Before and after pictures are like the slap-chop of the dieting industry.
The visual allure sucks you in and makes you want to “buy buy buy!” They dominate Saturday morning infomercial TV and the sidebar on my Facebook… promising that you’ll lose 4 inches with this one simple trick.
They sell you the promise of looking ripped and therefore being the happiest person in the world, while you prancercize along the beach running your lee press on nails through your perfectly coiffed hair. I’d like to call bullshit on these pictures…
Here are 4 reasons before and after pictures are bullshit:
#1 – They tell you nothing about the person’s health
Let’s be real here, most people are driven to diet in order to look good naked or because they have a faulty association with fat and health. I’m guilty of this myself and it’s what led me into this incredible world of nutritionism and then disordered eatingism. However, this is a problem for two reasons:
a) Being healthy doesn’t make you a better or worse person than anyone else. And frankly, it’s your choice. More importantly, it doesn’t make you any more worthy of love or feeling enough as you are.
b) Just because you have abs and a clavicle that you could hang your dry cleaning on, it does not mean you are healthy. And just because you are fat, it does not mean you are unhealthy.
Take myself for example… this is a picture of me when I was at my ‘skinniest’ from 2005-ish.
Don’t be deceived by my hot sunglasses and pink sash. I was suffering from depression, insomnia and also had some gut issues as well as reactive hypoglycemia. I relied on a few prescription pills to feel normal.
I only cared about being as skinny as possible and therefore I was under-eating and over-exercising and consuming foods that had zero fat, which only made me crazy.
#2 – Fabulous ‘afters’ do not equal confidence
Whenever I see an ‘after’ photo, the person is totally glammed up and plastically happy. Their life must be so wonderful now, right?! I mean, they are standing by the side of the pool posed like a Barker beauty prepping you to bid on the latest VCR. Life. Is. Awesome.
Getting to a certain size or body fat % doesn’t make you happy or confident.
If you are unhappy with your body and think that being leaner will make your life better, you have it all wrong. You don’t wake up one day, have your body fat measured and say, “Yup, I’m happy now…Now I’m confident enough to quit that job that I hate or ask that guy out.” ERRR…wrong. Confidence is something you can have no matter what your shape and size. Letting your body fat dictate when that will happen is a losing battle.
You can be confident and happy in any size.
Confidence comes from doing the things that you are holding back from doing and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. It comes from giving back to others and just relishing being your pure silly self.
People who strive for these types of physiques are often perfectionists and never satisfied. Let’s use the above picture of myself as an example again. At that time I thought I was disgusting. Honestly. I know. Looking back, I definitely had body dysmorphia. It’s ridiculous and I regret ever insulting myself – but truth be told, it speaks to the fatphobic beliefs I had at the time.
I hated my body so much and I was SO self-conscious. I was chronically frustrated and angry for not being able to get as thin as my friends. Things on the inside felt very different from what was happening on the outside.
Odds are good that many of the before and after pictures you see are a false representation of what is happening on the inside. It’s a story that we’ve created based on what the media tells us happens when someone loses weight.
What I know now is that you must love yourself – the person that you are at this very moment – in order to truly be happy. Accepting yourself is one of the keys to a better life and this is not achieved through food.
#3 – The prospect of maintaining this long-term is often bleak.
Generally, the effort that it takes to get to that ‘after’ look is something that would result in a life of constant restriction, hormonal stress and sheer unhappiness. In other words, your social life would suck and at meal time you’d be raging like Kanye West getting his picture taken. I’ll use me as an example again… this is a picture of me when I was at my lowest body fat %.
This picture (taken back in 2008) is the ONLY time in my life that I had a little deltoid definition. Want to know my secret? I was eating ~1,100 calories a day (that’s enough to keep a hamster alive) and exercising 7 times a week (mostly CrossFit and then extra strength and cardio outside the gym). DON’T DO THIS.
I was OBSESSED with measuring my food and tracking every bite that I took. I would feel guilty for eating 1 extra almond and I would drag myself to the gym even when I had no sleep. Does that sound maintainable or healthy to you?? Some would probably say I had an eating disorder or obsession with exercise. I would agree.
And guess what? I still hated my body and wanted to push it even further. The end result was that it contributed to my adrenal fatigue and resulting hormonal issues (low thyroid, estrogen of a post-menopausal woman, no menses).
#4 – Photoshop, lighting, posing and other bullshit tactics the industry uses to sell you their “magic solutions.”
I can easily look at myself in the mirror and look 10 pounds heavier by slouching over, smearing mascara over my face and wearing granny panties. Adding a tan takes at least 5 pounds off…This is a scientific fact because back in my crazy diet days I insisted on being as tanned as possible even when there were 30 centimetres of snow outside. It’s also so easy to manipulate photo’s as illustrated here.
Beauty comes from being confident with who you are and what you’ve got right now. Oprah might call it ‘your authentic self.’ I call it, ‘bitches be’in real.’ Those staged pictures reek of artificial flavours and discomfort. Let your true self shine through and who cares if you didn’t get the best angle.
This is me now… healthy, happy, confident, not giving a crap what other people think and eating whatever I want.
What do you think? Are you sold by the allure of ‘after’ pictures? Sound off in the comments!