I really dislike having my photo taken. I am not photogenic so the person in the picture does not look like the image I see in the mirror. However, I know that the person behind a personal blog should be visible for you, the reader/friend, to know who’s talking. For this reason, I booked a headshot photo shoot with Monique Van Heerden Photography during a promotion she was running last year. It seemed like a good idea at the time of the booking but on the day of the photoshoot, I was filled with dread.
Let’s back up a bit before I tell you my not-so-tragic story. As you might know, after years of hormonal disruption through yo-yo dieting and fertility treatments I’ve been trying to eat and move my body more intuitively, embracing body freedom and all that excellent stuff. The truth is, this path has been rough and steep. A well-documented result of initially embracing the intuitive eating lifestyle is an inevitable gain in weight. The reasoning is that as you no longer restrict the food you eat, your body has to adapt and the initial response is to store everything. As you get used to having food freedom and applying the mindful eating principles, your weight is supposed to stabilize to a healthy size for your body.
However, there’s a very important caveat that I only learned about very recently: If you have any hormonal disturbances due to long-term dieting, chronic conditions or any other anomalies, your body cannot reliably tell you when it is hungry or full. (Insert mind-blown emoji). So even with the best intentions some people just cannot achieve a healthy body through the process of intuitive eating alone. Bringing your body into balance is critical for holistic health.
So here I am again – I am at the round, inflated, bloated stage that makes me feel like a whale. None of my clothes fit and I consider drastic dieting daily. I have started looking at more nourishing “healthier” choices and consulting experts on balancing my hormones and reducing stress. I cannot remember another time in my life when I was this uncomfortable in my own skin. It has become so bad that sometimes I am embarrassed to leave the house and appear in public, never mind having my pictures taken.
It is with this body that I was getting ready for the above-mentioned photoshoot. There were many moments in the days leading up to the photoshoot that I considered cancelling and just writing off the money. I didn’t want to expose my vulnerable self to the unforgiving judgment of a camera lens. I fretted and fussed obsessively over my outfit (which my sister helped me choose), my hair (which my hairdresser always styles masterfully), and my make-up (which I did myself). Even my accessories had me in a frenzy. I comforted myself with the thought that I could just decide not to use the photos if I don’t like them.
Finally, on the day of the shoot, I was on my way to our agreed location. I put on my favourite Spotify playlist and prayed for peace as I fought back shallow tears. Monique is a fantastic photographer with a beautiful personality. She encouraged me throughout the shoot and gave me excellent advice about my posture and where to put my hands and head and so forth. No matter how many pins I pin about hip tilts and chin angles, I just don’t look natural in a photo. She makes it seem so effortless.
Early in the shoot, not one, but BOTH my shoes broke! What are the chances? I felt the Lord stripping away all my vanity to try and show me I am beautiful and lovable, in every size and without the wedges to lift my bum. It was, and is, a hard lesson for me to learn. My whole life I believed I needed to have a certain look and be a certain size to be worthy of love and belonging. I grew up as the outsider fat girl, I’ve come back from that, and now I’m bigger than I’ve ever been.
This path is not an easy one.
On the way home I bought myself a new pair of shoes and fought back tears until I could rest in my husband’s arms at home. He still thinks I’m beautiful even if I don’t see it.
The photos look great of course, in no small part due to Monique’s expert eyes. Maybe I will use them from time to time to remind myself of the lesson the Lord is teaching me: I love you just the way you are.
In the meantime, I’m trying to take care of my amazing body with nourishing food and mindful movement, and sometimes, a bar of delicious chocolate.
But no more photos for now, thanks.