Growing up heavy (okay, fat), I quickly learned the best way to pose for pictures. After all, I knew I was very large, but on some weird level, I must have thought I could hide it (or at the very least minimize it) by positioning myself behind people, furniture or walls whenever a camera was aimed at me.
I'm not sure what, exactly, I thought I was hiding. In retrospect, I guess I was actually hiding from myself. After all, I wasn't being honest with myself in regard to the amount of food (and therefore calories) I was consuming at the time. So why would I be honest with myself about my actual girth?
But there's something about my "before" photographs (taken when I was at my heaviest) that I find even more fascinating than my size 60-inch waist. Look closely at the shot above and you'll see I had a "perm" in my hair. (And no, I didn't lose a bet—this is a perm I not only paid for, but wanted.) And it's this perm from my past that makes me laugh hysterically and cry tears of joy at the same time.
Before going public about my weight battle with my latest book and here on Psychology Today, I would only show my "before pictures" to a precious few. And if I would trot them out, I'd quickly point out the perm in my hair, noting that I was more embarrassed about getting a perm than I was about having man boobs that would fit into many of my girlfriends' bras (and yes, we tried once or twice).
But looking back on the perm, I must applaud my 450-plus-pound self. At that weight, I was terrified to go out into public and would often even food shop only at night or use only drive-thru windows at fast food restaurants in order to come into contact with as few people as possible. So the fact that I went to my hair stylist and ordered up a perm for something fresh and funky (emphasis on funky) lets me know that even at 450-plus pounds, I had not given up all hope of being part of the human race.
Fact is, at 450-plus pounds I was running out of clothing choices. I couldn't even find many pant options at my local Big and Tall Stores (my waist had gotten that big). Thus, I'd taken to wearing sweatpants and one of two oversize T-shirts (sold as novelty shirts) that I could fit into. My fashion options had become virtually nonexistent. But darn it, I could control my head of hair. And I was gonna do so by getting a perm, which I guess was in style at the time (or maybe not).
"Look at me, world! My hair is permed! Woohoo!" (Now, someone point me to the nearest auditions for the next community theatre production of Annie.)
Funny. Sweet. And a little heartbreaking... And yet solid proof that I hadn't completely given up on life. And it's that "not giving up" that eventually brought me to the point of caring enough about my appearance (and health) to shed my 250 excess pounds and keep it off once and for all.
If you know someone fighting obesity, or if, perhaps, you're battling it yourself, what do you do for your physical appearance that could compare to my perm? Do you always make sure your nails are manicured? Do you make sure that your hair always looks good? Or are you do you have a shoe collection that would make Carrie Bradshaw jealous?
Whatever it is, that's your proof that you care about your appearance (or that your friend cares about his or hers). And this "proof of caring" can be the first step toward committing yourself to lasting and permanent change when it comes to other matters like losing weight and/or getting healthier.
So no matter what goal you have ahead of you (even if it's a goal that you haven't quite committed to yet), think about how you can affect your life (and your self-esteem) today. This moment is all you have. So do something that boosts your ego and adds a little pep to your step. These small enhancements can fuel your dreams of achieving all of your goals, whether health, career, love or even appearance related.