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  • Writer's pictureBrande Victorian

Let's Talk About This Picture

August 15, 2014, the MadameNoire team was invited to work out with Tank and his trainers as part of the promo for his album, "Stronger U." We arrived expecting some sort of light, choreography style workout, only to be met with a bootcamp setup complete with hurdles, ladder drills, medicine ball slams, bosu ball balancing, and, my least favorite, running. Just listening to the rundown of the class I knew there were some things I couldn't do. Not in the "I don't wanna do this anymore" type of way I complain during my training sessions now, but in the "My body is nearly 300 pounds and I physically can't" kind of way. I expected having to explain that to the trainers at different points during the workout and being met with pushback as they encouraged me to go harder, but they beat me to the punch, giving me modifications almost instantly.

It's funny how you can see yourself in the mirror every day, but not really see yourself until someone else points out something about you. Though the trainers were nothing but professional and encouraging, I knew if they were giving me a pass -- which trainers almost never do unless you're injured -- I must look like the most out of shape thing walking. And then, my co-workers and I took this picture together after the class and that conclusion was confirmed. I was huge -- and damn near unrecognizable. Interestingly, when I search my Google photo archives I rarely find full-body photos of myself from that year. I see that as proof that, subconsciously, I knew things had gone too far.

Fast forward to August 16, 2015 and I'd dropped 89 pounds. I was in my feelings because it wasn't 90 and I wrote about it. If you haven't figured it out by now, I stay in my feelings for absolutely no reason at all and spend more time loathing where I'm not instead of celebrating where I am. But part of me still knew that was damn good work. And so I posted the before and after picture below, got my Instagram affirmation, and got back to work. In the end, I lost 92 pounds before falling off for various reasons I've explained before. But something else happened while I was chilling on my couch, eating and drinking like diabetes doesn't run in my family.

Internet trainers started stealing my before and after pic and passing the results off as their own. At first I felt bad for the naive people who might believe these trainers were actually responsible for my weight loss and hand over their money to them. Then I felt half-embarrassed that I didn't look like that girl on the right anymore and I wasn't doing anything about it. Then I felt angry at the nerve of these people lifting my pic and using it for their own selfish gain. And then I felt inspired.

On December 22, 2016 a friend sent me yet another link to some Intagrammer passing off my progress as their own. This was just a few days after one of my friends sent me a similar scammer post and congratulated me on "getting this money." That's when I informed him that this wasn't some kind of endorsement deal and I was basically getting played and so were these people's followers. On December 23, a Facebook account had begun sharing a hair review I'd written for MadameNoire without giving much credit and I finally started to realize how the game works. I realized people were interested in what I was doing and what I had to say and it was time for me to profit off of me.

A couple of months later, was born, not with the soul purpose of making money but with the purpose of finding purpose. For months, if not years, I prayed for an answer regarding what I am supposed to do "next" professionally and nothing ever came. Not until I continued to see my weight loss picture floating around the Internet. Not until I realized other people were as invested in my success as I was. Not until I realized how uncommon it is to see the full emotional and physical weight loss journey of someone truly morbidly obese. Not until I realized what a truly impressive thing I did losing so much weight and, for the first time in my life, not gaining it all back and then some, even if I did fall off just a tad.

It's amazing how opportunities began to come my way just a mere couple of months after launching this site at the top of the year. People were paying attention and they saw the value in what I was doing without me doing anything other than being my authentic, struggling-to-lose-weight self. I'd heard that's what happens when you follow your purpose; now I know it for sure. It's for that reason that I'm glad I had this weight loss setback. Even though I chronicled my journey before, I did it on someone else's platform, as part of someone else's dream. This time, I'm building something for me, and two years ago I wasn't in a space to even believe I could be doing the things I'm doing now.

While both before and after pictures are impressive transformations, these photos mean a lot more to me than a good effort in the gym. They represent the shedding of a lot of self-limiting beliefs and an internal transformation to being okay with speaking my mind and admitting my struggles, and gaining the confidence to be okay with having attention on me and, as a result, attention on my body. That wasn't something I could say, even at my smallest a couple of years ago. So that's why, when people share this photo, I want them to know the whole story.

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