Cue the Billy Holiday song lyric, her plaintive sound, “Why not take all of me?” Can you hear it? Too young to know Billie Holiday? Ok, then. What about Coldplay's “Fix You”?That's the tone and the lyric “I'll try to fix you” ain't bad either. Today's podcast is titled, “Why not take less of me” or updated to today's music, “I'll try to fix myself” because that's what I concluded after looking at hundreds of before and after photos of ladies and gents who have lost weight and post their before and after photos on social media channels. Despite being photos, they all sound to me like plaintive love songs sung by Miss B or Coldplay with a single, haunting refrain, “Why not take less of me?” or “I'll try to fix myself”.
Welcome. This is Pat Coakley and a rebroadcast [a year later] of episode 36 of the weekly edition of www.artofthediet.com.
This is a topic that even a year later is worth reviewing. I am also including the blog post I had written the previous day about Before and After photos that prompted the episode.
It began with an encaustic painting I did about a year ago of a line of ladies. This blog post was April 13, 2016.
I did this encaustic painting last year using a stencil. A standard architectural stencil which is used in drawings of buildings to give them scale. At least, that's what I think an architectural stencil means!
I thought of it today because most of those women are on slim side and average height and for the most part wearing dresses or suits.
I suspect this stencil was created in the 50's and 60's–when I was growing up as a chubbette through some of those years and an average architectural woman wearing I. Magnin (in SF and equivalent of Nordstrom or Neiman Marcus today) suits strolling around plazas to give them scale.
I use the new WW connect feature and it has built into each post a choice to upload a “Before and After” photo where members can upload their before and after photos, which they do in ever increasing iterations of themselves becoming less of themselves, sometimes small changes, sometimes big changes. We are in the age of the selfie so this is not too surprising.
It is one of the few ways I am different than most of the WW membership. Although, I've got the photos, too. But, when I come across them, I'm stopped cold in my tracks. The last impulse I have is to put it up for contrast to today's photo. Why? I think because I don't look at them as two separate people. I look at both photos as if yes, there I am alright. It's not a contrast that is affirming to me, I guess. Which is why posting such photos would not be my thing. I need affirmation just like most folks but this before and after route would not provide it.
Why? I ask myself.
The one on the left is the one that got me to the one on the right and, in fact, they are the same. One has not left the building. Her size 16's have left the building but not the self-esteem issues that came about in those years.
They are still with me and, in fact, are me, even wearing my pencil horizontal striped skirt.
There is an external difference between the one on the left and the right but there's no interior difference.
I know there's a dramatic change. I know it's been so many years now that some folks in my circle have never known me any other size. My 7 year old grand nephew told his mother that I had a salad at lunch, “as usual”.
I laughed. His older siblings remember some other lunch choices!
I am amazed at the amount of people who do want to compare and contrast themselves and subject themselves to this view.
I know they are feeling proud of their loss, I get it. I am, also. But. Sharing the “before” photo with the current photo seems to invites yourself and other folks, well meaning folks, too,– not the internet trolls– to pity that “fat” girl, to turn their eyes away as fast as they can to the new slimmer girl. The amount of scrutiny those who post these photos willingly invite onto themselves is staggering to me.
Folks comment on seeing differences in jawlines, tummy size, arm folds, and neck rolls. They are well intended. They are basically responding to the poster's desire for affirmation, cheering these physical changes on, wanting to encourage the poster to keep going.
I can't get past the universal response to these before and after photos. There is only one. The instant response to the “before and after” photo is to say “OMG! as if that person on the left is so deformed and the person on the right is so “beautiful” and well, non-deformed.
There's something about this “before and after” photo juxtaposition that seems to perpetuate the cruelties that overweight women are subject to–not the least of which, is our own censure and self-loathing.
It seems to me that the rollercoaster cycle of gaining/losing/regaining/ re-losing could be discussed within this “before and after” framework as well.
The “after” for many of us (and me, too, until 2009) was never enough to keep me in ‘after-land'. No amount of compliments or cheerleaders. No new wardrobe. No new social possibilities. Nothing really seemed to penetrate very deeply. There was almost a void layer that separated these physical changes from my inner core.
One of my theories is that if I could have had a little bit more respect for myself at my larger sizes, I might have more respect for myself at a reduced size.
I don't think we do ourselves any favor by clinging to that “after” photo as evidence of anything other than a physical change we work hard to achieve. Yes, it's dramatic. But, is there an interior change? This is what interests me. Am I a better person by being “less” of me? Am I kinder to myself and others? Do others love me more at size 8? And, if they do, do I love them less?
No less than the estimable “Eat Pray Love” Elizabeth Gilbert says she “I am a better person when there is less on my plate.” Really? A ‘better; person?
“I am a better person when I have less on my plate.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert,
Me? Not so much a better person but a healthier one, for sure.
I look at the larger version of me and see someone judged harshly by others and, perhaps by no one more harshly than myself. I knew it was excessive, out of proportion to all the other talents and flaws I had at the time, just as I know it's wrong now to look at that girl/woman on the right side and be waving a pompom. It's all exaggerated to what it really is.
We are healthier. Yes.
One green leafed pom pom for that.
Are we so much more of a beautiful person because our jawline is visible?
To feel sorry for the one on the left and celebrate the one on the right is the culture we are in. I wonder if the amount of selfies posted today on social media by celebrities, regular folks, teens, is not the true black hole of this physical beauty obsession. There simply is a bottomless pit need to be called beautiful. One hit a day isn't enough, you need multiples. It actually feels to me to be more like insecurity postings, spiraling anxiety and a need for instant affirmation that drives these posts.
The “Oh, you look beautiful!” comment by others in response is almost as personal as an emoji in my world.
My photo girl on the left got me through alot of life, and stuff in life. I managed to make some folks' lives a bit happier and easier along the way on my good days and drove folks and myself batty on other days.
Some things don't change whatever size I am.
I wonder if we all could have a bit more respect, perspective and love for our talents and gifts as well as our flaws at larger sizes that, if and when, we get to that smaller size, we'd have a stronger chance of remaining there than statistics currently suggest.
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