Some of my newsfeeds on Facebook include before and after pictures from weight loss, which isn’t a surprise considering that I’ve Liked many health-related pages. Even so, some those photos make me rather uneasy, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized why.
So many of them are focused on bodies.
I realize that may sound like an incredibly obvious statement, but bear with me. Yes, I can understand that someone who was formerly paunchy and pasty, flabby and saggy, would be excited to show off their newly-slim abs and noticeable arm muscles, as well as how much better they look in a bathing suit now than before.
Except – might that not still emphasize that only their appearance matters? To me, at least, that’s what all these pictures are saying: “Look how pretty and/or ripped I am now!”
But for me, I want people to feel comfortable in their own skin, even if after losing weight they’re still a bit saggy (in some cases this may be more likely after weight loss), or if they don’t have noticeable muscles when they flex their arms. I want them to feel they can be healthy without the pressure of parading around in a skimpy outfit and posting it on social media. But mostly I want them to be able to do the things they enjoy and love – which may not even require losing that much weight.
What if before and after pictures showed people doing what they enjoyed, or differences in how well they could do it, perhaps with a brief story behind it? Something so I can see what positive changes have results from the weight loss, not just the loss itself, something that matters to that person.
Here’s my example. Both of my photos were taken at Chimney Pond, which I still think is one of the most stunning places on Mt. Katahdin in Baxter State Park.
When I was heavy, I saw some photos of it and decided that I had to get there, somehow. So in 2003, I made myself climb the 3.3 miles, even though it took 4 hours, even though I was completely miserable for much of it, battling tears and negative self-talk and despair, which meant that after arriving, I could barely appreciate that I had achieved the goal. And although I’m smiling in the picture, any joy was fleeting, especially since I couldn’t climb stairs for two weeks afterward.
In the second picture, from 2011, I arrived at the pond just a little over 2 hours after starting out, and I felt great. I didn’t have to stop once on the way up, apart from occasional sips of water and nature breaks, and I had plenty of energy to continue as well as to enjoy the experience. I was so happy to be able to take in the beauty of the place without feeling like I was going to collapse, and the next day I wasn’t even stiff.
This, for me, is a much clearer impression of the before and after of weight loss. Not just what I look like, but what I can do, and how I feel while doing it. And I’d love to see pictures and hear stories from others, not even necessarily about weight loss but just about how changing your relationship to food and yourself has opened doors for you, allowed you to do what you love, and enjoy your daily living. Isn’t that, after all, what it’s really about?