Before and After Photos: Recovery Edition
Have you ever taken a “before” picture? If you’ve ever gone on a diet, you’re probably familiar with the “transformation picture” practice. It goes like this: You take a picture of yourself at different angles at the outset of whatever diet or exercise regimen you’re about to undertake, and then when you reach your goal weight you take another picture. Side by side, they’re supposed to show off your successful transformation from a failing fat person to a strong, desirable skinny person.
The catch is that most folks never make it to the “after” picture, not because of any personal failing of their own but because diets don’t work. An overwhelming majority — like, almost all — of people who engage in a diet and lose weight will gain some or all of it back within 5 years, often in a shorter timeline than that.
I’ve taken a bazillion transformation photos over the years during my recovery. Here are some before and after photos, but not the kind you’re used to. (Click the photo to move through the slideshow)
In the first photo, it’s 2014. I’m at my lowest weight in my adult life and I’m completely miserable. I ate 500 calories a day and exercised to the point of injury 3 times in a 6 month period. I was deep into the pit of anorexia, which had been falsely diagnosed or ignored by doctors because my BMI technically put me in the “overweight” category.
In the second photo, it’s 2016. I’m three months into my recovery on a solo road trip across Montana. Driving across 1000 miles of the most gorgeous land I’ve ever seen, I remember feeling free from my eating disorder and diet culture for the first time I could remember. If I was still in the prison of anorexia, I may have used a week-long solo road trip to severely restrict my food intake, but instead I packed a cooler full of snacks that I liked: tuna salad and buttery crackers, apples and peanut butter, Hershey’s kisses. I savored the snacks on the side of the road in Glacier National Park and felt seriously joyful.
In the last picture, it’s 2018. I’m at my highest weight in my adult life, but you know what? It doesn’t matter to me anymore. I’m happy, loved, and literally living my best life — not in spite of my weight or size, but because of it. Because now, I can give my body the food and sustenance it needs to do the things I love without feeling like I’m worthless. I don’t exercise compulsively until I injure myself, engaging instead in joyful movement that makes me feel good and keeps me strong.
I don’t take before and after photos anymore. I realized that no body is a “before” body, and the “after” body I’d imagine in my mind’s eye doesn’t exist. I only have the body I have, I’ll never get another one. I need to take care of it, and that means giving it the sustenance it needs to perform its job. honest about my story because I don’t want my little nieces or cousins — or anyone for that matter — to grow up thinking they have to count calories to be worth something