The danger of before and after photos…

I’ve been wanting to write this post for awhile, but didn’t quite know where or how to start.  You see, before and after pictures are tricky.

When you scroll instagram these days, it’s easy to find accounts of #transformationtuesdays or before and after pictures showing amazing results.  For many, these pictures are a reward for hard work and dedication.  They can be inspiring and a way to show people that “if I can do it, you can do it too.”

But for some, they can also be discouraging.  They can be a marker of all the things that are still missing.  They can imply that the only “before and after” that we should show to the world is one of a great physical transformation.   For me, sometimes before and afters can even make me feel bad about my own progress (or lack thereof).

You see, I think before and after pictures are a bit dangerous.  For one, often when we’re starting to build new habits, our progress isn’t linear.  As we’re learning to eat healthier, exercise more, or sleep more, our bodies will often need time to adjust to these new habits.  Moreover, you won’t be perfect!  Whenever we are trying to drop old habits and move toward new ones, we’re going to revert back to old behaviors when times get stressful.  It takes time and patience to create the habits you want, so don’t be surprised if it takes you weeks or months to get results you’re seeking- remember, you’re not just trying to change your body, you’re also trying to change your mindset.

Second, I think that before and after photos can sometimes signify quick fixes.  Truth is, anyone can go through a program for a short amount of time, follow it to a T, have tremendous results, and post them on social media.  But what happens after?  Has that person built new habits?  Did they continue with that lifestyle after that photo was taken? Are they ever “human?”  And, even more dangerous is the idea that everyone’s transformation should move on the same timeline.   Someone might start getting results at week 1 of a program and some might see them start to come in at week 4.  Every body is different.

Finally, photos can be deceiving.  The photo below is a “before and after” I took on Sunday morning.  Both of these pictures are only 15 minutes apart!   With a little trick of the light, some flattering yoga pants that covered up some juicy bits, and a different stance, I look like two different people!  It’s not to say that every before and after is “fixed,” it’s only to say that things aren’t always as they seem.

This is not to say that before and after pictures are bad- I have posted my fair share of them and will most likely post more! It’s just to say that we can’t measure our own progress against someone else’s.  It is too easy in today’s image infused world to lose our momentum when we compare our progress to someone else’s.  Your “before and after” includes more than a physical transformation- it includes all of the things you’ve done and not done to get where you are now.  It’s about the chance that you’ve taken on yourself to make a change.  And, it’s about the fact that you will always, always, always be a work in progress in more ways than one.

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