The Before And After Photo Myth
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The Before And After Photo Myth

I’ve had people tell me I needed to put up a before and after photo on my site. Because, well…the whole “look at me before and now see me after” transformation sells!

The idea is that people would see my before/after pics and are supposed to think “wow, what a transformation, I’m gonna hire her to get me to that place“.

But the whole thing somehow seems wrong to me.

Because I don’t quite buy the whole before and after transformation…

It’s one of those times where you only see a snapshot of the me that went through this journey.

You get a glimpse in time of what my life is/was like. And it doesn’t truly tell the whole story.

Because the whole story isn’t just a “before” and an “after”.

And that’s the myth I want to dispel right now.

I have my days where I look at my body in the mirror and criticize my body. I have moments where I compare myself to everyone and their mom on social media. And I have times where I eat too many cookies just like everyone else.

I want to dispel the myth that life is somehow magical once you reach the “after”.  

Yes, I’m happy with myself and proud of how much I’ve healed. I am comfortable in my skin, I can go to a party and not have cake because I just don’t feel like it, and I can wear a bathing suit in front of people and not want to hide under a towel.

And that story can’t ever be told through my “after” photos…

Here’s what I mean:

You’ll notice that my “before” pics are from all different years (From left to right, 2010, 2001, 1999)

before

And then my “after” pics are also spread out over a number of years. (2006, 2009, 2008, respectively)

after

What I want you to know is that the “before” and “after” all blends together.  

In 1999 I was a mess and didn’t even know I had an eating problem. (I just thought it was normal to binge and restrict)

In 2002 I was at one of my heaviest and binging until the cows came home.

In 2006 I had just returned from a year abroad working in Thailand and had lost a bunch of weight.

In 2009, I was eating super clean everything and restricting like crazy.

In 2010, I spent a year in Ecuador and gained at least 30 pounds.

In 2014, I gained weight from adrenal fatigue.

So, you see from my photos that I was all over the place for a period of many many years. I lost a lot of weight. I gained a lot of weight. And I was many weights in between.

So, here’s what I want you to remember about this whole “before and after” myth:

1. Life Isn’t Static

You think you want to get to the “after”.

You know, the place where you’ve lost the weight, you feel deliciously amazing in your body, and you can go to a buffet and not go back for 5ths.

But life is always changing and throwing things at you. And you’ve got to be prepared that you won’t stay at a set place (namely, the “after”).

That’s the lure of this whole eating mess. You think that once you just “get it”…”it” being the weight loss, then you’ll be happy and joyous and fine. But what happens when you do lose the weight but still hate your body? What happens when you lose the weight and then get pregnant? What happens when you lose the weight but can’t maintain it?

Because, that, my dear, is life. You go through periods of transition, fluctuation, and healing.

You finally reach a stable weight and then you get pregnant (cue body image issues all over again).

You achieve balance in your eating and then tragedy hits (cue dealing with emotional eating issues)

You think you’ve got healthy eating down and then you have to work 60+ hour weeks at work (cue stress eating and no time to work out).

You may have reached the “after”, but guess what? It can (and will) change. But that’s the beauty of life. We aren’t supposed to get to a point and stay there forever. You get to continue to learn and grow and expand.

Your journey is meant to be just that: a journey. Each layer that you peel back and work on allows you to go deeper and evolve more and fall even more in love with yourself and your body.

2. The “after” may not feel so hot on the inside. 

So, if someone looked at my pics, I’m sure they’d say I looked “better”, prettier, more attractive and sexier in the “after” shots. But guess what? In all of those pictures above, I was miserable inside.

It didn’t matter if I was smaller or bigger.  I was still obsessively trying to control my food, desperately attempting to lose weight, and critically caught up in a deep self-loathing of my body.

The size I was didn’t matter. Because it’s an INTERNAL shift.

The changes you want come from the inside. You may reach the quintessential “after” photo-you’re rockin’ your skinniest jeans, hottest crop top, and sexiest heels in the picture. You’ve lost weight. You’re the thinnest one at the party. You don’t touch desserts. But…

Are you happy inside? Do you feel at peace around food? Do you cringe when you look in the mirror?

If the answer is no, then that isn’t really the “after” that you want. You want the after that comes from INTERNAL change. If you’re still not feeling all that amazing on the inside, then what good is the “after” photo?

It’s easy to get caught up in the illusion of the “before and after” myth. Trust me, I lived my life in search of the elusive after for almost 1/3 of my life. And I’ve realized that life isn’t meant to be lived in before and afters. 

Life is a delicate dance and a roller coaster of a journey. It’s a few steps of progress forward and then a frustrating step back. It’s a ride of exhilaration and crushing heartbreak. But all of it is beautiful and meaningful.  It’s what has molded you into the strong, courageous woman you’ve evolved into today 🙂

PS-If you need some resources to help you move forward on your journey, check out our amazing community–the Normal Eaters Club 🙂 

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9 comments

  • So vulnerable. Thank you for pointing this out. I also have been really unhealthy while looking otherwise.. and on my way to health when people may have thought I was thinking nothing of it!

  • WOW – I have strived for my after photo for almost 50 years (I am 65). I started dieting at 102 pounds because someone I liked called me fatso. By the time I married that person, I weighed 82 pounds and worried every minute about what I was eating (a hard-boiled egg one day, a can of green beans the next day). I am talking about one hard-boiled egg for the entire day. Eventually, by some miracle, I was able to get pregnant. I began to eat better but still very controlled throughout the pregnancy. I weighed 125 pounds when I delivered. Through a total of three pregnancies I ended up at 115 pounds in my 30s. Still exercising and fighting my weight. Eventually I reached 130 pounds on my 5’1″ frame. I hate my weight and fight it everyday. There has never been an after for me. I have never been happy with my weight and would give anything to be back at the weight I was when I started dieting.

  • Isn’t it interesting that we when we’ve reached the “after”, we can only see the after after we are there? (That’s a tongue twister!). What I mean is that you now wish you could be back to the “beginning”…before any of it happened. The key here is to realize that our weights are just points in our journey. If we can take the judgement & criticism out of it, we can just see it as another stopping point–not where we will stay forever, but just a point in time! (Like our age 🙂 )

  • Thats such a great article Jen and so very very true.My darling husband always says that when I was at my slimest i was the most miserable ☹️
    Really an issue worth tackling 😊
    Lizzie

  • I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂 And your darling husband is right–usually when we’re at our thinnest, we did something drastic to get there and it isn’t fun at all.

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