Why I Hate Befores and Afters
How many times have you looked at a workout program or nutrition program, and the pages are loaded with befores and afters?
Or how many times have you taken “progress pics” and then spent time comparing your own befores and afters picking every little part of you body apart?
How many times have you looked at an old body comp picture and compared it to your current and felt defeated because your body changed? Samesies!
Before and after pictures are great marketing tools for the seller, but in most cases pretty damaging to anyone struggling with their own body image including the person posting them.
We are bombarded with body composition before and afters on almost every fitness and nutrition site.
What is unfortunate about a picture of a perfectly posed after is that it provides zero insight to how that person got there.
We’ve all seen the pictures where someone goes from love handles and some body fat to a super low percentage of body fat and has abs and muscles showing for days.
But what if I told you that person got that way by obsessing over every bite of food, does very restrictive dieting measuring every morsel of food that goes into their mouth, ignores hunger and body cues, is hungry all the time, their hair has thinned and is falling out, their skin is looking sallow or more weathered under makeup, they sleep like shit, their hormones are impacted and sex drive went to zero, menstrual cycles have changed or completely stopped, erections are less frequent, they are tired all the time, workout recoveries are difficult, or their relationships have suffered.
Is it still appealing? Is having abs worth all of that?
Do you think it’s sustainable?
Does it sound healthy?
Do you think someone who spends their days obsessing over their food and fitness is happy loving life?
Or are they in a constant cycle of chasing body goal after body goal?
Is that the case in everyone that loses weight and has muscle definition?
No, absolutely not.
However, pictures don’t show how someone achieved their after. They also doesn’t show how long they were able to sustain it or the quality of their food choices or overall health.
If someone is sucking down shitty ass processed foods to hit their calories and macros, more than likely they are impacting their health. It may not show up immediately, but down the line, the chemical shit storms they call food will catch up and cause some havoc down the road. It’s very easy to get swept in in the if it fits my calories and macros cycle. Slowly things that once maybe didn’t enter your diet, creep in little by little because it fits and you are hungry.
With extreme changes in diets usually come extreme trade-offs. More often than not, you will see the yo-yo diet affect. Take the show the biggest loser. Those are extreme befores and afters highlighted. How many people know that most of them gained most of the weight lost within a year of being on the show, and some gained all of the weight back and then some?
Was that balls to the walls for a short time worth it?
Did it change their relationship with food or their body?
Did the weight loss instantly make them happy? Possibly, but how long did it last.
More importantly, how stressful was it as their weight slowly crept back up?
How shitty did they feel knowing that all the compliments rolled in as they got themselves into a smaller body, but then as they shifted back up crickets.
Making lasting change to your health and body is not a quick fix, is not the new fad diet, and is not a one size fits all. In fact, it is not a diet at all. DIETS DO NOT WORK.
One of my favorite quotes of all time is “The quickest way I know to get an American fat is to go on a diet. Don’t ever diet another day the rest of your life. Eat for Nutrition, never eat for weight loss, and NEVER make any changes to the way you eat that you’re not willing to make permanently.” Ogie Shaw
Healthy habits take time and consistency. Consistency over perfection will win every time for the long haul.
If your goal is shredded abs, rock on live your best life. Please understand that staying at that low body fat percentage for most people is not healthy or sustainable.
But if you are looking to get healthy and learn how to eat and not diet, steer clear of that type of marketing. Befores and afters are a sales tool and used to get your $$$, and are often wrapped in language like “healthy habits” and "accountability". But when you break them down, it’s just another calorie counting, macro counting, portion control diet with a lot of rules.
Anytime you venture into changing your diet, etc. always think of that quote and ask yourself if you are willing to commit to whatever it is for the rest of your life.
Are you willing to break out that food scale and food app forever? Or do you just want to learn how to eat? Are you going to never eat a cookie ever again a day in your life?
So next time you see that before and after and start poking at your love handles or the little fold you get when you sit down, ask yourself, how did the after get there? and are they doing it in a healthy SUSTAINABLE way? And is that how you want to get there too?
Getting caught up in the comparison game will only cause negative self- thoughts and defeat. Be the best you, not the best someone else.
That external validation with the weight loss cycle is a hard fall and the mental impacts are crushing. Every time compliments roll in on an after, it creates a positive loop for that external validation.
“You don’t lose weight and get happy, typically you get happy and then lose the weight" - Sal DiStefano