I think it's fair to say that our society is pretty fixated on the idea of "improving" things. We love renovations, trash to treasure, corrective surgery, and Transformation Tuesday. Never heard of that last one? Do a Google search and check out the images.
We love that shit.
Those side-by-side photos of dramatic weight loss do a horrible job at telling the story of the individuals journey. I know, because I am one of those stories. And I've been blessed to be an integral part of so many other people's stories.
In actuality, my weight loss story would feature a TON of before/after images. Before I started dressing my size and I wore oversized shirts to hide the fact that my pants were unbuttoned and unzipped ( I refused to by jeans in a size 20 so I squeezed into 18s). And after I started dressing my size when I was a teenager shopping at Lane Bryant. Before I binged, after I purged. Before I I hit the gym, after 2 hours on the elliptical. Before depriving myself of energy and nourishment for a full day, after going to bed with an empty stomach and feeling proud and accomplished. And so on. Those are just a few of the small details that reveal the in-between. All the shit a person might endure before and after a substantial weight loss.
Rarely is it ever as pretty a picture as the one we show. In fact, I deemed my images and writings so ugly that I destroyed them all a long time ago. I was disgusted with myself. Embarrassed, ashamed, and most of all, angry. So I destroyed the evidence; almost everything that linked me to my past. I have almost no photos of me from before about 2006. No journals. No old "big girl" jeans. No artifacts from my inner travels. I'm lucky when I uncover one of these rare relics in my mother's garage or a family storage unit. They make me smile now, whereas they made me sad before. There's another before and after for you.
Besides hiding the story, these images also create a sense of insatiable yearning for some viewers. I'm still, after 5 years in the health and fitness industry, shocked at how many times I receive a message, inquiry, email, or face-to-face exchange about someone wanting to look like someone else. I get it ALL the time. "I want her results!" or "I want to look like him!" It's as if for a brief moment, we forget we are individuals and have our own bodies. You will NEVER look exactly like anybody else. Nor will you EVER share the same story. I happen to think that is amazing and I wouldn't want it any other way.
Of course, that wasn't always the case. I too used to fantasize about other bodies. But most often, an extreme version of my own. I wanted to be thin. Very badly. My weight goal was far below what was healthy for my body but I didn't know that, and I wouldn't have cared anyways. All that mattered to me was the number on the scale and the number on the tag inside of my jeans. And any way I could measure a decrease in those numbers made me happy. Well, a funny thing happened when I would do anything to lose weight: I didn't lose any weight.
So, why do I share my before and after photos then? Probably for some of the same reasons other people do. To inspire and motivate. To encourage and support. But most importantly, to educate. I share my photos to reveal just a small part of my story. A picture is worth a thousand words. Which means a before and after photo is worth two thousand...at least. My intention is to educate others so that you're not led astray like I was. Yes you can change your body, if that's what you would like to do, but it has nothing to do with buying diet books, fake food, or joining the gym. It has everything to do with being honest and vulnerable; sharing your innermost fears, embarrassments, failures, and feelings with others so that you can empower yourself to WANT to do and be better...however you define that betterment. Share your story with the world. Don't hide. Don't be embarrassed. And most importantly, don't compare yourself to anyone else.