The Problem With Before and After Photos

I was recently looking back at some photos of myself on my Facebook timeline and was surprised to see some that I thought I had deleted.

Ones from a period in my life that I used to look back on and be ashamed of.  A little over ten years ago, I was incredibly thin, I was unwell!  I was trapped in diet culture and it took its toll both emotionally and physically.

Even then, I hated photos!  I hated the way I looked and was constantly paranoid about what people were thinking.

So, when I first set out as a nutritionist, I wanted to delete that time in my life.  I thought people would judge me and think I was a hypocrite – how can she coach me when she experienced such battles herself?

I was so embarrassed that I let myself get to that place and so I thought I should hide it.

But looking back, I regret trying to run away from my experience.

After all, it is what makes me who I am today.  It is often what connects me with my clients.  Unlike many nutrition professionals out there, I know what it is like to battle with food.  I know what it feels like to hate your body and have no self-esteem as a result.  To feel trapped in a never-ending cycle that ultimately prevented me from achieving what I knew I was always capable of.

I mourn all of the time and energy I wasted but I no longer feel ashamed of how I looked.

It was me at a time in my life when I was feeling lost and confused. I was living a lie and for some twisted reason, food restriction was giving me my only purpose in life at the time.

I was struggling to like myself, never mind love myself, so food and exercise were the only things I could have any control over.

This leads me on to my issue with using before and after photos – it is saying that something is wrong with us in the before photos.

It is saying that it’s unacceptable to look anything but the “after” photos.

They are a brilliant marketing tool. The website Social Triggers explain that

“If you want someone to buy from you, you’ll need a product that delivers results. But more important than that, you’ll also need marketing that persuades your prospect that your product can deliver THEM results.”

And that’s what these photos do, convince you that you will get the “results” – an idealised thin and toned body.

They are effectively gaslighting and oppressing you.

What worries me the most though, is that you don’t know what is going on for someone.  You don’t know what extremes they have gone to, what lies they are telling or whether the results were sustainable.

Did they starve themselves, use laxatives, purge? Are they actually any happier now?

Or did they actually ‘fix’ their relationship with food and their body?

Now, from time to time, clients will send me before and after photos and I have shared them but always with the clarification that it was a result of learning to love themselves again.

I show my clients how to respect themselves again, how to gain back their inner confidence which results in a healthier approach to their diet and lifestyle.

That is not saying that they were not worthy before – far from it.  But they wanted to make a change and I stood by them.

They are no longer spending every waking moment trying to look a certain way to please someone else and neither am I.

So the next time you are drawn in by clever marketing, just ask yourself who is sharing the photos.  How much do you really know?  What approaches are they using and do they really care about your health and happiness or do they just want your cash??

If you would like to uncover the BEST version of yourself, why not give my upcoming ‘Healthy Executive’ workshop series a go.  You will learn how to master your nutrition in a way that feels right for you.