Weight Loss Before-and-After Photos
We’ve all seen them. They pop up everywhere and they all show some kind of weight-loss “transformation” that seems nothing short of miraculous.
The “after” photos show a seemingly happy, healthy person. Put side by side with a “before” photo, it implies that the subject had been neither of those things in the past.
While these photos serve as markers of progress and inspiration for many—for someone with body image and eating difficulties, these common comparisons can become a bit of a pitfall.
Judging Success By Appearance: An Incomplete Picture
In most of these montages, the differences seen in the subject are supposed to scream “SUCCESS! Do what I did and you can have it, too!” But judging success (or lack of it) simply by appearance, a split-second moment captured in an image at that, is a tricky road to go down.
It says nothing about how the person actually feels, how they live, breathe, and move through every day. Furthermore, notably absent is a representation of the journey, both its difficulties and its joys, through the changes that took place.
Living In A Constant State of “Before”
In the past, my being at a higher weight meant that I felt like I was in a constant state of “before.” I was always thinking about the future, always putting things on hold, saving life experiences and happiness for that great day when my body would finally be good enough to be an “after” photo and good enough to deserve a real life.
By making my own personal happiness conditional to what my body looked like and what other people thought of it, I suddenly realized that I was wishing my life away.
Success Can Be About How You Feel
Still at a higher weight, choosing love over self-judgment is a familiar struggle of mine. It’s difficult not to use photos like that to turn a critical eye on myself. While I attempt to be more mindful and present in my seemingly imperfect body, it’s hard not to want an idealized “after.”
Coming to Green Mountain, I expected to see walls full of before-and-after photos, but it wasn’t like that at all. It allowed me to embrace what they’ve been saying for 41 years—that it’s not about how you look; it’s about how you feel.
I can’t begin to list all the diets, fads, foods, pain, and pills I used to try to fix my “before.”
What really needed mending all along was the way I thought and felt about myself. The truth is, it’s still incredibly difficult for me to be fat and self-loving at the same time. It’s a daily battle that I sometimes lose, but that doesn’t mean that I need to stop trying.
Unfortunately, I can’t wake up tomorrow and magically be thin. But I can try to treat my body and myself well, and fill my days with enough actual life to forget about what I look like for a minute.
In Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now, Maya Angelou says that “what you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” I think my journey, and perhaps yours, is about learning how to do both at the same time—changing both how we treat our bodies and the way we think about them, together.