Now and Then: Why I’ll never be an “After,” and don’t want to be your Fitspo

So I said it before. I’m not big on being an after. I don’t dig before and after photos. I don’t feel super-comfortable with the whole idea. But, as I also said before, if it’ll help or inspire anyone, I’ll share my story and maybe a few pictures. Wondering what I’m talking about? CatIMG_4050ch up with nutrition posts 1 and 2.

I promised you a part 3, and I guess this would be it. Let’s start with the photos. I strategically chose the photos to share and they’re not before and after photos in the traditional sense. I prefer to refer to them as “Now and Then.” To me, the idea of being a “Before and After” implies that there was something wrong, I changed it, I’m done, and now I’m better.

I don’t really think I’ll ever be “donIMG_4049e,” I’m still human, I still struggle, and I’ll never fully feel like I arrived. But, I have reached the weight goal I set for myself (with the help of my coach), which is worth celebrating, although I still don’t feel the process is over. Also, I don’t feel like there was something wrong with me in the “Before” or “Then” situation. I was happy, I liked who I was, and I still think that person was an awesome Hilary. I just decided to make some changes to enable me to perform better at the sport I love (like I’ve said in previous posts, appearanIMG_4051ce and aesthetics are great, and I do love how I look now, but that wasn’t my main goal).

So let’s talk about the 3 groups of photos. For context, I started CrossFit at the end of September 2013. I started really dialing in nutrition in November 2014. It’s now July 2015 (thanks for that last one Captain Obvious).

First group of photos: September 2013, December 2013. At this point, I was just starting CrossFit and only went twice a week, running on other days. These would be what I’m calling “Then.” At this point, I had just moved and was adjusting to life in a new city. I may have been packing on some extra pounds, but was enjoying life and was happier than I had been in a while, so my weight wasn’t really a focus. I might not have 100% loved how I looked, but I was more confident in who I was as a person than I had been even when I was younger and “skinnier.”

Second group of photos: “Now.” First 2 photos are on a family vacation a week ago (post on vacation WODs to come!), third photo is the Olympic Lifting comp I did back in May. Here’s why I love these photos. Yes, if I do say so myself, I look pretty darn good. And, if I’m being honest with myself, since doing CrossFit and gaining muscle, even before losing some weight, this is the first time in my life I’ve ever looked in the mirror and truly been happy with what I saw. Not only am I “skinny” (although I hate that word and all the connotations that come with it, people tell me I am) but I am also strong. I love having noticeable muscles, and I’m proud of them (I may or may not flex in the mirror on a semi-regular basis).

But beyond aesthetics, I love what those pictures represent. In the first two, I’m on vacation, doing active things (handstands and stand up paddleboarding) because I want to. Not because I have to, or “need to fit in a workout.” In case you haven’t been around here that long, that was never me. I was never athletic, hated sports, and always saw exercise as an obligation. But on vacation, I went stand up paddleboarding every day, for significant stretches (45 minutes +), and not only enjoyed it, but was good at it (you don’t always notice, but it takes a ton or core strength/stability). Two years ago I tried SUP-ing and could barely stand up.

And the third picture is me Oly lifting. Again, a physical activity, sport that I love and was doing for fun. Sometimes I see myself doing the things I do now and think – who even am I? But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Being “skinny” (again, hate that word) is great, being strong is awesome, but more awesome still is being a girl who’s not afraid to try new things, and is confident, capable, and comfortable in her own skin.

Third group of pictures: February 2014 (ish) and June 2015. CrossFitting in both. Loving it in both. The second picture just shows that when you work your butt off in the gym, plus factor in a focus on nutrition, well, let’s just say it makes a difference.

So I think that covers why I don’t want you to see me as an “after.” Although I’ve reached a goal, I still consider myself a work in progress. And I like the person I was “then.” So you can say I’m happily settling into where I am “now.”

Onto the second part of my title….why don’t I want to be your fitspo? I said at the outset of this post that I’d share my story if I thought it could inspire anyone, so isn’t that sort of contradictory? Let me explain….

First of all, let me say that I dislike the term “fitspo” almost as much as I dislike the word “skinny.” I believe that people can be well-meaning when they use either word, but I have really just come to dislike all the connotation and disordered thinking that comes with both terms. (If you haven’t seen this hilarious buzzfeed post about “When Fitspiration was wrong, so we fixed it,” you really should read it. Dead on).

Second of all, since gaining muscle and losing weight, I’ve received a ton of compliments. People are noticing my hard work, and it’s great. People are telling me I’ve inspired them. Also great (and still weird for me and something that I’m working on accepting. Seeing myself as a fitness/body inspiration still feels somewhat strange for me and I’m still getting used to it). Even though it’s strange, it really is nice to be noticed for working hard at something.

But, I also hear things I don’t like so much. Like “I’ve been inspired by all the weight you lost and I’ve put myself on a diet,” (coming from someone who I would venture a guess weighs less than I ever will and decided to do a 21 day cleanse). Or people confiding in me that they want to look better by a certain time, or they’d just love to lose 20 pounds.

I honestly struggle with how to respond to things like that. In a way, it makes me sad. Sad that people feel like they have to lose x amount of weight to feel good. Sad that looking a certain way has become so many people’s ideal. If weight loss or appearance had been my end goal, I’m not sure I would have made it this far.

My journey is mine alone. Yours might be similar, and I might inspire you, and that’s fantastic. But like I talked about in my first nutrition post, you have to find your why. Being restrictive, strict, and self punishing just isn’t for me. I choose to eat the way that I do because I like myself. I like my body. I like the way that it performs when I eat high-quality, nutrient dense food. That’s my why.

But I also like the way ice cream tastes. And I enjoy going out with family and friends. And on vacation last week, I ate dessert every night. My weight might have gone up a bit (hence why I might not consider myself an after), but that’s ok. I’m happy with who I am and where I am, and although it still might cause me to freak out a little bit on the inside, I also know that I’m strong, and I have the tools to get right back on track.

So your why might be the same as mine. It might be totally different, and that’s fine. Set your goal, work towards it, but please; have a life in the process. It might take longer, but I promise you it’s worth it. You will enjoy a great quality of life and be much more fun to be around. I would be lying if I said I’ve achieved perfect balance, or that I don’t have an inner struggle when I choose to indulge in ice cream or other treats (another reason why I don’t want to be an after). But I’m getting there, one day at a time (just like everything else in CrossFit, and life).

So use me as inspiration if you want. Look at pictures, ask me for questions or help, and I’m all ears. But make your journey your own. Find your own why. Celebrate who you are both now and then. Love yourself every minute of the process.

….and, if you could, let’s stop using the words “skinny” and “fitspo,” shall we?

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