I've moved to JenFul.com

I am not a model

There is no doubt that losing almost 200 pounds is hard. However, I recently discovered something else equally hard: smiling naturally with cute hair, flattering make-up, and uncrumpled clothing in good lighting. I think I’ll take cheese sticks and cardio over headshots and light meters any day.

I’m writing a book about my weight-loss experience (in bookstores Spring 2008!) and I know the first two things people are going to do when they pick it up is 1) read the back to see how much weight I lost and 2) flip to my author photo to see exactly how thin I look. Normally, I don’t care that much about looking thin in photos. I prefer to look thin, of course, but I focus more on standing up straight, brushing any crumbs off of my shirt and gluing my eyes open so I don’t get caught mid-blink. However, since this is a book about weight-loss, I would be naïve not to admit that I have to look thin in my author photo. No one wants to read a weight-loss memoir written by a fat girl. The reverse is true too. I once picked the book Fat Girl: A True Story off the shelf at the bookstore and was disappointed that the author wasn’t very fat at all.

I could hypothetically chose not to have an author photo, but that wasn’t really an option either because 1) people would think I secretly regained the weight and was too ashamed to show my face and 2) I’ve spent almost a year writing this thing and almost three years losing all the weight, so you’re going to take a look at my pretty face.

So, I had an assignment: Find a flattering, high-resolution photo of myself smiling naturally in good lighting with a contrasting background. It is much easier to glare at a camera convincingly than to smile without looking like your faking it, but I had to be smiling because this is a funny book and no one wants to read a funny book by someone with glaring issues. I decided to have my picture taken professionally. I set up a photo sitting and even scheduled an appointment for makeup application because I don’t know an eyelash curler from a potato peeler. I thought it would be fun to dress up and look glamorous and have my picture taken. I was looking forward to it.

The day before the photo shoot I went insane.

I started to obsess over what I should wear. I wanted to show off my collarbones, so I needed to wear either my green or black shirt. However, we were shooting on a white background for my full-body shot, so I needed to avoid black or navy. That left the green shirt. All my pants were black except for a brown pair, but they had blue embroidery on the bottom that did not match the green. I had a flattering red and black patterned dress that showed my collarbones, but I didn’t think it would read well on the white. I hadn’t found a pair of jeans that fit my tush right yet, so I was left with my skirts or a dress. I could try buying something new, but what if I decided I hated it next week? I ended up taking a dozen test shots in my kitchen wearing different combinations of shoes, tights, skirts and tops. And jewelry. Should I wear jewelry? I never wear jewelry but a pendant might look pretty against the scoop neckline. Am I being dishonest if I accessorize?

Then I looked up tips online about how to look thinner in photos. Yes, there are whole entire articles just on this topic. If you look at lots of celebrity photos, you will find most starlets are experts at this. You can put one foot in front of the other and turn from the hips to make your silhouette slimmer. You can suck it in a little, but don’t suck it in too much or else you’ll look like you’re sucking it in. Wearing monochromatic colors is supposed to help too. You can push your chin up and out to make your neck fat look smaller. Neck fat, who knew?

I practiced smiling in the mirror.

I woke up early on a Saturday morning, styled my own hair, and got my make-up done. After that I headed down to the photo studio with a bag of extra clothes, just in case I changed my mind about what to wear. Then I sat in front of the background, looked at the photographer and froze. What was I supposed to do here? Smile? Okay, I’ll try to smile even though I feel really uncomfortable turned sideways on this stool, and oh I’d better remember to sit up straight, and don’t forget to stick my chin out! But smile like you’re enjoying it too. Oh no, are my upper arms pressed up against my body and making my arm fat look bigger? And does my hair look cute? It looked cute in the car but it does not look cute in those proofs. And why did it not occur to me that the corduroy mini-skirt would wrinkle in the car? Aaaaaaaaah!

Finally the shoot was over and I got my photos on a CD which I promptly took home and obsessed over on my computer for an hour. My smile was great in this one, but my eyes were half-closed. This one would be great, but my hair looks funny. I forgot to take off my watch! Moron, you specifically reminded yourself in the car to take off your watch. Why did I think I could style my own hair? I can’t even style my Barbie’s hair. The mini-skirt was a bad choice because it is not as slimming as a pair of jeans would be. Why didn’t I just go buy a pair of jeans instead of waiting for the sale next weekend?

At which point I turned off the computer and decided The. Madness. Must. End. This was what it was like to be one of those girls, those girls who obsessed over fashion magazines and never thought they were thin enough and complained about their flabby tummys that were as flat as Kansas.

It was AWFUL.

I feel so sorry for those girls who look in the mirror every day and obsess over their image like I had been obsessing the day before my photo shoot and for the hour afterwards. I hated putting importance on how thin I looked through a camera lens, because it’s not very important at all (unless you’re trying to sell a weight-loss memoir). It’s also a massive time suck. I spent hours upon hours scheduling appointments and picking out clothes and having foundation expertly applied. I have to give models proper respect because looking glamorous is hard work. I only went through it because I didn’t want there to be a nagging voice in my head a year from now saying, “Well, PastaQueen, you could have sold a bazillion copies of your book and be lying on a sandy beach in Tahiti right now instead of sitting in the gutter on a pile of cigarette butts, if only you didn’t look so FAT in your author photo.” I don’t regret doing it, but I never want to do it again. (I didn’t want to obsess over it for the next couple days afterwards either, but the madness had a lot of inertia and took several days to stop.) I thought having my picture taken would make me feel pretty, but I felt so much prettier before I started focusing on all my flaws. I’m the type of person who will go to the grocery store covered in cat hair and really doesn’t care. When I created a situation where I decided being thin and pretty mattered, it messed up my head. It’s so much better living a life where being thin and pretty is nice, but not all that important.

Ironically, I’m going to use another photo for the back of my book that was taken when I wasn’t freaking the f%$# out. It looks more natural and my hair looks pretty decent. The photographer did do an excellent job even though his model left something to be desired. We got a great shot of me in one leg of my fat pants. I love being the girl who can stand in one leg of her fat pants, even if I still have arm flab and neck fat and have absolutely no future in modeling.

(Note: I know someone will suggest that this should be my author photo, but I want my close-up, Mr. DeMille. I’m going with a headshot and you can see it when the book comes out.)

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50 Comments

Michelle • September 25, 2007 at 8:39 am

That picture is FREAKING AWESOME! I’m sure whatever close-up pic you choose will be just as good – after all, a work of art (you) is a work of art!! Can’t wait for your book!

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KateG • September 25, 2007 at 8:39 am

Wow – what a great shot – I love the image of all of you in one leg of your former pants. Congratulations and I’m definitely looking forward to the book!

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dietgirl • September 25, 2007 at 8:49 am

:) It’s all bloody awesome PQ – the hair, the clothes, the pose!

I think you make a great point about the models – same would go for actors too, I guess. That environment would inevitably make you fixate on your appearance.

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K • September 25, 2007 at 8:57 am

That photo IS a work of art! (And your hair looks lovely to me.)

I know what you mean, though (I am the person who had to use “looking good in her wedding photos” as the stimulus to lose weight in the first place, even though I am ordinarily a total scruff.) The presence of a photographer who is being paid does rather make one fixate on things that would never normally be an issue.

I don’t quite get why you had to take off your watch, or why you can’t wear black against white… aren’t your old trousers black? (I know nothing about that kind of photography.)

PQ – The black on white creates a very high contrast, so you can’t see the details of the texture on the pants. They’re more like a big shadow even through there were wrinkles and folds. You can see shadows on my green shirt, but there’s nothing similar on the pants. If I wore all black I’d look more like a flat ink blot than a three-dimensional person with shadows. I didn’t *have* to take off my watch, but I thought I should since there was really no reason to wear it.

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Debbi • September 25, 2007 at 9:33 am

What an awesome photo. When I take photos I tell the subject to give me the Princess Di look — she nearly always had her pictures taken from above, with her chin slightly down and her eyes up. You’ve got the look!

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Diana the Scale Junkie • September 25, 2007 at 9:48 am

I’m so happy for you!! You look good all on your own through your hard work and efforts! The skinny magazine models look good through the miracle blessings of Saint Photoshop

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Lynette • September 25, 2007 at 9:53 am

That photo is GREAT and illustrates exactly what you have accomplished! I love that you can now stand in one leg of your old pants!

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Girl on a Mission... • September 25, 2007 at 10:41 am

WOW!

To stand in one leg of your pants…makes you look so miniature and tiny! You look so small and fit and healthy! Its amazing the amount of weight you have lost. I am still in awe of your site and I can not even imagine the uphill battle you have climbed. The picture looks fantastic and it is worth a thousand words to me! I can’t wait for the book too! I have forwarded this link to all of my friends and other persons battling this problem!

WILD!

Thank you!

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jodi • September 25, 2007 at 10:53 am

love that shot, definitely include it somewhere on the bookcover… how could you not – it really shows how much you’ve lost and how great you look! :o)

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Mymsie • September 25, 2007 at 10:55 am

The pic is great! Can’t wait to read the book :)

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Têtue • September 25, 2007 at 10:57 am

You look beautiful! I’m so ripping jealous!

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hanlie • September 25, 2007 at 11:12 am

Fantastic!!!! That photo says it all… You are such an inspiration. I hope you sell a bazillion copies. I’ll order mine from Amazon.com as soon as it’s out.

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budicca • September 25, 2007 at 11:14 am

Hey PQ, how about a picture of you standing inside the arms of the blue top you are wearing in the ‘half of me’ picture?

You wrote the first thing people will do when they pick up your book is to look at the author photo. I don’t think so! They will flip to the beginning chapter to find your before photo first, then the after.

I hope you put lots of pictures in your book. You know that’s what we all want in a non-fiction book, especially one about a great amount of weight loss. I will definitely be looking for your book next year.

But now I will just fume about gold kiwi being one buck each.

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a.r. • September 25, 2007 at 11:16 am

Hi PQ, I agree, you look amazing in your photo–I just want to defend the practice of obsessing over ones’ appearance. Of course you’re right it can be really destructive, but it can also be a pleasure.

Think of two students turning in an essay for a class: one freaks out and is stressed about every last word choice and can’t sleep for worrying about getting less than an ‘A’. The other one really loves the subject and stays up late doing research and thinking of the right word choice. They both stay up, they both think about it all the time, and they both get ‘A’s. But one is happy and productive.

Being aware of and taking pleasure in the details of ones life is an end in itself. Hmm…I guess I mean don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself doing this again, but happily. You’re lovely, and it’s great to enjoy that fact.

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Marla • September 25, 2007 at 11:19 am

Sweetie, I will buy your book no matter how bad you look in the author photo ;-)

I love the one-pants-leg photo too, I think you look adorable. I am saving my biggest-size pants for just such a moment.

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Emily • September 25, 2007 at 11:28 am

I love the one-pant-leg photo! You look totally cute in it. :)

I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of months now, and I think this is my favorite post. Well, it is the one I need to take most to heart right now. I’ve always been a fairly normal weight, as well as somewhat athletic. Yet I’ve spent the last eight years struggling with eating disorders and hating what I see in the mirror. I want to get to the point where I can say, like you do, that being thin and pretty is “nice, but not all that important”.

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melsky • September 25, 2007 at 11:38 am

You look great!

Can you sew? You could make yourself two skirts from that pair of pants.

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shannon • September 25, 2007 at 11:39 am

you look amazing, and your hair is fantastic!

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Jenny • September 25, 2007 at 11:45 am

Finding the happy middle ground is the key to peace with our bodies… that, and a well paid photographer. :-)

Thanks for posting THAT photo – it’s a keeper for sure.

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Patty • September 25, 2007 at 11:53 am

Nice photo of you in your before pants! You look great and thin. Too bad about not liking your photo/glamour shot experience. It sucks to start thinking of your flaws, it’ll drive you crazy.

Good luck on the book writing!

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the veggie paparazzo • September 25, 2007 at 12:23 pm

Hey, check out those lovely, lit collarbones outlined so nicely in that green shirt!

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Elizabeth • September 25, 2007 at 12:36 pm

Those collarbones look great! And this is an awesome picture. I can’t wait to see the one on the book.

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Amy • September 25, 2007 at 12:48 pm

PQ, you look AMAZING in that photo! So gorgeous. I adore that green shirt. I want one of my own. :)

I know how you feel. This past weekend, my best friend and I went to Orlando to participate in the 2007 Torrid Model Search, and I’ve never been the type to obsess over makeup or hair or clothes or “should I stand this way and suck it in or since this is a plus-sized thing, should I let it hang out?” It was insane. BUT the photos of me came out pretty well, even if I don’t win anything. I’m a tomboy at heart, so to try to be frilly and pretty and girly was so foreign to me. I was always too worried about how fat I was as a teenager to learn the makeup and fashion and the whole nine yards. I don’t know how I could’ve handled it, had I had that to add to my worries.

Great photo though, and I can’t wait to read your book. I’m sure it’ll be hilariously fantastic, just as your blog is. :)

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Kalyn • September 25, 2007 at 3:58 pm

I think you look great! It also sounds like this was a great learning experience for you! When I had a photo shoot for Woman’s World Magazine, I felt just like you did. They told me I couldn’t wear levis, and that’s what I looked the thinnest in. I bought new clothes and went crazy trying to look perfect. I will say though that the photographer did make me look great. It took two hours of me posing though! I can see that modeling is a tough job in more ways than one.

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bitchwhoblogs • September 25, 2007 at 4:16 pm

I love that photo. When I did the photo shoot for the Cult (WW) I was amazed at how exhausting it was to smile on demand and to look perky and natural. Also, I was shocked how flat my hair was despite having a stylist there to fluff it and a make up artist there to touch up my face…. tough stuff… I can only imagine what it would have been like before I dropped the pounds…

I cannot wait to see your selected photos on the cover of you book!

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MM • September 25, 2007 at 4:35 pm

Love the photo. I wish I had gotten a professional shot done when I jumped into my old pants. I saved ‘em though – just. in. case. http://www.flickr.com/photos/meltingmama/22598843/in/set-72157594411737071/

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elissa • September 25, 2007 at 6:17 pm

You look great in that one photo, and I’m sure that the professional pics you took are better than you think. It’s always better after the madness subsides.

When I was in high school and got my portrait taken for the yearbook, I was an absolute emotional disaster. I didn’t really like any of them, but looking back at the proofs, EVERY. ONE. WAS. PRETTY. (except the one where I was cross-eyed, of course). It was just my mindset.

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f • September 25, 2007 at 7:28 pm

Make SURE you have lots and lots of horrible “before” pics, with captions describing how “miserable” you were, etc. etc.

I bet the publisher will cheap out on photos, but don’t let them!

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laurie • September 25, 2007 at 7:34 pm

I love that picture! I hope you reconsider using it. It’s amazing, I’d buy the book based on that alone.

And I love you so much for talking about all this, I have been so freaked out over what to wear for events and stuff coming up (and I love fashion, in the arty sense, I mean… I’m a graphic designer, and I love color and texture and knitting and stuff) but I’m not “high fashion” and mostly I’ve just had to come to terms with the fact that I can please everyone, and for a people pleaser such as myself this is a drama LOL.

I am so excited about your book and can’t wait to read it.

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laurie • September 25, 2007 at 7:35 pm

Um, clearly I meant to type “can’t” please everyone. ARGH.

Anyway, I do love love love that pic. You are so cute. Your smile! And look — half of you :)

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Denise • September 25, 2007 at 7:37 pm

You look beautiful!!!! I think this picture should be included in your book and can’t wait till that comes out btw. Next time you get some pictures taken for your head shot, play some music and just get into the mood. (a glass of wine might help too!!! LOL)

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Kyle • September 25, 2007 at 8:04 pm

Thanks for the response about the scale. Very helpful…I definitely don’t work out that much so I think I’m going to take the plunge and get it!

I am a photographer and I always think it’s kind of funny to see how much some people stress in front of the camera. You shouldn’t worry so much. It’s the photographers job to make you look good, it’s not your job. The person taking your pictures will help by knowing what lighting to use, what poses to put you, what angles to photograph you from. You shouldn’t have to worry about looking skinny!

btw, I do love that photo! You always look very comfortable with yourself in pictures, I like that.

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Nancy Bea • September 25, 2007 at 8:45 pm

Omigosh you look so cute and happy I didn’t even think much about the fact that you are also thin and pretty. But you are! This shot is a winner!

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Cindy • September 25, 2007 at 8:59 pm

Hi PQ,

Great entry… I love to hear of your struggles, be it fashion or eating or running…you always make me think and often make me laugh. I am certainly never bored reading your blog, so I can’t wait for the book (I often have the attention span of a gnat, so a book that will grab me always thrills me no end!). I love the photo in the pants, by the way. I have a pair of those in a box under my bed. When I put them on, however, I freaked myself out. I was definitely NOT smiling like you. I hope to get to the point some day when I can look back without feeling so much pain and shame—but for now, I will settle for maintaining this loss and learning to live with this body and image (without freaking out every once in a while!). Thanks for all you do to inspire the rest of US!

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Rah • September 25, 2007 at 10:20 pm

PQ, you look adorable! You glow, girl! Cute picture, and the fat pants will convince even the most skeptical reader! I can’t wait to read the book.

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Catherine • September 25, 2007 at 11:43 pm

I loved this post — I remember that silhouette-slimming pose from my wedding — the photographer had me do that. I’ve passed it on to at least one other woman since then. It really does work!

I think you’ll take your “new look” more for granted as the years go by, and you’ll have so much fun playing with your clothes, your look, your make-up. I think you’re going to have a lot of fun! You’re a real cutie!

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mb • September 26, 2007 at 12:30 am

Wow! What a great picture – the fat pants, the smile, the hair, the collarbones – you look amazing.

The offer is still open for your free photo shoot the next time you are in Boston.

Your post made me think how hard it must be for celebrities who struggle with their weight and how unforgiving the camera can be. You’ll have to get used to having your picture taken because I’m sure when you are on the book tour all of your fans will want to have their pictures taken with the incredible Pasta Queen, I know I will.

I love your blog and look forward to each and every new post. You are such an inspiration!

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Zanitta • September 26, 2007 at 2:37 am

Tag, you’re it! Post a recipe and get some people to do the same!

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daniele • September 26, 2007 at 7:26 am

You look awesome! That picture is so so cool. I can’t wait to read your book.

I have total admiration for you pastaqueen.. and I will get there. Yes I will. :)

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bunnah • September 26, 2007 at 8:15 am

PQ, long-time reader, first time commenter (yes, you are a radio show, didn’t you know?) ;oP

I definitely know what you’re saying. At my lowest (size 5), I still thought I was HUGE and ugly and iky and all sorts of mean and horrible stuff. Nothing was right. I had an epiphany the other day that I sort of blogged about. Even if you don’t feel it everyday, you’ve got to “fake it ’til you make it” and I’ve been trying to do that now. I pretend that I think I look AWESOME, and then sometimes I do. It’s difficult to do though.

Anyway, love your blog, you’re an inspiration — partyl because of the weight loss but partly just because you have the courage to talk about things others wouldn’t.

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Mia • September 26, 2007 at 9:24 am

Yea, Pasta Queen! I can’t wait to read your book! I like this photo, and I especially like the off-center angle. It’s both elevated and off-centered, making it feel more “artsy”.

PS- Love, love, love the tennis shoes. Too cute!

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kentuckienne • September 26, 2007 at 9:53 am

I think that photo is a marvelous choice.

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v'ron • September 26, 2007 at 11:06 am

Yes, the picture looks great, and I’ll chime in on being both a photographer and being photographed. For one thing, I don’t think your photog had to work too hard. Through this blog you’ve already gotten used to photographing yourself, and that’s evident in the picture in this post — it was just a formal setting, that’s all. The photog did a great job of capturing the natural glow you have in your other pictures.

I agree with using just a headshot, especially on the jacket cover. Maybe the one pants leg on the back, but headshots are for AUTHORS, and you are an AUTHOR.

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elasticwaist • September 26, 2007 at 12:16 pm

Adorable. But why didn’t you just consult our video about how to look lovely in photographs?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRkd6-wZLlA

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virg • September 26, 2007 at 12:57 pm

That is such a cute photo of you! Your smile looks genuine and you hair is really cute. I can’t wait to see your book.

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top weight loss site • September 26, 2007 at 3:05 pm

This is only my first time being to this website but I have to say that your accomplishments are incredible. Having lost that much weight and still having the desire to keep going. You are absolute on the right track and fitness professionals like I am love seeing and hearing these success stories. Keep it up.

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Susan • September 26, 2007 at 10:36 pm

That is a GREAT shot of you in one pants-leg! You look so pretty and happy and confident. I agree with v’ron about using a headshot too, because you are an author. Can’t wait to read your book!

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Manic Mom • September 26, 2007 at 11:18 pm

Great picture. Glad you shared that one on your blog–have you considered a photo for the front cover, or is that too narcicistic? (spelled wrong, I know)… OR will the cover be the HALF portion of you. and the back cover the NEW half portion of yoU!

What about a split-screen author photo on the back, then and now? Will there be photos in the book.

I am really looking forward to reading it, as a person who has had weight issues my whole life!

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Linda • September 27, 2007 at 4:56 am

I love this photo – you look gorgeous.

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JB • September 28, 2007 at 2:30 pm

This has nothing to do with anything, (love the pic, can’t wait for the book), but “I want my close-up, Mr. DeMille”? I just watched that movie last night! What a weird coincidence.

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog JenFul.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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