The Truth About Before and Afters
There has never been a shortage of people’s before and after pictures. The proud proof of someone’s change-for-the-better regularly pop into our social media newsfeeds. Skin care companies, diet advocates, fitness gurus all capture our attention with striking images advertising to us the results we too could enjoy… at “bargain prices” if we “register today”. And more often than not, it’s not as simple as that price tag and sign up page. Whether it's someone’s new youthful appearance or the noticeable drop in pants size, there’s always a deeper cost. There’s always a story.
For me, the thought of creating a before and after picture wasn’t interesting. I spent years intentionally not taking pictures of myself and posting to social media. I had already not been in the thousands of photos in my phone. I knew a before and after shot was possible and I knew it would be good, but I wasn’t real excited about sharing it with anyone. And I wasn’t real excited about finding the before shot.
Then one day, out of nowhere, a memory popped up on my phone. And there she was… Maggie at least 80 pounds ago. It was worse than I thought. As I looked at the miserable and ashamed face in the picture, I felt so many ugly things about who I was looking at. I was still unable to tap into grace or empathy or sympathy or anything fair. I was judgy. I was unkind. I certainly wasn’t proud.
Standing there, changed-for-the-better, 80 lbs healthier, I still wasn’t proud.
But then I noticed my eyes in the picture.. And my heart broke. I saw that the poor girl looking back at me was actually very hurt and very lost. I still see the traumas she had been through, the stories she won’t tell. I see the crappy coping mechanisms and the losses her body and heart went through to have two healthy living daughters.
While I don’t ever want to feel sorry for her, I do regret having been so hard on her. Honestly, if anyone talked to you the way I talked to myself, I’d have shut that down swiftly. I regret not standing up for her when she needed it most.
So, was my weight loss journey as easy as a one time payment or a sign up page? Heck no. Was it as hard as a restrictive diet and murdering myself at the gym? Also heck no. Was it strictly just diet and exercise? Yeah, no.
It was about showing up for myself. It was about consistency in a few sustainable ways. It was an occasional push and an occasional hard thing. It was getting excited about what felt like the right move and trying it… and being ok with the effort if it wasn’t. And when something truly felt like the answer, committing to it.
And I really had to recognize that I was foolishly looking for the “Welcome to Healthy Town” sign as if all I had to do was arrive.
I’m not gonna lie, I still don’t love this before and after picture. It feels personal and I’m pretty sure I’m about to get judged for “letting myself go”.. Which by the way, isn’t what happened.
So why am I sharing it now? I guess, in a way, for the street cred. See, there isn’t anywhere on the weight loss spectrum I haven’t been. And the head game? I totally get it. In some ways, I feel like I’ve cracked the code. And I have a pretty good track record to suggest I’m at least on to something.
And as I spend week in and week out working with weight loss patients who are trying to figure out how they want to go about it, or debunking the elusive concept of healthy town, or are building momentum and showing up for themselves, I always offer that grace and empathy that I finally found for myself because everyone has their story too.