Why We Need To Stop Admiring Before And After Pictures
Have you ever written a blog that scares the crap out of you so you just don’t publish it for 3 months? That would be this blog. I’m calling out all those before and after pictures that flood our Facebook and Instagram feeds.
Look at Suzy! She dropped 50 lbs in 10 weeks using the XYZ diet. Then we look at it and think, “Wow, if Suzy can do it, so can I!”
The fact is, that before and after picture may not even be real. It may not even be Suzy. It might be airbrushed.
A few weeks ago, I put up a poll on Facebook and I asked what people thought of these transformation photos. It’s was split 50/50. Half thought they were inspiring and the other half thought they were spammy and triggering.
It got me thinking…. why are we still praising these photos? With all the science out there about how long-term weight loss isn’t sustainable (see Health At Every Size), why do we still find this garbage “inspiring?”
#1 Before and After Pictures Don’t Reflect Reality
A few years ago I was with a company that is notorious for the amazing before and after pictures (let’s face it, they’re what sucked me in). An acquaintance of mine was chosen to be the face of one of their new infomercials. She was taken to a studio for a photo shoot and she told her story of losing 50 lbs over two years. When the advertisement came out, it said she lost 50 lbs in 90 days (not true) and her after picture was so airbrushed that her own husband asked “Who’s that? Because I know that’s not what you look like.”
Before and after pictures are marketing tactics used by the diet industry to make us feel bad about ourselves and to spend our hard earned cash on their false promises. 95% of all diets fail! That means that you will gain the weight back and then some. That picture isn’t telling the complete story.
#2 They Promote the Idea That Thinner is Better
We see smaller bodies as GOOD no matter what, and larger bodies as BAD no matter what. But this is so the opposite of the truth! There is so much you cannot physically see. Weight should be neutral, but it has become so stigmatized in our society.
When we see these before and after pictures it’s a scare tactic to make people feel like they aren’t good enough to take up space in this world. We’re told that weight loss must be our goal because thin is the ideal. We’re told that any type of weight gain is bad and gross, but it’s not.
#3 Skinny Doesn’t Equal Healthy
I realized that a general assumption is that skinny people are healthier. That assumption is not always true.
What many people fail to understand is that your body weight is not an accurate indication of your body’s health.
#4 It Triggers Those in Eating Disorder Recovery
Diet culture perpetuates eating disorders. These transformation pictures are toxic and they are reinforcing an unhealthy relationship with food and body.
We have this idea that an eating disorder is someone who’s 90 lbs and obsessed with doing 8 hours of exercise. That’s so far from reality and really only makes up about 10% of eating disorders. In fact, anyone who is constantly restricting for the sole purpose of weight loss is at risk for eating disorders, disordered eating behaviors, and their health is affected by the continuous diet-binge cycle.
#5 Weight Loss Is a Lie
95% of people who lose weight through dieting and restriction gain the weigh the weight back. Science has proved that we have no control over our weight long term. Look at all those Biggest Loser contestants. Every single one of them gained the weight back.
I am a huge advocate of people—especially women—abandoning the scale and pursuing a healthy lifestyle without stressing about weight.
Weight is not a direct reflection of someone’s health and fitness levels—these are the things we should be focusing on: feeling healthy, confident, and strong at whatever weight we may be.
Reading about the Health at Every Size (HAES) movement, intuitive eating, and other anti-diet culture material has been very helpful for me and my clients. I also fill my Instagram feed with individuals who share these views and unfollow anyone on social media that is promoting dieting culture. Take some time to learn about these topics, including the scientific evidence behind it, to make your way towards ditching the diets for good and living freely.