My Before & After Pics [My fitness story]

by Charlotte on August 9, 2011 · 27 comments

From an upcoming Shape mag slideshow…! (And I know my form sucks – this was from the blooper reel.)

Mr. Miyagi would be so proud of me. I just caught a mosquito – the Minnesota state bird, woot, woot! – mid flight with only my thumb and forefinger (fingers: like chopsticks but for monkeys).

This feat of athletic prowess got me thinking about how far I’ve come. People who read this site and/or only know me from 2004 onward think I’ve always been this crazyobsessed with health and fitness but the truth is I do have a “before.” And since I’ve gotten quite a few e-mails lately asking me about my weight-loss story, here it is. (Hint: There is a happy ending and it isn’t measured in pounds!) While I’ve never been above my BMI range for “normal” (BMI measurement: like a real health assessment but for monkeys), I have definitely been in a position where I had to lose weight. 6 times actually. Any woman who has had a baby has been there.

In September 2001 – yes, that September – I gave birth to my daughter Faith who immediately died of complications due to Turner’s Syndrome. In October, only one month later, I got pregnant with my first son. I did not lose the pregnancy weight in that one month. Obviously. But we had more important things to worry about like mourning our daughter’s death while at the same time celebrating, i.e. totally freaking out, about our son’s impending birth. What can I say? It was a weird year. Thankfully my son was born happy and healthy in July of 2002. This was me when he was 5 months old:

I had not lost the pregnancy weight – a solid 46 pounds – in those five months. Obviously. Strangely, despite weighing the most I’d ever weighed, this was the only time in my life that I completely didn’t care what I looked like or what I weighed. Blissfully happy just to have a baby after two years of trying and a miscarriage and a stillbirth, the scale didn’t even come out of the bathroom closet. I ate what I wanted. My baby was a butterball. We were all happy. I was – dare I say it? – fat and happy. (Albeit with a really messy kitchen. Eek!)

Then I got pregnant with my second one when my first was just nine months old. Those nine months – due to no fault of my baby – were the most hellacious of my life thanks to the court case against my ex-boyfriend for sexual assault that lasted, oh yes, nine months. (My ex was sentenced and the very next day my baby was born.) Eating disorder? Back with a vengeance. Body hate? Totally. At the brink of the pit of utter despair? Indeed. It was after my second son’s birth that I got into healthy eating and exercise. And despite the few jaunts back into ED-Land (hello, compulsive exercise!), it was a really good thing.

While most people measure their fitness success with before and after shots (Look ma – here I am dumpy and frowny and now here I am svelte, tan and smiley!), my real success story has nothing to do with my weight loss and everything to do with the change inside me and in my abilities.

B.F. (before learning to love fitness and nutrition) I shied away from group sports of any kind. Now I love nothing more than jumping in on a pickup game of Frisbee or kickball. And it wasn’t that my athletic ability increased to superstardom – seriously, I still suck – it was that I gained confidence in my ability to play. It also helped that I could now run a few laps down the field without keeling over from lack of oxygen.

B.F. I used to look for people at Costco to help me pick up the heavy stuff and get it into my cart. Now I enjoy showing off all the big stuff I can heft around with ease.

B.F. the only thing I knew about healthy eating was that fat was very very bad for you. As were calories. Now I know that I need fat and calories to live and that just because a rice cake is only 50 calories doesn’t mean it’s “healthy.”

B.F. I felt scared and vulnerable all the time. I’d been attacked before and didn’t defend myself and so I was convinced that I was just a sitting duck waiting for the next psycho to come into my life. Now I’ve taken control (for the most part) of those feelings. The nightmares are gone. The PTSD is gone. I look strangers in the eye. I walk with my head up. (Although I do not carry my keys in my fingers – I have it on good authority that actually doesn’t work well.)

B.F. I thought that having the perfect body would make me beautiful. Now I know that when you are beautiful on the inside it radiates out of you, no matter what you weigh or if you have stretch marks or cellulite. Now I know that “after” is a myth and progress is everything.

I could go on and on about all the positive effects eating right and learning to love exercise have had on my life and not one of them would have anything to do with a bikini. What I really wish is that there was a special camera that could take an “after” picture that would do all the changes I’ve been through in the past 5 years justice. This is as close as I could get (about a year after my second son was born):

Freedom.

Also, B.F. I never caught a mosquito with my bare hands. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I hear a cricket chirping in this room somewhere and it’s driving me nuts. I don’t have any chopsticks but my garlic press is handy…

What has changed for you from B.F. to A.F.? Do you take “before” and “after” pics? What would your ideal “after” picture look like? Anyone else have a fat and happy phase?

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga August 9, 2011 at 1:57 am

The last pic of you is awesome!!! I want to do that!

Before and after pics…of my body the only time I did it was when I was training for my fitness show about 18 mos ago. Honestly, I really dont look much different now than I did when I did my show. And the day of my show, I really didnt look too much different than I had the 4 or so months leading up to it. Somewhat, but not that much.

Now the only before & after pics I take is of my hair/roots when I do in-salon blogging with foils in my hair :)

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Katie August 9, 2011 at 8:13 am

I gained about 20 pounds when I studied abroad in Costa Rica. I was hiking and walking at least 2 hours a day. And drinking…um, a lot. :D And oh yeah, the rice and beans. But man was I happy. Best 6 months of my life. Hands down.

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alice August 9, 2011 at 9:46 am

My before was when running a 5k seemed like a huge effort. When anything under 30 minutes was AMAZING.

I’m hoping to have more Afters, but it feels pretty good to be where I am. (I especially am loving my nice thigh muscles from biking.) :)

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Heather August 9, 2011 at 10:45 am

Like you, I’ve learned that the progress is really more important that what the body looks like.

This year, I took up running, which I had NEVER done before…in fact, I hated it. Now I still can’t believe that I’ve run 8 races this year; one of them being the Warrior Dash! I’m actually going to fulfill my New Year’s resolution of completing one running even per month for the entire year!

Also, I love that I can actually see some bicep when I flex now. In fact, I flex them a LOT at my desk at work and smile.

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Alyssa (azusmom) August 9, 2011 at 10:58 am

The best before & after I can think of is when I was 33 and, with therapy, finally started growing out of my Super-Sized Neuroses. It was like taking a deep breath after holding it (for 30 years!) AND shrugging off a thousand-pound coat, all at once.
Not that I got rid of ALL my neuroses, mind you, but the major ones. And I stopped having panic attacks.
(BTW, my kitchen ALWAYS looks like that, lol!)

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Cort The Sport August 9, 2011 at 11:31 am

I totally think of my life as BF (before fitness) and AF (after fitness!) In fact, over the last three years things have changed for me so much, not just physically, that the name of my blog changed twice to better match where I was (Unblobbing – Unblobbed – Cort the Sport). Here’s the post that explains: http://unblob.blogspot.com/2011/07/name-change.html.

I am SOO much happier too. A lot of people either didn’t know me BF or don’t remember me BF and they think I’ve been running and triathlon-ing my whole life. Little do they know I didn’t blossom into an athlete until mid-life a couple of years ago. Thanks for your open and honest posts that let us know we are not alone in our doubts, discoveries, fears, triumphs, and questions.

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Julie August 9, 2011 at 1:22 pm

I don’t take before and after pictures. My before was when I started university and gained some weight, but my after is an ongoing process. It was not about losing the weight- it was about finding what made me happy and loving the body I had, rather than the one I wished I did. My biggest change was mental, and you cannot really capture that in a picture.

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Sarah August 9, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Hiya, its good to hear more of your story, sometimes you can assume that a healthy or fit person has always been that way and realising that everyone is on a journey is somehow more inspiring! I had a BF and AF – I’m not really into photos, although a couple do exist. I was overweight for a few years, not significantly though.

Whast I learnt in my move from BF to AF is that anyone can do anything they try., to some degree at least. I was always hopeless at sport at school last to be picked in a team etc. One year I came last in the school cross country. If you had told me then I had the potential to run for 30 minutes without stopping (albeit very slowly!) I would never have believed it, but a couple of yours ago I did indeed accomplish that feat. I’ll never win a race, but I know now that if I set my mind to something I will be able to improve myself.

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Gesosomin August 9, 2011 at 3:59 pm

I just got back from a 20 high school reunion. Many people didn’t recognise me…I found it funny. I didn’t think losing 50Lb would make such a difference…although i have changed inside. Just posted some pics (just head shots) … I think it’s odd that you ask about photos the very next day :)
An old friend noted that the confidence I carry myself with and the happiness I have inside are very evident now. And to me that is what matters most. I *like* myself now…and I can do all the things I want to do. Yes it is hard work and yes it will never end, this healthy life struggle, but I know I deserve to look after myself. I have strength to be who I am and that the people who love me could care less what I look like :)

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Gesosomin August 9, 2011 at 4:00 pm

20 year reunion I mean

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Juni August 9, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Yet another awesome blog , Charlotte! Thank you for sharing. So honest, so touching, so “let me present to you this trophy of Life Lessons Learned”. :)

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Penny August 9, 2011 at 4:13 pm

BF my body was just a truck that drove my brain around. I thought it didn’t matter what my body looked like, as long as I was clever and witty. I got fat, I got thin, I got fat again I didn’t know what else to do with this body attached to me but shrink it down and blow it back up again. It became the punchbag for whatever my emotional state happened to be at the time.

I get it now. My body can do stuff, so it needs looking after. My body and brain are (aside from the odd glass of wine) in sync these days, more or less. It is a far, far happier place to be.

Px

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Shevy August 9, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Wonderful Penny…

My Yoga practice taught me about my body big time. And the more I learn about it is the more I want to treat it as if it were a real gem….

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Miz August 9, 2011 at 5:56 pm

I adore the freedom photo Charlotte.
It says it all.

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Dina August 9, 2011 at 6:53 pm

I’m not going to lie, I’ve been very thin my whole life. Expect for these last six months. I’ve managed to gain 20lbs in six months with baby number one. At 120lbs this is the heaviest I’ve ever been. And I’m not upset! I would like to lose all the baby weight I do gain but I think for me just enjoying my body the way it is now is what is best. So when the baby gets here just enjoying what my body will be like then will be what is best for me. I will go back to running and a better Yoga schedule it’s been a tiny big crazy I only get to go to two classes a week instead of three. But I would never like to slim down to what I was prior to me finding fitness, I was a horrible 90lbs and all skin and bones. I want to actually bulk up and look fit not skinny and sad.

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Quix August 9, 2011 at 7:16 pm

I love that pic of you! You look so happy. Tangent – they just opened up a trampoline park here and I AM SO GOING!!! Thanks for the reminder to make time for it. :)

I really can’t say I have an “after” picture (I mean, I have a crap ton, I’m a ham, but you know what I mean). I live the after. I don’t yet consider myself an “after” completely because I’m still working on finding a good healthy weight to maintain, but I do plenty of “after” things like shop for cute clothes, knock out 10 mile runs before work, finish in the top 20% in my age group for 5ks, etc. While I’ll still keep fighting the good fight to find a healthy and comfortable to lose the excess and sustain a good weight for me, I have a lot to be proud of already!

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Deb (SmoothieGirlEatsToo) August 9, 2011 at 7:17 pm

Well my ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos have 90 pounds of difference so yeah, I have those. And no, I never, ever was happy and fat. i was miserable every minute that I was fat. I was also quite miserable at my skinniest though I liked the way if felt to have my thighs not touch, nor worry about if my littler clothes would fit. I’m trying to find the “after’ that allows me to live a fulfilled life yet not gain weight. I’m in the midst of it, still working out the kinks.

Loved this post a lot.

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Shevy August 9, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Love this…And it came right after I published a post exploring the topic of is it selfish to love yourself and take care of your needs first. From all the posts from you that I have read I clearly see that you learned how to love yourself and that for me is really amazing and beautiful.

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Jody - Fit at 53 August 10, 2011 at 7:38 am

Charlotte, that last pic says it all BUT reading your befores & what you have learned says a lot too! BUT this says it all: my real success story has nothing to do with my weight loss and everything to do with the change inside me and in my abilities.

I love that Charlotte!

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Kelsey August 10, 2011 at 11:10 am

It’s always wonderful to hear the before and after stories off health and fitness fanatics. It just proves that fitness and a healthy lifestyle can give you everything for a happy life: confidence, health, fun, new friends, and hey, a decent-looking body too :) But you’re right, it’s how it changes you on the inside that counts. My B.F. is that I would refuse to go out with friends for drinks or food because I became obsessed with eating as little and as healthy as possible. My A.F. is that I go out when I can and feel like it, focus on the companionship that goes with it, and enjoy what I do eat and drink, no binging aloowed , though it never really happens now because I’m happy and loved by friends.

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Jodi Ryder August 10, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Love the post. I consider before and after more as states of mind also.
My before was when no matter how sore, sick, tired, burnt out, weak, etc I was I had to exercise first thing in the morning and then a few times after that on most days. I avoided relationships for fear of eating with others. I didn’t do anything but sleep, work and exercise. I wouldn’t even take communion at church for fear of the extra calories ( every time I take communion now I am reminded of my irrational thoughts) Before my life was focused on the pursuit of thinness. But dang it, I looked good and was so disciplined and controlled so it was all worth it – or so my irrational mind convinced me.
My after is loving myself and the person that I am, exercising to achieve goals or maintain health or just to have fun (only sometimes because I’m having a “fat day and feel compelled to”). I have a social life and no longer have to hide the fact that I LOVE ICE CREAM. My after has been a long journey of discovering myself and activities and foods that I really like or dislike and not ones I convinced myself or others I did or didn’t because I felt I should. I now embrace the extra junk in my trunk and think that looks dang good and am grateful for a strong body, strong relationships, a since of who I am and energy to live.
Wow I sound like some sort of optimistic motivational guru or something but finding true health has made the difference; not to say I don’t still struggle with I hate my body and I shouldn’t eat anything ever again days, I’ve just learned how to better deal with those or at least not let them last too long. If you were to see actual pictures of me – no body shots (those make it real obvious) just in my face you can tell the difference in my before and after; times I am obsessed with being “perfect” vs. times I am at peace with myself.

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becca @ bellebottoms August 10, 2011 at 4:12 pm

such a good post! I’d have to say for me, at my skinniest, I may have LOOKED good to some, but if you look at my eyes in those pictures, there is something that seems to be missing…NOw, I may have more meat on my bones, and am now in the healthy ranges for my size, but I also added LIFE back into my eyes…

that’s far greater than skinny legs…:)

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Jenn (GH) August 13, 2011 at 10:32 pm

I love this post.

Yes, I have before and afters and I’m quite proud of them. While the emotional/spiritual/mental benefits FAR outweigh the physical benefits, the photos are a good reminder for the days the inner benefits seem a million miles away. Since, my emotions go up and down (essentially like) the pictures don’t lie and I can be reminded of how far I’ve come and then connect to the “real” benefits. Make sense?

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Rachel August 14, 2011 at 7:23 pm

This is such an awesome post! It is so true that when you are confident and happy it truly radiates out of you. Congratulations to you for all you’ve done :)

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Quigley October 17, 2011 at 7:39 am

Good job! I just started my own fitness website, hope it can be successful like yours!

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Peter October 26, 2011 at 9:08 pm

Love the before and after images. Looking for people to help test a Fitness site I am building to make these before and after images even better. Anyone interested gets a free account for life ;) You can check it out here: https://staging.visf.it There is a bright yellow Feedback tab on the left, should you want to provide your input.

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