I’m struggling lately with the concept of Before & After photos. I’ve got an arsenal of “before” photos I’ve taken of myself over the years when I’m trying to get down to Raceday Weight. I email them to myself at the beginning of training season and I tag them “weight” and the idea is to eventually take an “after” picture when I get to that weight and then show it off. And while I’ve gotten to Raceday Weight for a lot of my big races, I’ve never done a “Before/After” mosaic to show off. I think partly because, even if I’m at my Raceday Weight, I never really feel like I’m “done” losing weight because I’ve been smaller and a part of me feels like I should always strive to be the smallest I’ve been.
(SIDENOTE: I know all about physiology behind weight and that it’s not important for health and numbers mean different things on different body types, but some of us still use it as a metric to monitor progress year-to-year in training when all other factors are the same as years before.)
But lately, as I’m starting the attempt to get back down to Raceday Weight again for my Dizzy Monkey in November, I look at the “before” girl in the mirror and am looking at her a little differently. When I first really started focusing on my training two weeks ago, my weight was higher than it’s been since before I started boot camp in 2011. 20lbs from Raceday Weight. 40lbs from Weddingday Weight. (Which is not really a goal, but here for reference.) That number on the scale first says to me, “I’m the worst I’ve been in 5 years.”
And at first I was super-depressed to see that number. But, then I looked at her again, like I’ve been trying to do more often. I looked at how far she’s come with personal growth and mental health and how many areas in her life she’s doing better, completely unrelated to weight. And I skipped the “Before” picture because, when I get down to Raceday Weight, I don’t like the implication that the “After” picture is more beautiful than the “Before” picture. That picture only tells what my body looked like, nothing else. And I want to love that body no matter what the weight, and it’s hard to love a body you know is going to be the “before” picture in a few months.
So now I’m thinking about that every time I see Before/After photos. Now, obviously I’ll praise someone using that a way to celebrate and demonstrate a healthier lifestyle, FOR SURE. But sometimes I know the person in the “before” picture was healthy. And I believe deep down she’s beautiful. And I worry that by celebrating her weight loss, I’m somehow condoning the current her as “BETTER” than the past her, and I feel weird about it. I mean, they’ve met a goal so I should celebrate that, right? But suddenly I’m thinking of the “BEFORE” Kim and I want to love her and I see her in all of the other “BEFORE” pictures out there.
And then there’s the ones for skincare. Where the “BEFORE” picture shows wrinkles or maybe some blemishes. Or maybe it’s totally terrible lighting. Either way, these skin care photos are not about health and so I struggle with it even more. I want to reach through to the wrinkled “BEFORE” woman and give her a hug and tell her she’s beautiful and it’s okay to have wrinkles.
I don’t know, I think this is another one of the many times where I’m projecting my own issues onto other people, but my sudden decision to quit taking “BEFORE” photos because they only show my body and not my soul, is affecting my ability to scroll past others and not want to love the person in the “BEFORE” photo and tell her she’s just as beautiful as the “AFTER” version of herself.
Anyone else have weird hangups about Before/After weightloss/skincare photos?