched and grateful to my daughter for her shout out to me about taking care of her when she was sick. But what I really loved was the line where she said I looked 20 years younger than I did two years ago.

The beauty of daughters is they won't lie about stuff like that, just like they won't lie about your hair looking funny or make-up improperly applied or even their strong opinions that frown upon their mother using fat-free milk and Sweet 'n Low.

Her Facebook comment caused me to take a hard look at that photo of me standing in her kitchen. My daughter was right. For comparison, look at the 2015 photo beside one taken about a week ago - two years apart. As they say on Sesame Street, one of these things is not like the other.


The hair-color contrast aside, I barely look like the same person. But this is what I know, and this is why my current epiphany includes the realization of why it's so important to allow photos to be taken at various stages of our life, whether we like it or not. Without the before photo, I wouldn't have the comparison between then and now. And without that documentation, I may have forgotten how supremely crappy I felt then. And without that acknowledgement, I'd cheat myself of the joy and atta-girl of appreciating my drastic growth and personal achievements.

When I look at that 2015 photo, it zooms me right back to not just that place in time, but my sorry state of mind. My sadness was internal, but the proof was external. My body and entire countenance relayed the message loud and clear: I'm unhappy.

Since this realization, I've changed my mind about not showing before photos. Not only are they valuable historical touch stones for me, but they serve as inspiration to others, too, because people can see with their own eyes my before-and-after story. And if I could make this transformation, maybe they could, too.

Here's another stark contrast. One is a photo taken December 2015 as I made pasta with my grandkids.

A tipping-point awareness. Photo by Joshua Domke.

A tipping-point awareness. Photo by Joshua Domke.

Now look at the photo taken November 2016 while I made bagels with son Joe.

Doni and Joe make bagels in Ostrava, November, 2016.

See the difference? I can, too. Well, I wish you could feel how it feels inside my brain these days. The journey to getting healthy and shedding the weight has transformed my internal self even more than my external. I feel so much happier, and so much stronger and more confident.

OK, one last before-and-after contrast for you. These photos are three years apart.

Wow. Night and day difference.


Now I can acknowledge that perhaps my initial idea about ditching the before photos wasn't one of my better ideas. That's OK. Nobody said all ideas are keepers.

So, yes, I'll keep the before photos for reference from time to time. And I won't delete them.

But I still think workouts are a good place for creative thinking. And I think I may still do the glamour photo shoot in July. I have a few months to change my mind.

And in the meantime, I'll keep working, and eventually, today's after photos will be tomorrow's before photos.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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21 Responses

  1. Marilyn Traugott says:

    You are truly inspiring, my friend. If you could take that self-discipline and perseverance, bottle it, and sell it, you’d have a very lucrative cottage industry.  🙂

  2. Beverly Stafford says:

    Can pastels now be in your future?  Before: black; after: aqua?

    • LOL. You must have seen the inside of my closet. There, black remains the predominant color. What can I say? I like it. 🙂

      (The only pastels I own are some workout tops, so maybe they’re my gateway pastel clothes.)

  3. cheyenne says:

    Doni, I don’t know if this is sexist or not but I’ll say it anyway.  You are one hot 60 year old.

  4. Ginny says:

    Years ago when I lost about 40 pounds, I put on something to wear around the house I wore before.  I felt as fat as I had the day I first put the clothes on.  Much of what we feel is how we look at things.  With you, you look great dear!  I know you will be just fine.  (smile).

    Just wispy bangs would look totally different on you today than the day a few years back.  Whole different shape of face and hair color.   Your face will always be pretty.  But your glow today is so much better than a few years ago, before so many changes in your life.

    A new way of living can begin at 20 or even 61!  At 70,  I found out how I things nearly 14 years ago.  And, you helped, too.  Thank you!

  5. karen says:

    You are awesome inside and out!

  6. Canda Williams says:

    Oh Doni, reading this makes me cry tears of joy for you.  I hate knowing you were so unhappy, but your determination to turn your life around and become healthy inside and out, is truly inspiring.  I guess sometimes we need to get to the point of misery before we’re truly committed to change, whether it’s a terrible relationship, too much weight, being in debt, or whatever. You’ve done it, and you’ll never go back. I love your idea of a photo shoot, and keeping those before pics can’t hurt.  They can be tucked away, but always a reminder at how far you’ve come.  Not only do you see the loss of weight, but the sparkle in your eyes, and your genuine smile are evidence that you’re younger and happier than you’ve ever been.  I love you, my friend, and would give anything to hug that tiny body of yours! xoxo

    • Oh, thank you, Canda. You are right that it sometimes takes getting to the point of misery – or hitting bottom – before we can wake up and start the path to recovery and good health, whether it’s as you say, body, finances or relationships.

      It’s funny, I was telling Matthew about this column today and my epiphany about keeping the before photos, and he said they’re the “hell no!” photos … reminders to not slip back where I started. Hell, no!

      I wish you were here so I could hug your tiny body, too. xod

  7. A. Jacoby says:

    It’s that last pair of pictures that really underscores the transformation. As Canda said, the sparkle in your eyes, the very apparent lightness of being (there’s a book title in there somewhere).  Like the old saw goes: “I wish I had known then, what I know now!” I know that living this life is all about the learning curve, but gosh darn it, there are a number of lessons I wish I had learned sooner rather later. Like the importance of taking care one’s self, inside and out!! And then allowing ourselves to do it.

    Thank you for modeling that lesson for us!!

    • Thank you, dear A.J. We have a mutual inspiration going on here, because you – who turn 80 this year – in inspire me!

      I hear you about wishing we’d embarked upon this journey sooner. But as they say, better late than never.

  8. Jim says:

    A new California Girl.dadays proud of his girls at any rate.YF Jim

  9. Yep — exercise is fabulous fuel for creativity.  And sometimes the ideas are great — and sometimes they are ideas that need to be considered and discarded to make way for the NEXT great idea.  I can’t count how many times I’ve come up with lyrics or marketing ideas during a run that completely STINK once I get to the studio. Ah, well…it’s all exercise – for the body and the mind. And so very good for us. Your before and after pictures are a tremendous service to your readers — inspiring, motivating.

    • Thanks, Erin!

      Yes, you’re so right about the exercise to mind and body. And sometimes those “great” ideas just need to be given the light of day to see if they hold up; to see if they’re winners or stinkers.

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