59. Photographic Evidence

59. Photographic Evidence

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You

Photographic Evidence

Always be a first-rate version of yourself,
instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.
 ~Judy Garland

Photos can be powerful. Most people can probably relate to seeing a photo of themselves they hated. The absolute worst are those photos that make us look fat. I have one particular fat photo of myself that I’ve kept around for a laugh, but it wasn’t funny the first time I saw it. I was in college and, sure enough, I’d gained “the freshman fifteen.” Only in my case it was probably a bit more than that. The photo proved it. Thus began my yo-yo dieting cycle. I was terribly unhealthy. I’d skip meals or only eat salad until I went insane, then I’d have three desserts for dinner in the school cafeteria. I managed to get my weight down enough to return my borrowed clothes, but I continued doing the yo-yo thing through my senior year.

In spring of that year, I met the man who would become my husband: Chris. My weight was pretty good due to my hectic senior schedule, although I still worried about my looks. Chris, on the other hand, didn’t seem to see it. In fact, after a few weeks of dating, he insisted on taking my portrait. He was quite the photographer, so he took more than just a shot or two to show me off. He took a whole roll of film—36 pictures of me surrounded by spring blossoms in his parents’ backyard. Clearly, Chris thought I was beautiful. I’d never been too sure about that.

They turned out to be powerful photos. After we’d tossed the ones with my eyes closed and with funny expressions on my face, there were some pictures of a beautiful young woman: me! While I didn’t connect the dots at the time, I’m sure that those images are what led to the healthiest decision I’ve ever made: no more diets! I made a vow after graduating from college that I’d never “diet” again. I would focus on trying to make healthy choices without denying myself. If I wanted a piece of chocolate, I could have one—no guilt allowed! I also started to exercise more, and gradually I thought of myself as beautiful, just like Chris did, just like those photos proved.

All of this was a long time ago, but I’ve had cause to think about it recently. You see, Chris and I have two beautiful teenage daughters, and the older one has struggled with her weight for a long time. At the start of her junior year in high school, she was 5’8” and 180 pounds. Sadly, she felt fat. But she had an hourglass figure and a lovely face. So I encouraged her to enter a contest for plus-sized models. We had so much fun dressing up and taking her pictures! Like my first photo session with Chris, we took way more photos than we’d ever need. And it worked: just like when I saw those spring photos of me, my daughter was amazed at the photos we took of her. She was more than just beautiful—she was stunning! She didn’t look fat at all. With the right clothes and the right light she looked like a movie star.

As it turned out, she didn’t win the modeling contest because our faxed form didn’t go through. But something even better happened. She had photographic evidence that she was a beautiful girl. With that proof, she didn’t have to diet any more. Without the guilt and the shame, she didn’t feel as hungry as she used to. Lo and behold, at her next doctor’s visit, she had lost almost 15 pounds!

I now know that using a “fat photo” as motivation is the wrong way to go about it. To successfully lose weight you have to love yourself, just the way you are. So, use the best, most flattering picture of yourself as your motivation. After all, everybody knows a photo is worth a thousand words. But I now know that, sometimes, it can be worth a thousand calories, too.

~Annie Kuhn

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