I'm just as motivated as a picture of ripped abs as the next girl, but given that I realize I will never look like Erin Stern, those pictures strike me as a little unrealistic. And unrealistic =/= motivational, at least not for this pragmatist.
So what does inspire me to keep cutting, to keep up my intensity in the gym and to continue to maintain my cardiovascular health?
Quite frankly, it's the memory of what it feels like for me to be simultaneously obese and out of shape.
At a height of 5'1(ish) and a top measured weight of 165 (I did not own a scale), I clocked in at a BMI of 31.2 for nearly a year.
(Please note: I don't pretend to know how every single obese person feels. This is how my body felt at that weight and it certainly had quite a bit more to do with how out of shape I was than how much I weighed! Not all, or even most, obese people are terribly out of shape or emotional binge eaters. I personally was both.)
And it was, hands down, the worst year of my life.
If you've never been obese and/or terribly, horrendously out of shape, let me summarize an average day of that year in my life for ya.
You wake up and rummage around in your closet for at least half an hour, trying to find something that both fits and looks good. This is particularly challenging if you refuse to believe that you are no longer a size 8 and buy new clothes, but don't worry, you'll become creative and resourceful out of necessity. For example, you can cut the button out of your work pants, use fabric scissors to cut a small hole behind where the button used to be, and simply use a thick piece of black string to make pseudo-drawstring-pants. Just make sure to wear a long shirt.
After you've gotten dressed, you'll eat breakfast. If you're an emotional eater, you will eat...and eat....and eat.... thinking it will soothe the stress gnawing at your belly, but you'll end up feeling both stressed and sick from too much milk and cereal and sugar.
You'll go to work, breakfast sloshing around in your tummy. You'll walk up two flights of stairs and be unable to hold a conversation. You'll also have to stop at least once or twice on your way. Your knees will ache even though you are all of 19 years old.
Then, you'll go to lunch with your coworkers and feel self-conscious, as if everyone is watching you and how much you're eating and thinking, "So that's why she's so fat."
You'll return to work and intentionally lag behind everyone else so no one will hear you panting on the stairs.
Then you'll go home and eat dinner (pasta with marinara sauce and approximately two cups of cheese), and veg in front of the TV. You'll go to the gym at your apartment complex and use the stationary bike at a resistance level of 1, and leave when a neighbor arrives because you're ashamed of how much you're struggling after just ten minutes.
You'll retreat back to your apartment and drown your sorrows in about a cup of raw cookie dough, then shower, taking pains to avoid noticing or acknowledging your body in any way. God forbid your hand brushes your stomach - you might never get to sleep for all the self-flagellation that will ensue.
As if to add insult to injury, you'll have trouble sleeping regardless: you can't get comfortable, your back always hurts, and the sound of your own snoring - a habit you've never had before - will startle you to alertness in the middle of the night.
I can never go back to living like that. I cannot. This may sound - and be - a bit melodramatic, but my life for that year was hardly a life at all: it was more of an avoidance of life.
And I refuse to waste any more time like that.