For me, the best motivational tool for fitness seems to be the photograph.
Back in my bad old days of aerobics and dieting, my tool of choice was the scale. But the best thing a scale can tell you is how much less of you there is. And that’s a sad way to live, especially since the scale doesn’t know anything about muscle versus fat. Now that my days of body destructions are well behind me, the only real tools I use anymore are the mirror, my pants, and the camera.
The mirror is probably the least reliable of the three, because what we see isn’t always what’s really there. My husband, for example, assures me that while I think I’m making little or no progress in my bodybuilding, I may in fact have a budding case of bigorexia, a word that is new to me, one I find particularly interesting. I’ve certainly come a long way, if bigorexia applies to me. If my Western friends could have seen me in my 20s, they’d probably have thought more likely anorexia, in fact.
But although I was probably so thin as to be unhealthy, I never really had serious issues with food. In fact, I’ve loved food and cooking since I was a child, growing up in and around restaurants in the Tokyo. But in my 20s, I fell victim to two things: poverty and fashion. I was quite poor for a time, so I couldn’t afford my main source of empty carbs at the time: alcohol. Besides, women in Tokyo of my generation were painfully thin anyhow. And when I say painfully, I mean it literally. It was actually painful to have sex with us, our hipbones were so sharp–according to my husband, at least, who met me in those skinny days. It was simply the way we were, though. We ate very well, but very little.
I soon fell out of both habits when I began living with my husband, an American, but that’s another story. At my thinnest, I looked just right to myself, in the mirror. Today, I would be frightened to see that person looking back at me. Well, honestly, I have to admit, I’d probably be smugly excited at the idea of taking that person out clothes-shopping because she could wear <i>anything.</i> Still, mostly I’d want to give her a big glass of milk and a peanut butter sandwich. And if she saw me looking back at her? She’d probably think it was a long-lot brother. So the mirror isn’t reliable.
A better gauge is pants. A pair of jeans that fit me when I looked like I wanted to is suddenly impossible to button? Well, it’s hard to deny that you’ve gotten bigger in that case. That’s a decent tool. But there are problems with that, too. I’ve discovered, much to my horror that jeans stretch. I found out just how much when I bought two pairs of the same 7 jeans and only got one hemmed. I just about wore out that pair before I got the other ones adjusted. The much-worn pair were practically falling off. But, to my great dismay, the unworn pair were too tight to button!
Besides, jeans used that way are really a tool for staying thin. Now that I’m into bodybuilding instead of body destruction, should I be shocked and saddened when my jeans get too tight across the thighs and ass after I’ve been doing deadlifts and squats for months? I don’t think so. But I still have to put them away for some point in the future when my legs might be smaller again. I’m having to buy whole new types of jeans, actually.
My dream is that someday I’ll need to buy some of the jeans I see in the latina stores–you know, the ones with the manequins standing ass-out in the store window proudly showing off their trunk junk? For a flat-ass Japanese girl, that’s a wild dream. Especially since I want to fill it with mostly muscle, and not the lumpy jelly a sad percentage of the girls in my town seem to be so proud of. I want a jungle booty, but not at the cost diabetes or heart disease. I’ve already got one pair that I don’t really totally fill out behind, but, wow, can I stretch out the calves.
So jeans aren’t really a great tool, either. They stretch and your body shape can change, too. Better than the mirror, but hardly reliable.
The only thing that really works for me is the picture. Pictures are brutal. They’re rarely flattering. Sure, you can photoshop the hell out of them, but you’ll have to at least see the the real image in order to make the fake one. And, if you really want a harsh evaluation, shoot in RAW. Because, while most people fool themselves that their pictures aren’t retouched, there’s an amazing amount of retouching that already happens in the camera.
The RAW format doesn’t smooth, doesn’t even out blemishes, doesn’t pink up the skin. Add that level of honestly to a picture that shows just how saggy or flabby or skinny or flat you are. Finally, get a photographer like me or my husband who couldn’t take a flattering picture to save our lives, and you’ve got yourself the best tool you could ever want for motivation: the truth.
I spent hours looking at videos and pictures today for my blog and store, and I sure am ready to hit the gym tomorrow. I promise to take and post more pics as I get closer to my photoshoot, which I hope to at least schedule sometime in January. I can’t think of a better way to keep myself on track.
PS: the picture above? Definitely not in the RAW format! 😉