The Harsh Truth of the Camera Eye

I have never been into exercise. Lack of physical fitness was pretty much my Achilles heel through four years of West Point and on, into my time in the Army. I never did sports in high school, aside from the basic requirements in mandatory P.E. class. The emphasis in my house was always on studying and good grades, not so much on making the cut to play on a team.

I ate what I wanted without any concern about how those calories would manifest themselves as body fat. At West Point, I worked out, and continued not thinking about what I ate. It just didn’t occur to me. I didn’t have any “problem areas.” I wasn’t thin, and I don’t have the body to be naturally thin, but I was never fat either.

Have you ever seen a picture of yourself and thought, “wait a minute, that’s how I look to the rest of the world?” It’s a tough moment, isn’t it? It’s not at all like looking into the mirror. When you’ve gained weight, you tell yourself that your clothes just shrunk in the wash, or it’s a bloated day for you, and you can convince yourself that everything’s okay. Until you see the photo.

The camera doesn’t lie. I wish it did, and there are tricks you can do to position yourself to create the right illusion, but these are not the honest photos. The honest ones are the candids, taken in a split second, when you’re caught off guard and not quick enough to angle yourself into a flattering pose. They might even look okay in the small display of the digital camera, but when you plug in the camera to upload onto the computer, the big screen reveals the truth. My moment of truth came from a photo of me in the cockpit of an airbus, a photo op offered by a dreamy pilot. I’m smiling, but all I see is an arm. I know, big deal, right? To be fair, it is the closest thing to the camera in the shot, so it looks even larger, but on me, the arms and upper body in general are the last to gain. Once those go, you know you’ve lost the battle. So there I was. My arms and I. There are many variations of this, depending on where you carry your weight. The chin and I. Gut, butt, and me. And so you sit there, in horror at what you’ve become and what it took to get there.

“Oh, my.” You think. “Wow.” And finally, “I need to lose weight.”

The days of eating anything I want without consequence are long gone. I put my gym membership back to use. That’s right, every month I am paying for a gym membership and not using it. I’m one of those. Even worse, the gym is only half a mile from my house. They have a dress code and it’s family oriented. This isn’t a meat market Gold’s Gym where people hang around the equipment sucking in their abs and flirting. It’s a for real, for real gym. They have a pool. A full basketball court. Racquetball courts. Two separate areas with cardiovascular machines. Free weights and weight machines. A spinning room. A sauna, steam room, a hot tub and did I mention the sauna? They even have classes that you can attend through your membership. I’m paying for the upkeep of all this stuff and not using any of it. For shame!

So I went back to the gym. I bought a swim cap from Target and pulled out my speedo so it at least looked like I was serious. I got into the pool and did several laps of my specialties—the sidestroke, the breast stroke and a modified backstroke. Notice something here? All of these swimming methods can be done without submerging your head under the water. I don’t got rhythm, and therefore doing something like a freestyle stroke would likely end with me choking on water from breathing in when I should have been exhaling. The nice thing about this gym is that no one really cares. Most of the people are as skilled in the water as I am, and the “deep” end is only five feet of water anyway.

The other thing I did was buy, “30 day shred” on Amazon. I am not a Jillian fan. I spent almost a month just looking at the DVD in its wrapper. I have rolled my eyes at Jillian’s tough girl act many times while watching “The Biggest Loser.” I will overlook my annoyance if it means losing weight though. Last week I opened the DVD and started on the level 1 workout.

My husband asks how much I weigh. Numbers are a powerful tool to keep him on track, but I just get discouraged. “I just want to wear a bikini again,” I said, dodging the question. Then, later, I stepped onto the scale.

The scale is another thing that doesn’t lie. Aside from when I was carrying a whole separate human being, I have never weighed as much as what I saw on the scale’s display. Oh my.

I worked out a bunch of times last week. I know this is a little brag, but I am trying not to be righteous about this. Just two weeks ago I was an non-exercising fool. One week does not make you into a workout guru. One week does not give you the right to look down your nose at anyone else not doing as you’re doing. One week of solid workouts means there’s still plenty of room for you to fall off the exercise wagon. For now I’ll shut my mouth and keep at it. Yes, I'm doing it for health, but let's not kid ourselves, vanity is involved too. You don't want to run into someone who knew you way back when and have them come to the realization that you've become the person who has let herself go. You don't want people talking about you, shaking their heads and saying "What happened?"

Later this summer I will weigh myself, do my workouts and hopefully wear a bikini again. Hopefully the “Oh my’s” that result will be the positive kind.

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