Say cheese! Portrait of an obese mom

cover photo

Kristie and her family, years later

My husband and I had been really excited to have family photos taken. Our daughter was three and a half years old and our son was just six months old. He had been a very sick premature infant, and we were still celebrating that fact that he had survived a very serious illness. We coordinated clothing for the four of us and went off to our photo session with our favorite photographer who had captured all of the photos chronicling our daughter’s milestones.

When we reviewed the photos, we were mortified. The photographer had captured us exactly as we were and that was the problem. We were both obese, and we were ashamed, shocked, embarrassed, and disappointed in how we looked. We were so unhappy with how we looked that we only purchased photos of the children and not one single pose of the four of us together.

As a mom, I second-guessed the decision to not purchase any family poses, but I could not even look at those photos. As I reflected on our reaction to them, I wondered out loud to my husband a terrifying thought, “Do you ever wonder whether we might look back on the current photos of us and think, ‘man, we were younger and thinner?’” We both chuckled, but the underlying truth was pretty grim.

As unhappy as we were with our weight, what if this wasn’t the worst of it? What if we actually would grow older and wider? The thought was so troubling that I remember exactly where I was when I posed the question. I remember thinking about how I often looked back at photos from college and marveled at how young I was and, though I was overweight, I was thinner then. Most folks do look back at old photos and marvel at their youth and physique.

We spent the next seven years hiding from the camera. As the mom, I declared myself the official family photographer. In that capacity, I could stand on the sidelines and out of focus. During that time, we had one family photo done as part of a church directory. The children were then three and six. We were all dressed in black, which was not a coincidence. Black is slimming, right? Our faces were full and round. We were smiling, but I remember dreading that day and those photos. Besides that one family photo from the church directory, there isn’t one professional photograph of my family until 2015 when my children were 12 and 9 years old.

After going low carb

DSC_0795-EditedIn 2015, not only did we spend three hours having our photos taken on a family farm that is very special to us, but we purchased nearly all of those photos! We loved them – all of them! My husband and I posed and smiled and even laughed during the photo session, and we continued smiling and giggling as we approved the photo proofs. What a difference a low-carb diet makes. We had lost nearly 175 pounds (79 kg) between the two of us. We felt good!

The photo session was a gift to me from my husband at my request. I recognized all of those lost years when there is no family portrait for anyone’s wall. There is no record of me as a younger mother with toddlers. In the few candid photos we have, I was hiding behind something or someone and cringing at having my photo taken. No longer. I’m still the mom with the camera, but I’m not shy about asking others to take the photo with me in it. Thanks to a teenage daughter, I have mastered the art of a selfie, and I am not afraid to use those skills, especially if my son or daughter will pose with me.

One day my children will sort through my things, including the family photos. I wonder what they will think of those photos that remain. I wonder whether they will judge the difference in the obese mom and the mom who is healthy and active. I wonder if they will care as much as I did about how obese I was. I wonder if they will be ashamed of that mom. I suspect that they will love obese mom as much as they love healthy mom. My children have never expressed embarrassment over my weight. That privilege was always left to me.

If I was given back the past fourteen years, I would take all of the photos. All of them. I would look back at that obese mom of young children, and I would thank her. Instead of cringing and being embarrassed about her, I would recognize that she was the brave one.

It was she, that obese woman in so much pain, who made the difficult decision to try once more to lose weight. It was she who did the work to learn about a ketogenic diet. It was she who cooked the meals and made the right choices. Every. Single. Day. She is my hero, and I wish I had her portrait, with her young family, to hang on my wall.

Kristie Sullivan


A keto low-carb diet for beginners

How to lose weight

Earlier with Kristie

“You can’t have that”

It’s the journey

All earlier posts by Kristie Sullivan

Weight loss

Low-carb basics


  1. Elaine
    I identify so much with this! My daughter is 10 and I have never taken a professional picture with her. The denial was deep but not anymore! I plan to get a family picture done for Christmas this year!
  2. Dayna Gibson
    This is a wonderful story. Yes I can relate. I tell all young mothers I know, "Get In The Picture"!! Your children want & need to see your journey together. What if you die or become so disabled you can't take pictures & the fat ones are all they have? They want you in the pictures.
  3. 1 comment removed
  4. Joanne
    Beautifully written and so true.
  5. Heather
    I have done this, as well. Oh those pictures that showed the stark reality. Thanks for your wise words, especially the last paragraph about accepting the person you were, the brave one who was willing to try one more thing to lose weight. I am learning over the years to be kinder to myself and to encourage change though kindness with myself, not self-loathing.

    I love your articles, and also your videos.

  6. Tiffanee
    LOVE THIS ONE Kristie! It hits home, right in my heart. I too, do the exact same thing. I have only a few pics of me with each of my kiddos (not to mention none with my husband that aren't at least 7-8 years old) and realize that if I died tomorrow, they would have very few photographic memories of me to hold...makes the fight in me that much stronger. I will win this. I can, and I will!
  7. Nicky
    Would love to see before photo ??
  8. Toni Wray
    The thing I find saddest about your experience is the shame you felt at being obese. I was the same and I'm sure every overweight person has felt that shame. We are told that it's our fault we are fat. Fat shaming is acceptable. If you're fat, then you must feel guilty and ashamed. But that isn't fair because it's not your fault. When I found out what to eat and followed a LCHF diet, I was finally able to lose the weight I'd been fighting for decades. Easily and bearably. Without starving or feeling dreadful. What a relief! I just hope that one day soon, overweight people will stop blaming themselves for their weight problems and instead put the blame where it belongs - on the dietary advice which made us fat and which is still ruining the health of millions.
  9. Eden
    I totally agree. Look at our obese lives with kindness and compassion because it took bravery and courage to LIVE and choose a new way, ignore conventional wisdom, and seek health amid so much wrong information. Bravo!
  10. Kim
    I cried when I saw myself in pictures. I'm still disgusted because I've not got close to being the me I need and want and should be.
    My litres mugge me, but they are nit blind. My hubby isn't in ther best shape, yet he says and our dies things that embarrass me. Like yesterday, her played with the hanging skin on my arm..then asked me if I lost weight will they tighten up. I'm thinking..nope..they are great to stay.
  11. Kim
    It won't let me edit...
    It's supposed to stay... My kids love me but they're not blind.
  12. Sonia
    Wow thanks for sharing yes unfortunately there are many pictures of partner and child on holidays but never of me lol shame we get use to standing at the back and trying to disappear out of the photo! This woe is giving us a chance to change and to be well fit and healthy thanks for sharing with us the woe that positively is changing lives For the better !
  13. phrogg108
    I was just discussing this exact thing with my therapist the other day. Only, as I have seen it in memes, I told her, "I wish I was as fat as I was the first time I thought I was fat." Because back then, I was nowhere near where I am now. I would give my left arm to be as "fat" as I was in college. The "Freshman Fifteen" was nothin' compared to what I am working with now. Oy! I am 48 and have just started on my keto journey with your Five Week Challenge. I am hoping beyond hope that I am as successful as you have been, Kristie!!

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