Nope, this is not a mistake! You are seeing these photos labelled correctly! Stunned? Yes, the BEFORE photo is what you would typically see as an AFTER photo.
So what's the real difference between the before and after photos, and why am I posting this?
Besides the obvious physique changes, the REAL difference is what you can't physically see just from looking at the photos... which is that I'm a lot more comfortable in my own skin and body in the AFTER photo (i.e., today).
My intention of posting these photos is to inspire those of you who struggle with your body image and/or weight to honor and relax into the beautiful body you have now, regardless of your body's shape and size.
I'm not going to lie... having an amazingly sculpted bikini fitness physique is pretty awesome -- you get compliments, admiration, you can fit into clothes easily, it's a great way to develop/enhance attributes of commitment and dedication, and you witness how food can transform your physique, you inspire others along the way and you learn a lot about yourself and pushing your limits physically and mentally.
As there are many positive aspects to having a bikini body, it can equally come with a lot of costs: undesirable thoughts, feelings and behaviors, especially if the positive attributes become extreme.
Here's a timeline of my changing body throughout the past four and a half years:
After chronic dieting over the past years, in 2008, I pushed my to another level by entering a figure bodybuilding competition.
Although I was able to maintain my "dream" physique, it came with such a price. A price of constant underlying anxiety in my relationship with food. I was constantly focused on food -- what I could and couldn't eat, how would that food affect my physique, being hungry and having to wait until my next meal time to eat, oh no I ate chocolate, I have to work out harder tomorrow -- and a constant focus on my body's appearance -- "do I look bloated? Is my stomach poking out too much in these pants?" And going to events was a challenge, but I found a way to accommodate my anxiety by packing my own food in a cooler to bring to parties (YES, I did that!) or only sticking to plain ole boring veggies (as much as I do really love veggies, when there's a wonderful and beautiful selection of other kinds of foods, my body would create tension build-up from resisting them).
The most painful part of being in this pattern was developing an unhealthy relationship with food, which I never had any struggles with growing up. Ever since I discovered "dieting" in my early adulthood, I developed periodic binging experiences -- although I would still binge mostly on "healthy" foods (natural peanut butter, nuts, dark chocolate were usually inhaled) -- I was in stuck in a stressful relationship with food. I became afraid of eating certain foods for fear of gaining fat. I had a love-hate relationship with food. Yikes!
I obtained my 2010 physique with a more balanced lifestyle, less anxiety around food, and being more gentle with myself. However, that little voice saying "Control yourself" still came up sometimes.
In early 2011, I went to my first naturopath appointment to get my hormones balanced so that we could start a family! I learned so much more about a true holistic health approach to the body from within -- I truly developed a deeper understanding about how beautiful and amazing our bodies really are -- more than just surface appearance!
I enjoyed my pregnancy and all my worries and anxieties around food disappeared, because my focus was now optimal health for mommy and baby. I ate whatever I felt like (most of my choices were still what society would consider "healthy," but I definitely discovered unlimited carbs (bread) and cheese. I was blessed with an uneventful pregnancy and worked out at the gym (of course at a significantly less intense level). I gained about 55lbs, and was absolutely fine with this. What use to be my most self-conscious part of me, I grew to loved and embraced as it grew bigger and bigger.
Post pregnancy, I was on a mission to lose the babyweight and get back to my prebaby weight. I joined a gym weight loss challenge, and was able to get back down to my target weight by the time my son was about six or seven months.
However, I realize that emotionally, I have shifted so much in how I view my body. Yes, I still have moments of self-consciousness but as I continue to embrace and love my new body and appreciate how AMAZING it is -- I made a baby with it, my body nourishes my healthy and happy son, AND it's still as athletically fit as ever even if I'm not the most "fit looking."
I am now truly in a loving, healthy and empowered relationship with food. I am no longer controlled by or fear food, and I no longer fear gaining weight. There's this notion in our society about having to be back at your prebaby body weight and size -- but I now realize that this is just another way that society is resistant to change, and very dishonoring of the fact that our bodies change. Who says we have to go back to our prebaby weight? Wow, that was a big a-ha moment for me!
I feel like I've not only deepened my relationship with food, but also my relationship with myself, and with my life -- and although it did take a while to get here, I do not regret anything about my journey. I am so glad I went through what I went through, each obstacle/challenge brought me here, and there was a bigger lesson in all this -- that in the big scheme of things, what really matters is not having a "perfect/ideal" body, but that when I am happy in my relationship with food, with self, with life -- I am able to feel at peace and share my own gifts with others from a deeper level.
No longer am I spending my thoughts, emotions and energy in a stressful relationship with food, and I cannot express in words how truly FREEING this is! Today, I eat what nourishes my body, my heart, and my soul -- and that includes daily dosages of peanut butter and chocolate.
Rosalyn Fung writes a blog at rosalynfungholisticpsychology.wordpress.com