Have you ever felt that before and after pictures are inspiring and totally misleading at the same time? Three years ago, when I started to recognize that my couch potato ways were weighing on me (quite literally) and leading to carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches, lethargy and a poor body image- I set out to change my ways. As I started running, I envisioned that I would be some super sexy before and after photo. I started running in the summer, and I remember many a humid afternoons that felt like I was running through a sauna, but my eye was on the prize: a sexy before and after photo.
Yup. That was me…for a really, really long time.
I have always carried my weight in my belly area. My legs and arms are trim, and any weight I gain goes right to the tummy…not the tush, not the thighs, the belly. I looked in the mirror that first day when I laced up my sneakers, and I could just picture that I would be eventually transformed and that gut of mine would be gone. Except, that it didn’t happen.
In fact, I repeated this same routine- hopping back on the fitness treadmill, going out for a hard mile, envisioning that I would shave off the tummy pudge of winter and have a tum that would be bikini ready by summer. It was a compelling image after all- imagining myself posting some powerful and inspiring before and after photo, showing that I’d truly recovered as a couch potato, I was cured and my lean stomach could prove it!
Year after year, I experienced false starts and it was totally deflating (almost as deflated as my middle section). As I get older, I have had an epiphany- fitness is not a straight line, and it’s not summed up in a before and after picture.
The power of the before and after picture seems to simplify the process- make it seem so linear, so a-to-b that we don’t seem to see the winding road that brought people from a place of struggle to a place of triumph- except that even in moments of triumph, there is still struggle and nobody is ever really “done.”
After nearly 4 years and several false starts to get healthy, I am finally in the best shape of my life- but I still don’t belong on the cover of Women’s Running Magazine. Being fit, or at least, fit-er than I was before, doesn’t really look like I thought it would, but it feels nicer than I thought it would!
Yep, this is my “beach body.” It’s not perfect, but it’s mine.
I am far, far, far away from that picture in my head of “after,” but I realized that in chasing that mirage, I was sabotaging my success. Simply finding the joy in being able to touch my toes (which I couldn’t do 4 years ago after a bike accident as a kid that left me in a wheelchair), being able to run a 5k without stopping to walk, and being able to wear a bikini without wanting to hide in shame (albeit, I have no “beach body” but I’m confident and more comfortable in my skin than I have been since adulthood).
Your “after” may not look like you thought it would, and you may have to try several times to get there. To find your healthy, you may have to start over a few times. Your before to your after may be more of a long, winding road instead of a 30 day linear progression that they highlight on the success stories, but it’s your road to travel, and it’s your journey.
Your healthy may not look like the stereotype in your head. You may not be gym junkie who can fit in cardio and yoga 4-5 days a week, if you can only squeeze in 1-2 days a week just to establish a baseline habit like I had to, that’s okay. You also don’t have to drink nothing but protein shakes and sport Lululemon on your way to the organic section to be healthy- but healthy could be starting to take your vitamins everyday and swapping out your junk food for healthier snacks like dried fruit. The people who seem to have it all figured out, didn’t get there all at once, nor did any two people do it the same way. If all you can squeeze in this week is one 30 minute yoga session with a DVD at home, or remember to wear your sunscreen every day as summer rolls around, that’s where you need to start. If you fall off the wagon, get back on. Finding your healthy is a constant search, a gradual adjustment and a journey all your own.
When I started four years ago, I could touch my toes and I couldn’t run a mile without stopping. I started and stopped several times. I still don’t have washboard abs or live in designer yoga pants, but my “healthy” looks just fine to me, and my progress continues. Whatever healthy looks like to you, don’t stop looking until you find it.
This summer, I’m partnering up with CVS for a healthier summer and their #FindYourHealthy campaign. I want you to be able to #FindYourHealthy– whether that means simply remembering to take your vitamins, or packing your sunscreen, or if you’re going to go for that 5k, it’s time to get healthy!
Disclosure: I’m proud to partner with CVS/pharmacy for the #FindYourHealthy campaign. I am being sponsored by CVS/pharmacy for my posts and activities, but all opinions expressed are my own, and all product claims or program details shared should be verified at CVS.com or with the appropriate manufacturers.