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

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