The Story “Before & Afters” Don’t Tell
I’m not sure if I’ve ever expressed this before, but I have very mixed feelings about before and after pictures.
I don’t like making blanket statements because there are always pros and cons to everything. With issues surrounding weight loss and body image there are never simple, clean cut answers.
On one hand before and afters can be incredibly powerful tools that visually represent progress and success. They can represent the triumph of achieving a goal and a journey to better health.
But the key word is CAN because I believe before and after pictures fail to do a lot of things, and as a result they create a lot of negative consequences.
They fail to tell the whole story.
How can one picture capture everything that was a part of your “transformation”? The common belief that losing weight is simply a story of calories in versus calories out is just wrong. It fails to mention there is a human on the other end consuming and using the energy that calories represent. This human is more than a mere number cruncher.
These photos glorify dramatic weight loss, rather than optimal health. The bigger the visual transformation the better, but there is so so so much more to health than the number on the scale. A certain weight shouldn’t be the goal, but the byproduct of healing your health from the inside out.
They demonize the “before.”
I guess this is my biggest thorn with before and afters. Before is always painted as this awful person when in reality it’s the exact same person. There is more to life than your weight and by demonizing before that can get lost. And it shouldn’t. Yes, you do learn a lot and taking care of yourself is so important, but “before” is just as important a person as “after”. They went through so many struggles as well and deserve just as much compassion and love as “after.”
They represent a (falsely) linear journey to health.
Finally, losing weight or making a health transformation isn’t a linear quest. It’s isn’t done when you take the final picture, you keep living. You’ve learned and you’ve grown but you have so much more to do. Your goals might change and you might have a million “afters” but none of them are more important than the others and they are certainly not more important than “before” because they’re all YOU and you are always deserving of the same respect.
So after all that, what do you think I’m going to do?
Show you a little before and after, but before I do I believe it deserves context because as I pointed out. most before and afters lack context.
My before and after is a little different. In between these photos is around 5 years and 25 pounds, but that’s far from what matters. In between these photos have been struggles and triumphs. In between these photos I’ve won and I’ve lost again and then I won again and then I lost a little and it probably won’t end, but each time I fall I pick myself up again.
My point is, what this “before and after” photo represents isn’t a start and a finish, but the journey in between to get there. That’s who I am. I love who I was in both these pictures and both these pictures represent someone who I am proud of.
So I’m asking you to think a little deeper about “transformations.” Think about the picture in the middle that you can’t see, that’s usually the most important one.