Let’s have some real talk for a moment. We all see transformation images, all over the internet. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, they’re full of those images .. people talking about how changing their lifestyle has changed their body for the better. You can’t move in newsagents for magazines with similar images, usually of celebs, either looking super happy that they’ve lost a ton of weight, or super miserable that they’ve gained some. And it’s easy to believe the stories that those images tell…
I’m sad to say I’ve been contributing to this. In fact, my images on Instagram for a long time have been almost exclusively focused on weight loss, including transformation photos. The weight loss community has a hashtag ‘Transformation Tuesday’, so each week you have another chance to post another image detailing what changes you made, how others should make them too, how terrible your life was before and how much better it is now.
Well this was my last ever transformation photo, and I’d like to share with you why.
They’re lies. They’re selling you something that isn’t real. They’re harmful for me, and honestly they’re even more harmful for you. There is nothing wrong with how I look in either photo, but my mental health in both is severely impaired.
Dieting, counting calories, losing weight, it saved my life – I know that. That’s amazing, what I achieved is amazing. Just consistency and hard work. Well done me.
Except I lost my way.
This journey absolutely started in self love. And somehow, somewhere, I gave into what the media told me about my self. If I wasn’t working out daily, I was failing. If I didn’t have calories left over at the end of each day I was greedy. If my transformation wasn’t overtly visual, it was irrelevant.
And the worst thing I’ve had to come to terms with throughout this, is that I’ve perpetuated this with my posting. I’ve made women feel shit about them selves, because if the woman in the wheelchair can do it, then why can’t they? What’s wrong with them?
Suddenly, I was desperate to ‘be beautiful’, to ‘look better’ and it didn’t matter what I had to do to reach that goal. I realised I could constantly evoke responses from those around me that I FINALLY ‘fitted in’ to some kind of social normalcy. But in the process, I managed to turn one eating disorder into another.
The very thing that saved my life, that gave me some control over my health, developed into another life threatening, health ruining condition.
The numbers that I’d found so rewarding and encouraging had become controlling and depressing. Whatever flashed up on the scales wasn’t low enough and everything I ate came with guilt and self loathing. Evenings out with my partner became torture as I panicked about what food I might have to eat. Food stopped being about nourishment and fuel and turned into calorific qualities that terrified me.
Two weeks ago I decided that dieting wasn’t an option any more. I decided that I was sick of hating my body and wanted to love it. I deleted my calorie counting app and started unlearning all the shitty diet crap I’d taught my self over the past 5 years. (No easy task, and I don’t imagine that unlearning will ever stop)
Gaining weight, my shape changing, needing bigger clothes, that’s all really hard to deal with. Not being the skinny woman in that ‘after’ photo makes me feel like such a failure, the shame that is associated with that is torture some days. But all the good things about these changes are far more important, I see that, and that is absolutely my focus, especially on my most difficult days.
My body, and all it’s faults, aesthetically and health wise, is amazing.
Just sit with that for a moment, because it’s true of your body too.
I need to start treating this hard working body with more respect. And that includes not posting photos of my self in before and after photos.
I am not before. Nor am I an after. I’m just me. Right now. I’m not doomed to eternal misery because I’m not at some arbitrary ‘goal weight’, nor do I have to look a specific way in order to be accepted/beautiful/worthy/important.
So from now on, all the photos of me will be right in the moment! Whatever my body looks like in that moment, is okay.