‘Before’ pictures.

I was working on a project with Spencer and needed to dig up a ‘before’ picture. Trying to find one that would tell the story of my lifestyle journey. (AKA the picture that shows me at my heaviest…)

Even ‘good’ pictures from when I was my heaviest were super hard to find.



When you weigh 350+ pounds you do not willingly pose for the camera. It’s much easier to live without having to face iron-clad proof that you are or were ever really that big.

You learn to avoid the camera at all costs. If someone actually manages to get a picture of you and you have the ability, you GET RID OF IT.

You refuse to see the joy of the event or the happiness of your loved ones or the excitement in your life — all you can see is…

  • Your fat face.
  • Your fat belly.
  • You’re so obese that your arms can not physically lay at your side.
  • How soft, puffy and round everything looks.
  • How your clothes don’t fit. Fat rolls with fabric clinging to them. Seams busting open. Buttons being seriously tested.
  • How much of the picture frame you take up.

And let’s talk about how I had developed some impressive self-defense skills at avoiding pictures in the first place:

  1. Blink. Don’t have to do anything dramatic or try to run from the photographer. No one will use a picture if your eyes aren’t open.
  2. Become a photographer. Built-in reason to NOT be in pictures. I carried my camera everywhere.

So, you can see, I had trouble finding pictures from when I was at my heaviest.

Then I found some.

My mom had squirreled some away.

I literally sat on the floor cringing as I looked through them. Feeling some intense shame and embarassment.

I did not want to admit that I now had these pictures. I didn’t want anyone else to see them.

I had told Spencer I couldn’t find any pictures – which was totally true at first.

But then I found this hidden stack…

I considered telling him I still couldn’t find any.

But I can’t lie to Spencer.

AND in looking at the pictures and debating about hiding them or denying their existence…  I realized something. I realized that I needed to stop being so freaking mean to myself.

The fact is, I was morbidly obese for most of my adult life.


I can hate that fact all I want, but it doesn’t change it.

Hiding or denying the fat me doesn’t mean she never existed.

The current me needs to quit trying to beat the crap out of the former me.  How’s that for a boxing match?

It was a hurtful but necessary realization process as I sat on the floor with pictures of the fat me in my hands…

When I could finally get past my own monster-sized and wounded ego and really look at the stack of pictures in my hands, I was shocked to see something I actually loved…

These pictures tell some of my greatest stories and experiences and they showcase some of the best people of my life.

I have amazing, crazy, beautiful, loving family and friends.  We have traveled and laughed and loved through great times and tough times and really bad hair styles. We have weathered storms and wrecked havoc.

The pictures simply show that I have been spoiled with a GREAT and full life.

My days of dodging the camera are officially over.

I have some stories left to create and a life to live. 🙂  NO matter what I look like.

My mom has been gone almost 5 years and in that squirreled away stack of pictures there were a lot of her smiling mug greeting me.

I will share with you the other ‘learning’ that occurred as I sat on the floor looking for a ‘before’ picture…

My mom never shied away from the camera.  Was she perfectly thin and thrilled with her body. No.

Did she love her life and everyone in it?  YES.

That’s all I see when I look at those pictures of her.

Her hands that held each of us when we desperately needed her and those same hands that were her best utensil in the kitchen. Her blue, kind eyes that were ALWAYS smiling. The smirk that meant she was about to dish out some fantastic pun.

I absolutely see her wheelchair and painfully crooked feet and legs. But I see them with the understanding and pride that they NEVER stopped her from living her life and loving her people.

I see the fierce and pure joy she had for being alive to be a part of her husband, daughters and grandkids lives. The hugs and laughs and jokes and purely happy times.  That’s WHAT I see.

That’s ALL I see.

Don’t shy away from the camera because you don’t like how you look today.

It’s short-sighted. And selfish.

Pictures help tell the story of your life. And your role in the life of others.

No matter how you look today — it IS part of your story. OWN IT.

Those who love you will look at snapshots in the future and see you with their eyes, but most importantly they will see you with their heart.


12 thoughts on “Pictures.

    1. JULIE! Way to go!!! And the ONLY caveat I would throw out is that if you really, truly hate running AFTER giving it a fair shot; find something you LOVE! You can only stay consistent with something if you love it! Running, hiking, walking, swimming, biking. 🙂 BUT GOOD FOR YOU for giving it a shot and signing up for a race. And I appreciate the invitation — I’ll be over there a few weeks after that for a run – so probably not joining you this time around. BUT please keep me posted. Seriously. Through here, or FB. Please?


  1. For me, the interesting thing is I never “saw” you other than a MASTER NETWORKER!!!! That is how I would explain who you are in the scheme of our lives… Amazed and in total awe of how you know EVERYONE, seem to remember EVEYONE, a friend that EVERYONE wants to know… 350+ or whatever!!!
    I am becoming a blog addict along with many others. I wait for your every post!!! Can’t wait!!! Your writing is so real! It makes me feel what you have been learning!
    At this point, I want to point out that you said, you were obese most of your adult life….. YOU have truly THE REST of your adult life ahead of you and from my seat, you are making the most of it!!! GOOD FOR YOU!!!!
    You chose life!!!!! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laurie! Thank you. Really. For reading and writing and for being so kind…. I am CHOOSING life. A big moment several years ago and it changed everything. 🙂 I haven’t looked back. I wish people could see themselves through the lenses that their friends use… The loving and kind and soft lenses. The REAL lenses that include who they are – not just what they look like. 🙂 This was a hard post to write And a good reminder to me to make sure those that I love know WHY I love them. And it won’t include comments about their physical size because that’s NOT who they are to me… 🙂 Thank you.


  2. All I see is love. Your mom offered me kindness and love at a time when I did not get much of either in my young life. That’s what I see in that picture…all of the gorgeous, Hartley-mama love that she showered on everyone. You learned some great lessons from your sweet mom, Betsy. You are so like her.

    Liked by 1 person

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