Thursday, 25 April 2013

A REAL 'before and after photo'

So I've been hearing some stuff lately...from conversations, observations and even from myself. About this weight loss thing. In particular, about 'before and after photos.' We all love them, don't we? They're bloody inspirational! To see a photo of a non-smiling, obese person next to a smiley skinny minny makes us all feel like we can 'do it' too. It makes us believe that transformations are possible. To put it simply, they give us hope.

You've all seen this before.  It's true.

What has been bothering me lately though, is how easy it is to believe that 'that', is it. I'm going to speak really bluntly here. It's so easy to believe that the fat photo happened. And then the skinny photo was next. There was nothing before, or in the middle, or after. And that it's all about the goal weight.

People forget the whole other side to these photos. Now I am NOT talking about myself here - I am not even close to goal and am officially still 'Obese'.  I am simply just speaking generically. It's easy to forget that this - let's say woman - was once a child. Once was an awkward teenager. They forget that she has lost weight before. And put some on. Then lost it again. Then put on more. Like my weight tracker in blue below.  This is very up and down.  The second highest point is when I started 12WBT.  Yes, it's predominately going down and I know this time is for real.  But if you look closely, there's lots of little hiccups in there along the way as I learn.

But when we see photos we can forget that it may not have been straightforward.  We don't think about the fact that the person in the photos has passions, hobbies, day to day things that she has to do. She has a family. And friends. She has bad habits - some days she's grumpy for no reason. She's human.

My weight for the last 6 years - not exactly a straight line

It could be easily forgiven to look at a before and after photo and believe that it was smooth sailing and the numbers dropped away consistently each week: a perfect downwards line on a weight loss chart. Not even. Looking at a before and after photo, you can't see the slip ups that happened in between. You can't see the block of chocolate that was consumed in a frenzy of old behaviours that snuck back in on a day when the kids were driving her crazy and she had an argument with her partner. You can’t see the bad days, the sad days, the good days, the days where you just can’t be bothered. You can't see the day to day tribulations that every one of us have. 

Those before and afters are real, alright.  But they’re not the be all and end all.  They’re two moments in time.  Life is so much more.  She has more going on than these two photos.  And besides, none of are able to use our true ‘after’ photo yet.  Think about it.

The person smiling in that after photo, they may have a wide grin but don't think their life is perfect. They suffer from illness, injury, relationship breakdowns, career issues, sad days and bad hair days.  Just as they've had triumphs, successes, days of pure joy and moments that take their breathe away. They have done before and they will continue to do. Because an 'after photo' is just a snapshot in time. There's plenty more photos to come after that one. Because this isn't about weight - this is a part of your life. 

And more importantly, what about those passions of yours?  You know, the ones you keep hidden inside you and you gave up on because it was too hard / too expensive / too scary / too time consuming.  You know it’s a passion because when you think about it, your heart physically contracts and you get butterflies in your knees.  Don’t pretend you don’t.

I put together an example of a real 'before and after photo'. I am only halfway through my weight loss journey so I'm not the best subject for this, but it should still show you what I mean.

Below are two photo collages. The first collage is my most recent 'before and after photo'. And the second collage is a more realistic view of my two photos – using just a few representations of photos for different parts of my life. I had photos before my 'before' photo. We all have a past. The journey between these two photos has been up and down. I didn't just go from Picture A to B. From a nutrition and exercise point of view, I stuffed up all the time. I still do. There’s no (as far as I know) perfect person with the perfect life.

Everyone’s fighting some battle.  Even the ones with smiley ‘after’ photos.  And I'm not even at goal yet.  Imagine the pressure that people put on themselves when they look at actual goal weight 'after photos' and make up some perfect story about how that person has had an easy ride, or perfect run of luck.

When really, when truth be told, they have just worked their ass off amidst their own personal adversity and triumph.  I want this story to give you comfort that 'weight loss journeys' aren't perfect.  So if you slip up or go 'off course', don't worry - so did the smiley skinny chick in the photo.  It's just a part of the whole process.

I've had some amazing, out of this world moments between these two photos. And I've also had some really shit moments. Coz it's life.  I think people forget this - the journey isn't in those two photos - it is the stuff that happens in between - and before, and after, that is the real journey. That's what matters. We just happen to be losing weight and improving our health as well.  But that is not the only thing in our lives.  Don’t forget the important stuff in your bid to drop kilos.

Play with your kids, reignite that passion you gave up on a while ago, drive to the beach and just sit, sign up for that guitar class, because that's the stuff that matters. The photos that you see published out there are just snapshots in time.  It’s the unpublished snapshots you create every day that actually matter.

A 'before and after photo'
A REAL 'before and after photo'


  1. Wow, this post really resonated with me... Thank you for putting some perspective on the whole life journey of how we feel about ourselves.

    Please keep posting, I love reading your blog :)

  2. What an amazing post. I'm so happy that I read this. I have been beating myself up for 23 years now. I'm coming up to 40 in a few years and am starting to realise its all about the journey. I have an amazing life but my weight has always been like a little cloud partially blocking my sunshine. Your blog is brilliant but this one post has just made me sit up and look at it all differently. Thank you very much.