Weight is Just a Number — Proof in Pictures

The best part of dramatic weight loss is seeing the before and after shots, right? I love to check out fellow bloggers’ About pages to see the stunning photographic proof. And every time I get frustrated about a setback or need a reminder of how far I’ve come, I look back through my own pre-weight loss shots in 2006 and 2007 and compare them to more recent shots.

BeforeandAfter

But I have a secret to share…I hope you won’t think of me as a fraud. I tell everyone I lost 40 pounds, and it’s true. I did it by following the Weight Watchers program, and slowly watched the scale document my journey over the course of more than 12 months. I got to my goal weight and felt amazing. I wore the size of my dreams, felt “skinny” and never thought I’d be happy if I gained even 5 pounds back.

Then I tried running — and was shocked at how skinny fat I really was. I was not fit, particularly healthy or proud. I set new goals that had nothing to do with weight loss or maintenance. Running, cycling, lifting weights…they led to triathlons and half marathons.

And they led to weight gain. The weight came from trading fat-free coffee creamer for soy milk, using whole grain bread instead of lettuce for sandwiches and totally swearing off “diet” foods. I got healthy. And I got heavier. About 15 pounds heavier. That 40 pound weight loss that I tell people about, in honesty, has crept up to only 25 pounds of loss.

But guess what? Weight really is just a number. My weight has leveled off to something I’m pretty happy with. Sure, I would like to lose 5-8 pounds, but not at the expense of my new happy and healthy body. And if you don’t believe that the scale does NOT give you a measure of self-worth, check this out.

Exhibit A: In this before/after shot, I’m the same weight on the scale. On the left is a picture from my 2006 bachelorette party in Las Vegas. I was working an overnight shift, eating peanut butter and Pringles sandwiches and sleeping 5 hours a night. On the right, a picture from my 30th birthday in 2010. Look at the difference in my face!

Faces

Exhibit B: Again, I’m the same weight (give or take 2-3 pounds) here — but I look totally different. On the left, the week of my college graduation in 2002. I was cramming for finals, job hunting, wondering if my relationship would last (it did) and stressing about money. Eating, not sleeping, not working out. On the right, a shot of me just before starting my very first 5K in 2009. Same weight. Different posture. Different outlook.

Graduationand5K

Exhibit C: Same weight, same pose…different girl. On the left, a picture of me as bridesmaid in my friend’s 2006 wedding. On the right, one of the pictures I took a few weeks before completing my WW program.

PinkShirts

Exhibit D: Same weight. Me at my wedding; me after a long bike ride. One of the things I regret most about my wedding is that I didn’t take more time for myself, taking care of my body. Not so that I could look good in pictures — but so that I felt good about myself when looking back. I loved my wedding and love my marriage, but wedding planning was pretty rough.

WeddingandBiking

You be the judge. Which girl would you rather be? Remember — when I step on the scale today, I’m the same weight that I was in each of the before pictures (except the one at the very top — there, I’m about 25 pounds heavier than I am in the after shots).

Now, tell me how YOU define yourself. Are you just your weight? Or are you something more?

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Comments

  1. says

    I LOVE this post!!!! It really hammers home the point that weight means nothing and you’ve reminded me of why, last spring, I literally threw OUT my scale (well, my boyfriend threw it into the recycling bin). I’m now losing weight and getting fit until I feel I’m at my happy weight, not at what the scale tells me. I’ve never been fit OR thin as an adult so how would I know if the weight I chose as my goal weight is right for me? Now I go by how I feel!

    Way to go, you look fantastic!

  2. says

    What an awesome post! It really highlights that being “skinny” doesn’t make you healthy – and I think that’s a trap that a lot of women (and men) fall into. I’d rather weight more and truly be healthy than simply weigh a certain amount or fit in a certain size clothes.

    I am currently losing weight, and have a goal weight, that goal weight is based on a healthy weight for an active lifestyle…15lbs higher than it would have been if I was just going by the number or my size.

  3. says

    This was a great post and so spot on! It’s a good reminder too because we all have days that we don’t feel at our best. But weight really is just a number and numbers shouldn’t define us.

  4. says

    Brilliant! I’m such a visual person, and those images really hit home. Intellectually, I KNOW it’s not about the number on the scale, but those pics really do prove it.

    Lots to think about…

  5. says

    Katy this is EXACTLY what I needed to hear today. I’ve lost 135 pounds on Weight Watchers – except that I gained back 45 after moving in with my fiance and running my first marathon…Ooops. Now I’m getting married in 11 days (EEEE!!!) and basically just went into survival mode instead of losing mode. Except – survival mode was kind of living mode. I ate healthy. I lived. I went to dinners with friends, made walking dates with others. I didn’t work out as much as I wanted, but, I’m still 90 pounds lighter than 5 years ago. And I’m getting married! The scale is just a number. It doesn’t define me or my happiness. But sometimes, it’s nice to have someone else remind you of that. So thanks!!

    • says

      135 pounds??? EGADS, woman — you are amazing!

      Congratulations on the wedding. I hope you enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience, and keep telling yourself that the scale does NOT define your happiness.

      You have to come back and share pictures after the big day!

  6. says

    I struggle with this because I had sooo much to lose. I love where I am now and I’m happy with my body. I’m not skinny but I’m fit and I CAN run or swim and hike and bike. I don’t get tired or out of breath. I’m okay with that because I’d rather be able to run something like Hood to Coast than be skinny.

  7. says

    As always, your posts make me very happy say that I know you. You are an amazing person! What a way to put skinny fat and healthy into perspective. Thank you for these posts Katy!!

  8. says

    You look FABULOUS! and I totally agree. I’m up from my lowest but healthier and happy because it of. It’s really about outlook and lust for life.. your happy healthy body will follow suite and the number on the scale will just be a number on the scale.

  9. says

    I came here via MizFit’s twitter feed – boy did I need to see this post! I’ve lost 110 pounds, started running (am training for my first half marathon) and the damn scale is going up, even though I’m eating really, really healthy foods. I’m at the point of chucking the thing, not just back into my closet, but out to the trash can. How I can feel so good about myself after a long run and then the next day step on the scale and be completely deflated is just not right. Love your before and after pictures – your truly are the “picture” of health in the afters!

    • says

      Shelley — welcome! Isn’t MizFit the best?

      I say chuck it. I promise (from experience!) that the LAST think you’ll think about when you’re crossing the finish line is your weight. So come back when you’re done and let me know how the half mary went!

  10. says

    This is a great post! I agree with you 100%. I had tired every diet under the sun for years. Now that I focused on getting healthy. I am so much happier and look a whole lot better. Gone are the fat free creamers and fat free chips and I love eating real food. Food that fuels my body to result in great races and lots of energy! :)

    • says

      Thanks, Ali! It really did come down to one question…did I care about how I felt on the scale, or crossing the finish line at a race? Once I answered that, I knew it was more important to fuel my body than worry about starving it.

  11. MaryBe says

    Love this post! You look so much happier in the ‘after’ photos! And I agree, people need to stop eating lettuce sandwiches and start eating real food. My scale (and the one at my WW meeting) didn’t budge until I gave up the fake, processed crap

  12. says

    Hey girl,

    Okay, honestly I read your blog a LOT more than I comment. Mostly because I’ll read via my iPhone and I’ll be too lazy to comment, etc. You have always inspired me for this EXACT reason of this post. In fact, I’ve been waiting for you to say something about this very topic.

    I too, look a LOT different from pictures back in 2007-2008 and what’s funny, is that I haven’t lost a ton of “weight.” People tell me I have… and I just laugh because it’s been around a 5-10 lb difference :-) It’s absolutely amazing. This is real life right here. This post is what health is about. Thank you for posting this! I may do the same :-D

    • says

      I love my lurkers! Especially when they de-lurk :)

      “You have always inspired me…” I’m keeping that quote from your comment fresh in my mind for the next time I’m feeling down. Thank you!

  13. says

    perfectly written and perfectly documented :) for so long i was only defined by my weight, and it wasn’t until the past year that i really started to KNOW that i was more than my weight, more than a number on a pair of jeans, and not just more but SIGNIFICANTLY more!

    • says

      Heather,

      Great comment…especially the number on the jeans. I’m tempted to start cutting out the tag as soon as I buy something, and wear it without worrying!

  14. says

    You look amazing!! Yes the number does not define you or how you look! It comes down to taking care of yourself and being healthy and fit at any weight. Love this post!

  15. says

    Everyone has said pretty much exactly what I’m thinking! It goes to show when you take care of yourself and eat well, sure weight might creep up a bit, but happiness and health really shine through. Love it and love your extensions. ;)

  16. says

    This is a fantastic post. My lowest weight was at my wedding but I was miserable (not about the wedding). I was eating only diet foods and in lots of pain with a back injury. I was desperately trying to get to my WW goal of 155. Actually after surgery I was even a bit lower and miserable because I couldn’t eat or move (surgery required rehab).

    I worked and worked and worked to get to that magic number but it never happened. In fact as started running and training to prevent more surgery my weight leveled off 10 pounds above my goal. At first I was ticked and then I realized I was happy as me at that weight. I decided to make it my happy weight. That is where I want to be not so magic number that someone else decided.

  17. says

    I love your message in this post! I am still working on looking past the numbers on the scale and looking more at the person in the mirror. You have a great blog! I’m excited to read more!

  18. says

    Great post! How wonderful. I know i definitely need to lose weigh to be healthy. In the process, i’m trying to figure myself out and find my “happy weight” where i’ll be happy and okay with myself :)

  19. says

    Yeah, I think if I got down to what the charts tell me, I’d look pretty bad.

    I’ve lost as much as 40 pounds in the past. It’s all pretty much back now. But it’s because I went on a diet and did not create a lifestyle change. So I know what I need to do and am starting slowly to get into it.

    Cardio is my definite excercise of choice. But as I, ahem, mature…I should probably get with a fitness instructor and do some weight training as well. At that point, I won’t worry what my weight is if I’m putting it back on via the ways you mention above and by trading fat for muscle — which weighs more.

    Great post Katy. Thanks for tipping me off via Twitter!

    • says

      Kevin,

      Thanks for stopping by — and for a great (albeit brief) discussion about Twitter. On Twitter. :)

      The lifestyle change may seem trite, but it really is the key. When I thought about eating real foods and moving more, rather than relying on diet foods (and working out as punishment for overindulging), the weight came off and I felt much happier and healthier.

  20. says

    I love this post! You get at what a lot of women need to see and hear/read! Of course, not getting consumed by a scale can be a challenge, but I love that you you showed those pictures! It’s not about the weight at all, but rather about how you have taken care of your body! Thanks for this post!
    ~Allison
    Fit&Fab Living

  21. says

    I love this post! It makes me feel really bad. Not in a depressed way, but in the way that opens your eyes and your mind. I had gotten my weight down to 122 lbs. working out and eating clean, but my BF (yes, this is my big thing and I complain about it a lot!) is still high. Now, I’ve crept up about 5 lbs. It’s all fat! I know it because I can see it in my chest and arms. I wouldn’t mind the extra 5 lbs. if I could just get that BF number to come down! The reason this post makes me feel badly is because I have just been worrying over the NUMBER on the scale. I’m working on cleaning up my diet more and not splurging on the weekends as much. I’m off of weight training this week because of muscle spasms, but am back on track starting next week! I’m feeling better and PT is helping.

    I want to stay focused on building strength and muscle and cleaning up my diet more. If the 5 lbs. stay, so be it, as long as that stupid BF number starts to move!

  22. kim says

    I can’t tell you how much I love this post. You are the best :) Keep up the good work and the great attitude. hugs, auntie kim

  23. Megan says

    I lurk around fitness blogs… and I’m coming out of hiding to say this is one of the best posts on the effects of fitness on the body. Remarkable differences in all the pictures. Not only do you look fit and happy in all the “afters”… you looks years younger.

  24. says

    I really appreciate this post Katy. I’m in that boat right now. I’m currently losing weight, but my main goal is to be fit, not skinny. Thoughts about it have been rolling around in my head. Losing weight is awesome, you feel empowered, but at the same time, it doesnt make your stronger. I want to feel strong. I agree with your term “skinny fat”, a lot of people can be skinny, but not necessarily healthy or fit. I want to continue to strive for fit and healthy, not just skinny. Thanks for sharing your pictures and your thoughts :)

  25. says

    I just stumbled upon your blog and read this post – so inspiring!! I struggle so much with the number on the scale even though I feel healthy and fit. With my body type I tend to gain muscle really easily, which also means my weight is heavier than most women my size. It’s just so frustrating to calculate out my bmi and see that’s I’m “overweight” for my height – giving me the perception that a size 6 is bigger than I should be! It’s great to read about how the numbers don’t equate to how we feel inside. Thanks again!

    • says

      Lindsey — I’m glad you stumbled :)

      Great comment…BMI is really tricky. I promise you, I’m a happier and MUCH healthier now than I was 4 years ago, even though the scale is the same.

  26. Samantha says

    LOVE this post, because it’s me. You made me realize that I don’t have to feel bad about the# on the scale. I know I look and feel completely different from yrs past. Thank you!

  27. Samantha says

    LOVE this post, because it’s me. You made me realize that I don’t have to feel bad about the# on the scale. I know I look and feel completely different from yrs past. Thank you!

  28. says

    This is an amazing post! I recently wrote a list of how losing weight won’t fix anyone’s life, but some people still insisted that focusing on weight was helpful for them (well, to each their own) but this is more evidence that weight is just a NUMBER and numbers don’t tell you anything. FEELINGS do. :)

  29. says

    I found your blog this morning and I’m so glad that I did!

    I really needed this post today

    I love it!

    Oh, and you look fab! Healthy and fab!

  30. says

    Wow, I know I’m months behind on this but awesome post!

    It totally hits home because despite making major changes to my lifestyle through fitness and better eating over the past two years, my weight has not changed. It was frustrating and some times I just wanted to give up because what’s so great about running six miles before breakfast if I’m still a stinkin’ 150lbs. Who cares! I focus more (or try to, we all have those days) on making good choices and pushing myself towards new goals instead of new scale readings.

    I’m new reader but am moving you up my favorite’s list very quickly!

  31. says

    This is an awesome post. It seems like you are in the midst of the journey I’ve just started. My blog has been focussing primarily on healthy food and recipes, but I definitely want to incorporate my befores and afters (looks, the way I feel, the way my life has changed) as time goes by. Congratulations on all the self-discovery. You have done great!!

  32. says

    When i really started working out, I started running and lifting and ended up about 5-10 lbs heavier than my “usual” “skinny” weight, but it looked COMPLETELY better on me! I went down in clothes size and everything! It’s not the weight, but how it’s distributed in your body along with the whole body fat versus muscle. Oh, and most importantly, obviously, your happiness and acceptance of your own body.

  33. says

    I love seeing blogs like this one. After years of struggling with my weight, I finally shed 140 lbs by eating clean and running. I look back at my wedding pictures, and I think the same way you did–why didn’t I take better care of myself then so I could have gotten way more out of that day. My life has changed so much for the better.

    I had one of my work-studies tell me that in the past year, he could tell that I went from being “a fat guy who had lost some weight” to “a skinny guy.” That made me realize that all the running and mileage and everything was worth it. I had transformed like I saw in my mind.

    • says

      B.J.,

      Thank you SO much — that’s an amazing loss and I’m so, so glad that you’ve been able to find a way to get healthy and happy. It’s funny that you share the story about your work-study. I never really notice losses of 5 or 8 pounds in my body, but everyone else does, especially in my face. It’s validation that my hard work makes a difference!

  34. says

    It’s like you read my mind, and knew that I needed to read this today! I’m so constantly focused on the weight the scale tells me I think that I’m hampered by it, and I don’t feel ‘successful’ despite being happy.
    You are such a wonderful person and I loved this post (I also loved meeting you at Blogfest!)

  35. Kristen M says

    I enjoyed this post. Yesterday I took time to record my body measurements. I’m going to begin marathon training next month (my first). I’m aware that I will likely have weight gain and I want to be able to compare my body changes rather than the number on a scale. Sounds like a before and after pic is called for too!

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