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.
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 my daughter wrote about this post a few days ago:
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.
Now look at the photo taken November 2016 while I made bagels with son Joe.
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.