• Jennifer Barnick

The Before and After

Dog Before and After

Photo Source: Flickr

I am what one would call a health and fitness enthusiast—people close to me are very familiar with this—especially my common declaration that I am officially starting a massive health and fitness campaign. For me, it is a fun hobby, and I enjoy it immensely. I especially love it when circumstances lead me to a place where I have drifted very far from my usually Tigger-bouncy self, and I find myself genuinely needing to take myself in hand and reclaim my normal fit form.

The commencement of 2018 marks this very time I speak of in that the lifestyle of an entrepreneur is not very easy on the body, and I had found myself in poor shape compared to the person I was before I launched Twenty-two Twenty-eight. My big culprit is a total lack of sleep, and for the past several months I have hovered around zero to four hours of sleep a night. My daily workouts began to nearly disappear due to exhaustion and were replaced by tons of coffee. Exhaustion also brought easy to grab foods and wine in the evenings, as wine both relaxed me and woke me up. Dinners happened later and later as I would just feel too tired for dinner—only to find myself starving very late at night and then just grabbing anything I had around. What makes the situation worse is that the lack of exercise, coffee, wine, and poor diet actually begins to extend and worsen insomnia, so it becomes a kind of vicious cycle. I am quite sure this is a very common cascade of events for anyone who has struggled with chronic insomnia. What made the situation all the more intense was that I was used to having a pretty impeccable machine for a body and genuinely loved working out, cooking, and feeling ageless.

For being a health and fitness enthusiast, I actually have very little willpower, and I will say that the only real way to be fit and healthy is to make it a lifestyle—then it just becomes who you are—and not a matter of will. However, I came to see (with much alarm) that my entrepreneur-insomniac lifestyle was really beginning to sink in and was definitely showing up in my skin and body. Essentially, I was developing a new, horrible lifestyle. Knowing then that there would have to be a little willpower, at least at the beginning, to turn a bad situation around, I decided to introduce a classic maneuver: the before and after. Finding in my teens and twenties a kind of tyrannical relationship with the scale, I swore them off for good, as the human body can wildly fluctuate in weight day to day due to many factors, and I was just exhausted by allowing a number to affect my daily mood. However, the scale is good because it can cut through denial, keep you accountable for your lifestyle decisions, and alert you when you are drifting from your course. Still though, I did not want to go back to the unhealthy master and servant relationship I had developed with my scale.

The before and after is another way to chart progress and get honest with yourself. It’s great to take a new round every week or month, so you can follow your progress. It can be a great experience as long as you commit to some serious ground rules before you take the before. The most important ground rule is to love the you in the before. Seriously, you need to promise yourself before you take the photo that you will not put yourself down when you see it, and you will view yourself with compassion and tenderness. And that is the second ground rule—that you do not use your before picture to scare yourself into change. In fact, do the opposite. Look frequently at your before pictures—especially when you are tempted to eat pizza at midnight or blow off your workout—and love that person. Seriously work to develop loving and compassionate feelings for the person that was courageous enough to put on some swimming trunks or stand in their bra and underwear and let a loved one take a picture of their front and back. (Before my husband left for work, I said, “Hey honey, can you take a few pictures of me really fast before you go?” Shocked and amused, he set down his computer bag and blushed a great deal as I appeared wearing nothing but my bra and underwear.) Admire the bravery and honesty of the person you see in the before. That person was willing to be wildly vulnerable, so when you are fully dressed and concerned with the affairs of the world (versus the health of your body), you can open your phone and gaze at the real you—the naked you. I promise, the more you adore and care about that person standing shirtless and embarrassed, the more you will want to take care of that funny, awesome, brave soul.

Jennifer Barnick is a painter and writer. She studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. She founded Twenty-two Twenty-eight. “One of the most exciting aspects of Twenty-two Twenty-eight is building a channel for artists and writers to share their work with the world.” You can follow Jennifer on her Instagram here.

Check out Jennifer’s book. You can read the first short story for free on Amazon here.