When first embarking on this fitness ride 5 years ago Facebook was still (fairly) new and smartphones had been out for a while, but I didn’t own one. I remember taking pictures on a flip phone when my 6 year old was born. People didn’t edit profile pics and use fun filters like Instagram like we all do today. None of these are bad things, but it was just a little bit different.
When losing 50 pounds, I snapped pictures all the time. It was so fun being surrounded by people on the same parallel fitness journey, we supported each other, and it was amazing to see our progress via these quick pictures. So often when we start taking our fitness journeys and our health seriously, those successes are not always reflected on the scale. The camera gives a tangible, visual affirmation that changes are happening regardless of weight. Pictures are powerful.
So powerful, in fact, that they can often send the wrong message. When we look longingly at other people’s physiques, it sets us up for all kinds of disordered thinking. “Oh, if I had her legs (or chest, or arms, or rear or whatever) then I would be happy with my body.” Or worse, it sets us up to critique others because, you know, it’s just some picture on the internet.
I came across this today:
This is stuff that I’ve been ruminating about for a while now. Do progress pictures blasted all over social media really help anyone? On one hand, it’s INCREDIBLE to see real results when you work so hard for them! It’s great showing the progress. On the other hand, does my picture inspire someone else? That has been my intent in sharing the journey.
But not every body is the same.
Genetics, height, build, age, gender, stress levels, support systems, medical history, and so much more contribute to a body’s ability to gain muscle, maintain muscle, and/or lose weight. If two people eat the exact same diet, exercise the exact same way – they will end up with 2 different results: they are two different people. Again, does my progress picture really help anyone but me see those changes? I suspect probably not. That is in part why this is the first time in a long time that I’ve shared body progress pictures. Who does it really help? We are so much more than just our shell. We are souls, we have minds, we have feelings – we just happen to live in a body.
As a trainer, I know the way I appear is essentially my business card. I get that. I also understand that what it takes to be a figure competitor or professional body builder is not something I am capable of, nor do I have the desire. (Not knocking those things – that’s awesome if that’s your goal. That’s just not my bag.) My niche, and where I feel I have a voice, is the everyday person looking to feel better in their skin. To not be tired before noon each day. To have the energy to lead an active and healthy life and not sit on the sidelines missing out on really living.
When we gaze at a drastic before and after photo, it gives us hope. It plants the seed of possibility. That is a good thing to some extent, provided it’s not a sales pitch and the photos are not altered. While hope is a good thing, we often fail to realize that the tiny divide between a “before” shot and an “after” is where the real story is. In that tiny line lies the sweat, the tears, the backsliding, the frustration, the joy, the camaraderie, the fist-pumping victories – all of it.
In that tiny line.
Perhaps it’s the writer in me, but I’m more interested in the story of the dividing line.
What brought a person from there to here? How long before they realized that they had the power to run that race? Do those pull ups unassisted? Get up the nerve to not hide behind the camera? When did they start to realize their worth? When did they reach that seemingly unattainable goal? When did they start to feel better? When did their spouse tell them they were proud of them? When did they realize that fitness is about so much more than just bodies?
That’s the story.
That’s where life is.