“Before” and “After” pictures-what do they REALLY say?

In today’s weight driven society, weight-loss photos are all over the internet. People post “Before” and “After” photos of themselves on Facebook and Instagram to show their progress. To some people, it is an inspiration. The comments range from “WOW you look great!” to “Congratulations on all of your hard work!” And you know what, it is hard. It’s very hard to lose weight, and for some people damn near impossible. So maybe, yes, they do deserve a congratulations for that.

But maybe they also don’t. Let me explain.

Someone who is fat can do all the “right” things, and still be fat. Someone can work just as hard as someone else and still not lose any weight. A fat person can be just as healthy as a skinny person…but no one ever talks about that. Everyone always talks about the risks of being fat, a.k.a. “unhealthy.” But we really need to get past that as a society, because it contributes to something that writer Jes Baker calls “body currency.”

Body currency is essentially the idea that some bodies are worth more than other bodies. I think everyone can attest to the fact that society favors skinny or thin bodies (as well as straight, white, and cisgender bodies). Look at the bodies that grace our magazine covers, our t.v. shows, or heck even book cover illustrations. Rarely do we see a positive image of someone who is plus-sized, overweight, or fat. That is because as a society, we have been taught that fat people are supposedly prone to more diseases, and therefore all fat people are unhealthy. But that is a bold-faced LIE. It’s not true. The only thing that’s true is that yes, being overweight can be a risk factor for some diseases…but not always.

Jes Baker also talks about how we have assigned being “healthy” to being “worthy.” Essentially, if you are not doing everything in your power to make sure you’re “healthy”, then you must not care about yourself. I disagree with this for a couple of reasons. One, there are times in life where focus needs to be on one area. Sometimes your health can get placed on the back burner, not intentionally. Does that mean that you are less worthy of love and respect? Absolutely not. Two, there are people who have chronic illnesses that cannot ever be “healthy.” Again, does that mean they don’t care about themselves? No, absolutely not. We understand that. So, why does anyone need to be healthy to be considered worthy?

Being healthy can be a great thing. You may feel better, you may live longer, etc. But your health does not say anything about you as a person. I REPEAT, YOUR HEALTH DOES NOT MEAN ANYTHING ABOUT YOUR WORTH.

So, I really wonder about posting transformation pictures. What is that telling people? It’s telling people that your body changed. That’s really about it. Which if you’re proud of that, okay, good on you. But I’m proud of a lot of other things. And really, the shape of my body has nothing to do with who I am, and with who you are and were as a person. But I don’t think people post transformation pictures to show the changes in their body, because someone who gained weight could technically then do that if that was the norm…but that doesn’t happen. I think people assign meaning to “before” and “after” pictures. I think people want to say “Look at who I was before. I did not like that person. NOW look at me and how much better I look! Look at all the ‘work’ I’ve done!” And as a plus-sized person, I have an issue with that.

I’m not a “Before” picture. You’re not a “Before” picture. You are the same person in both of your pictures. You were just as beautiful and worthy then as you are now. And it saddens me and hurts me that people think that by losing weight or transforming, they have become better. It saddens me more that some people thought that they were so unworthy they thought they had to lose weight to become beautiful or worthy or whatever else they wanted. You already are whole and worthy, even when society tells you that you’re not.

Now, some people may lose weight due to injuries or other issues. I think that’s understandable. But when we assign meaning to weight loss, we are doing serious damage to ourselves and to other people. When people post and comment “Before” and “After” pictures, it says to me that the “Before” picture is one where the person doesn’t “look great”, and is something they should not be “proud” of. And even though it may not be the person’s intention, that is the message they are reinforcing. When I see someone’s “Before” picture that looks a lot like what I do now, it makes me wonder what people think about me…and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. And that thought alone, even though the person may have “worked” really hard to get to their “After”, makes it really hard for me to give them praise.



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