Not Your Average “Before” Photograph

This Is Not Your Average ‘Before’ Photograph


Get Up And Dance – No Matter Who’s Watching!

Note:  This blog reads better with the following Cheryl Lynn groove playing

Many of you have seen this now-infamous ‘before’ shot of me at a 1996 wedding. It’s pretty clear from the angle and the billowing dress that I weigh in excess of 300 pounds.  Because of that inescapable fact and other less obvious reasons, the spark of my life force is unmistakably muted in this photograph. Carrying that amount of excess baggage in the physical sense siphoned an enormous amount of energy from me.   And then there was the impetus for the physical baggage in the first place:  I had stopped paying attention to who I really am, what I really want, how I really want to live.

Quite simply:  I believed Happiness was out of my reach.  And since it was meant for others and not me, I ate to dull the emptiness and dissatisfaction.  But it still thundered within me. That’s the thing about addiction; it doesn’t really take care of the problem. But eating was the only tool I had at the time, and as you can see, I went with it.

On the surface, this photograph of me looking lifeless at age 30 in a prototypical Mother of The Bride dress seems like the cautionary tale that most ‘before’ photographs are.

But this snapshot in time is far more than a warning.  It’s a tribute to the possibility of conquering odds. Swimming upstream against the majority is where my transformation really began.  Not in January 2009, when I began the process of releasing weight.

This upstream voyage was a crucial part of my learning on the path I walked of pain, so-called failures, and even Joy.

Believe it or not, there was Joy involved for me at the wedding reception of my friend Bill Richmond and his wife, Tracy. I may not have loved where I was physically, but I was in the middle of a very important life lesson and without it, I wouldn’t be writing this blog entry today at half my size.

I was speeding full-throttle into the unknown territory of Loving myself no mater what the scale said. Anyone who’s ever spent even a little time in the United States knows what a radical and courageous and outrageous move this was on my part.  Look at me.  By every standard measured against me by the society I was raised in, I should have been at home with the blinds down in a fetal position.

Believe me, for a long time, I bought into the delusion that people of size aren’t quite fully human.  There was no major moment of epiphany…just gradual increments of awakening to the Truth.  And when I began to see and more importantly, feel the Truth about the unchangeable nature of my worth, it became easier and easier to question the messages from outside ‘authorities.’

I began getting more and more comfortable with something:  A flicker of hope at my core that would not die. Lit from a mysterious source, an unknown place, it remained intact, even after all the years spent trying to kill it.  It emanated this clear message: ‘I Deserve.’

I was far from being in a state of happiness and balance, but I was on my way.  That’s the magic message I want to give you today.  Start right where you are.  I did.

What this photograph doesn’t reveal is the rest of what unfolded in that ballroom of the Saratoga Springs Holiday Inn: The DJ let one of my favorite and most life-affirming disco songs of all time rip.

It’s pulsating bass called me as I sat there, safely anchored in my chair. It called me again as I hesitated. I didn’t love how I looked.  I was way bigger than anyone in the room.  How would me up there on the dance floor look? What would they think? And then I realized that getting out there and being in those few moments of joy while this amazing song played mattered more than the doubts. So I did it. In front of everyone.

I didn’t wait for the magic moment of looking a certain way. My transformation had already taken root and it got a major growth spurt that day on the dance floor as I took my place under the glitter ball, arms open wide to whatever lay ahead.

Just for you, I’ve included a long version of the song, hopefully you have it playing loud.  And now you still have time to get up and dance. No matter who’s watching.


Joan Lentini

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