Why you should never have photos taken of you when you’re fit

A few weeks ago as part of an Olympics based office bonding activity, each of the teams in our office was asked to adorn their work areas with something suitably Olympic. As is my want, I was out filming for the big presentation and so missed the whole thing. But when I returned to my cubicle the following Monday, there was roughly 80% more sniggering from my work mates. I eventually discovered (and this is really good opportunity to say that you should never piss off a graphic designer…they have long memories and highly functional image archives) that someone had resurrected a photo of me competing in a triathlon about 6 years ago.

While I pretended that I was hurt that this sodding photo had resurfaced…I was actually quite chuffed, because this is hands down the most flattering photo of me ever taken. For starters this was when I was in full training, and was doing weights three times a week. I had also just strolled out of the cold water after swimming 750m, so if ever I was going to look buff..this was it. And best of all, the digital watermark was over my stomach…so any trace of fat was gone.
But what I soon came to realise was that everyone had assumed that this was a photoshop job…that the graphic designer had simply put my head on the body of an athlete. The thought that I may have actually been that athlete was as absurd to them…and it wasn’t until I saw a recent photo of myself that I realised why. They see me everyday as I actually am…whereas in my mind, I’m still that muscly guy strutting up the beach in the budgie smugglers.

Who is that old/ugly person in the photo?
For work I take a lot of photos of people. Even when I have taken a photo that I think looks really good, the reaction from the person whose photo I’ve taken is invariably ‘Is that really me?’ If I take a photo of two people, both people will say ‘Oh you look great, but I look terrible’ It’s not that they look terrible, it’s just that they don’t match up with how they think they look. I can remember talking to lady in her 60s once who said she often saw herself in the mirror and thought ‘Who is that old woman?!’ She still felt like she did when she was in her 20’s, but reality wasn’t backing that up. Just as our social media profiles have photos that do not belie our actual appearance…it would appear that even on a subconscious level we are prone to bending the truth a little.
So I’ve decided the best way to ‘unbend the truth’ (this will either be the name of my first band…or at least the message on a t-shirt ) is to go through the reasons there is such a big disconnect between my body and my body image.

Kids and effort
I know that pretty much every blog I write seems to bang on about the myriad ways kids have made my life difficult. So I should state now that I love my kids and I love being a parent, and I have no doubt I have grown a great deal as a person because I have them in my life. However, no one wants to read about someone else’s happiness…they want to feel happy about themselves by reading about someone else’s misery. So I’m really only doing this for you.
I can still remember that when that  photo above was taken, I was spending pretty much all my spare time exercising. The result was that I was fit and healthy. Now that I have three kids, I still feel that I’m using pretty much all my spare time exercising…so logically I should still look fit and healthy. But the reality is that with 1 child I probably had 6 hours a week of spare time…but now I probably only have…well let’s see…does the run to work count as spare time? So the effort level is the same, it’s just that it equates to a lot less actual exercise…and accordingly, much smaller pecs.
For the visual learners out there, you can equate the top photo as being what you can achieve when you have one child. This next photo is what you can achieve when you have two children.

You will note the significant loss of upper body muscle due to your training suddenly involving a lot less weights and a lot more running…as you can get a good run done in half an hour, but you’re going to need at least an hour for a gym session…and that’s not going to happen all that often.
Finally, when you have 3 kids, this is what you look like.

As you can see, your arms have reached Andy Schleck like levels of bulk, and you could really do with a hug.

The little 1%ers
OK, so that’s one reason why there is a physical change…but why don’t you notice it? I think it’s because you see yourself everyday, so every day you get to incorporate this new version of yourself into the ideal you have in your head. It’s not until someone who you haven’t seen in a couple of years says ‘Wow, you’ve really lost weight!’ that you realise the death by a thousand cuts. I should stress here that as a man I’m worried about losing weight, not gaining it. If you are woman and you are worried about gaining weight, then no-one in their right mind is going to comment on the fact that you have gained weight…so you’re pretty much doomed on this one.

Being the photographer
As I said earlier, it wasn’t until I saw a photo of myself recently and thought ‘Holy crap, my head looks huge compared to my chest and shoulders! My head hasn’t grown, so my chest and shoulders must have shrunk…a lot!’ but if you are the dedicated photographer for your family and friends, you very rarely actually appear in photos. So if you want the occasional reality check, make sure someone takes a candid photo of you when you haven’t had a chance to suck in your stomach, or furiously flex every muscle in your body. Alternatively, if you think you may have reached your physical peak and no longer want anyone creating evidence to the contrary…I highly recommend buying a camera, the more expensive and confusing it looks, the less likely anyone else will offer to use it to take a photo of you.

So I’ve identified that I have been deluding myself, I’ve blamed the kids for everything, there is only one thing left to do, and that is to make a promise on this here blog that by the time my birthday rolls around in December, I will have at least got my head, chest and shoulders into some sort of proportions that no longer resemble Mr. Mackey. From there I will begin the long road of getting back to my former budgie- smuggler glory…but in the short term, no photos…please.

2 thoughts on “Why you should never have photos taken of you when you’re fit”

  1. Get a chin up bar. Even get one which incorporates a dip-station.

    Do four sets to failure every second day of each.

    You will be happy with the results.

    And up until you make the purchase and put the thing together, do 100 push ups every day. Stuff will happen.

    1. Hey Patrick,
      Thanks for that, and believe me the old ‘100 pushups’ is very high on my list of things I intend to do. In fact, every night I ‘intend’ to do it. But then I end up putting both kids to bed…and that involves lying down while we read a story and then waiting for them to doze off…and before you know you’ve been in a state of near-sleep for about 45 mins and it is really hard to go from that back into doing exercise.
      But you’re right. You can knock these over in about 5 minutes, so there’s no excuse. Plus, being of the light-framed persuasion, exercises against my own body weight should be me forte.

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