Camera shy

Here’s a fun re-post of an older ‘Heavy’ column from my pre-BDN blog days. 

I love cameras – as long as I am the one taking the pictures.

Seriously, I don’t know many fat people who actually enjoy having their picture taken. Most of the time I hate looking in mirrors, so why would I want a photo of myself to memorialize my fatness into perpetuity?

Sometimes I wonder if I subconsciously took up photography as a hobby to ensure that I’d always be on the safe side of the camera lens.

The consequence of avoiding cameras is that when I am looking through family galleries of vacations or special events, I’m missing from the photos. This hasn’t bothered me much yet, but I do have to wonder how my family feels when the visual records of our life together make it seem as though I never existed.

Lately, I’ve been forcing myself, double chin and all, to step in front of the camera for the sake of inclusion in future scrapbooks. It’s still a painful experience. I think I’d rather endure a root canal every day for a year than to have my picture taken even once.

I heard that Seventeen magazine is caving to the pressure to stop using manipulated photos of models in their magazine, thanks in part to a young activist from Maine. I don’t know if this will be the start of some wider-spread change in the media world, but what I do know is that if a 14-year-old girl from Waterville, Maine can figure out how to make a popular teen magazine that has been around for almost 70 years change its ways, then millions of fat people should be able to make a difference if they really want to.

The collective power of fat people everywhere is astounding. Our wallets represent millions and billions of dollars worldwide. If we all decided to stop purchasing a product, or to stop reading a magazine that portrays unrealistic images of people, then you can bet your wallet that there would be change. There is power in numbers, and the collective consciousness of society does change with time and awareness.

Consider this. In the 1950s, there was a series of advertisements that ran regularly offering products to help women to gain weight for “sex appeal.” The ads made “skinny” seem as taboo as today’s “fat.”

I always knew I was born in the wrong generation.

Seriously, though, why has the focus for so many decades been on fat versus skinny? Regardless of which side of the spectrum a person falls on, shouldn’t it really be about healthy versus unhealthy?

I’m in the process of doing a series of exercises designed to teach me how to do real exercises. Yep, that’s what I said. I’m exercising to learn how to exercise. A friend of mine, and a fellow journalist, is teaching me. I’m really trying to shift my focus to my health and my quality of life – and I know that it’s unnecessary to be “skinny” for me to have those things, but there are still changes I need to make in my life if I want them.

Exercise is a special kind of torture. I hate almost everything about it. I hate pain. I hate sweat. I hate having to spend the few spare minutes I have each day working out– even if it is in the comfort of my own home where nobody can see me. It actually ranks right up there with having my picture taken. Bring on that root canal!

There is, however, one thing I’m finding I actually like about exercising – and that one thing might make all of the things I hate about it eventually disappear, or so I hope.

I like the way I feel after I’ve exercised. When I’ve completed my last wall push-up for the day, or finished my last set of reps on my ab lounger machine, or when I’ve just finished dancing like a mad woman in my living room and finally reopen the shades and unlock the doors (I do that to ensure my privacy – trust me, nobody wants to see me dancing), I find that I really feel good. It’s more than a sense of accomplishment, which is also nice. I think that my body is finally responding to the challenge I’ve been presenting it. My muscles are waking up from their 30-year slumber and their cells are bouncing around with more energy.

I like that feeling so much that I think I’ll keep exercising. Now if I could just find that one thing I like enough to have my picture taken, then maybe photos wouldn’t be so bad after all. Fat chance!