Should I Post My “Before and Afters”?

by Courtney on April 10, 2014

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I’d love your thoughts on a serious subject that I’ve been thinking about for a while: my own “before and after” photos.

I sometimes get the feedback from people who are struggling with compulsive eating that they don’t totally feel they can relate to me, because all my pictures of myself up on my blog and social media are of me since I have healed a lot of my compulsive eating, and generally looking pretty happy and healthy (which I am now). Many of the people I work with (though not all) have weight issues due to compulsive eating and feel their extra weight is unhealthy or uncomfortable, and may have a lot of emotional pain about struggling with weight, too. I was in the same place, as I’ve written lots about, and yet there aren’t any pictures of when I was overweight.

I’ve been coaching compulsive eating for over 5 years and healing my own for 10 years, but I’ve never posted “before and after” pictures. I don’t have have any shame about what I looked like when I was really struggling with it (about 50 lbs of extra weight) or fear of sharing that; I haven’t posted them because I have other concerns:

I am concerned posting “before and after” pictures will make it appear that in the end, all I’m really doing is promoting weight loss and changing one’s physical appearance. Though I support anyone wanting to lose weight (within medically healthy parameters), and I personally feel much more comfortable and healthy after I’ve lost weight, I don’t want to promote an obsession with the scale and perpetuate the self-hate many people have.

I also don’t want to contribute to our culture that makes people (women in particular) feel that they aren’t GOOD enough unless they’re a certain weight or body type, which sadly, happens all the time even within the healthy living movement.

Additionally, my before and afters are somewhat arbitrary. In other words, the size I was when I was really struggling with compulsive eating was uncomfortable for me, and for me, it was a symptom of lots of compulsive eating and bingeing, but for someone else, that size may not be indicative of those things and be comfortable for them. My size now is also arbitrary – it feels good for me, but it may not be the natural or healthy size for someone else (in either direction), and I do not want communicate that people who look like me “before” should feel like they need to change, nor that what I look like now is where someone else should want to be. They would be pictures of my own experience but not necessarily similar to someone else.

I understand that many people wouldn’t interpret “before and after” photos like this at all; it would just make them feel more understood and feel that I do know what they’re going through, including the embodied experience of what it’s like to be a compulsive eater and feel uncomfortable and unhealthy.

While I could see some positive reasons for sharing pictures of myself at different stages in my compulsive eating journey, I am deeply concerned doing so may take away from the message I really want to share in the world, which is all about self-love. It is ok that we want to settle at a healthy weight and feel comfortable, but it has to be about more than our weight.

Truly healing compulsive eating versus just wanting to lose weight is like having pictures of the world on your wall and never having left your hometown vs. actually traveling and experiencing a new place. One is an external reflection, and one changes you on a fundamental level internally. Weight loss is a reflection of our internal transformation, but it is not in and of itself the be-all and end-all of the work in healing compulsive eating.

Healing compulsive eating gives us an opportunity to heal our souls; to heal the broken places in us so we become more whole, more peaceful, more happy people. So we feel connected in life and full of love. It has to be about love, it cannot be about shaming and a fixation on appearance. I believe when we heal our souls, we naturally want to love ourselves by eating in a way that is balanced, and so inevitably our weight and our bodies reflect our loving choices.  And for me, though I feel better without extra weight, the weight loss is nowhere near the most rewarding thing I have gained from my own process of healing compulsive eating, eating disorders and food addiction. I am far happier than I used to be, I feel closer to myself, I trust myself more, and I feel more peace, joy, passion, creativity, and freedom in my life. And I hope to convey to others that there are so many more beautiful gifts than just our body changing to be gained from healing what is underneath food compulsion, too.

What do you think? I’d love to hear thoughts on this.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Mamabird April 11, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Yes! We as readers know who you are by your heart felt writings. So many who are into health coaching have never been through what others have experienced. They have perfect bodies from the start or maybe an extra few pounds they have to release. Showing your pictures along with your experience will give more hope to those who have real issues with eating behaviors.

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Sam April 11, 2014 at 12:49 pm

As a person who has struggled with emotional compulsive eating since probably before age 2, it does help to see the transformation of a person physically, because we cannot see the transformation that occurred emotionally. I completely understand, now, where you’re coming from as even though my compulsive eating tendencies have not healed, I have come to a point in my life where I am appreciating my body and not so judgmental of it, which I believe to be a big step forward in me completely healing. I used to be obsessed with makeover shows because I loved seeing the end result of a person who had changed so drastically, maybe because I felt like I could do it, too.

I think whatever decision you make will be the right one, and I doubt anyone would be offended with your choice. I believe that it may help others to see the physical journey you went through, and possibly even see the difference in your entire well being as pictures often show what we’re hiding inside.

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Adrienne April 11, 2014 at 1:55 pm

No. Just like the scale can take on Demi-god qualities so can dramatic before and after pictures of physical transformation. Having released over 160 pounds I am a dramatic case study! But the most important transformation is my growth emotionally and spiritually. I will always be a grateful work in progress when it comes to my compulsive food issues. Fellow travelers on this path seeking a solution from the ‘outside in’ may get sidetracked and loose focus on what make us whole, healthy, loving beings.

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Jess April 11, 2014 at 2:40 pm

I am so grateful for this post and your openness to receiving comments. Personally, I am glad that you have not posted Before/After photos. This was one of the reasons that I was comfortable contacting you to inquire about Juice Feasting. Instead of promoting health and wellness as a finite journey with a beginning and an end, you approach Juice Feasting as contributing to wellness. You have portrayed yourself professionally as someone who posts pictures of where you are at this time in your life, and that is a powerful role modelling technique for all of us – to accept where we are right now, as we begin or continue to learn about Juice Feasting and wellness. Before/After photos often contribute to Fat Shaming even when the people posting are unaware of this, and these people do not mean harm. Before/After photos often suggest that the “after” image is a “better” and that there is something wrong with the “Before.” To provide such a visual can often narrow down the wonderful aspects of a challenging and fruitful journey into a single statement.
From the perspective of a client, I also think it’s encouraging to know that my Juice Feasting Coach does not define her journey as having a “Before” and an “After.” It helps to know that the person who will be coaching me is focused on Juice Feasting, not focused on how much weight can or cannot be lost. Because you have not posted photos, you are not encouraging people to compare themselves to you and your journey. Another wonderful quality of a good coach.
I can understand why some people would like to see Before/After photos, but I believe that your refusal to contribute to the “thin is better” paradigm that these kinds of photos perpetuate is honourable. SO many juicing/vegan/wellness coaches offer these kinds of photos and there is no guarantee of their accuracy.
You take the time to offer thoughtful and well-written blog posts about many issues around compulsive eating, wellness, and health. I hope that people will read your writing and understand your journey as you have chosen to present it: ongoing, not marked by a specific set of photos.

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Ethan April 11, 2014 at 9:21 pm

I think it’s a great thing to do if YOU want to do it. For some of us, posting our before and after pics is important. It’s validating. It celebrates our hard earned work and achievement. If that’s meaningful to you, do it. If it’s not, then don’t.

I think you’re likely to find as many “yes” answers as “no”s. In the end, we all know who you are and where you’re coming from on these issues. Nobody who reads your blog could ever think you were in any way making weight loss the bottom line. If anyone has a negative reaction to you posting them, if that’s what you decide to do, then that’s a reaction that they must own, 100%. It’s about them, their journey/process and what seeing what those pictures brings up for THEM. Especially after a thoughtful post like this one, you’ve more than set the context for others to see this in the spirit in which it is offered.

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Laura April 12, 2014 at 10:06 am

Courtney,
I have followed your blog for years and remember some pics you had up of just your face as a ‘before’ and ‘after’ to illustrate how your skin tone evened out and your complexion changed. Those alone were quite powerful to me as a testimony to how truly clean eating shows on the body.

I understand your concerns about not wanting it to be just about the weight and I agree–I have struggled with compulsive eating at lots of body weights and I really believe it is a disease similar to alcoholism that can only be arrested one day at a time through a power greater than ourselves.

thanks for your amazing blog and all your great inspiration!

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Tara April 12, 2014 at 3:33 pm

Hi Courtney,

There are times in my life where I would not have trusted a process if there wasn’t “proof” that I could get to my desired external goal.The process with you was different from that, which was a GOOD thing for me. The process you bring to this is so internal that it would feel like a different approach if it involved “before/after”. In a way, what I needed (and still very much need) to get beyond is that there IS no “before and after”…..its all one journey. Mine. And both versions, and every version in between is just me with different aspects of my life being at the forefront.

While I was grateful to hear about your journey and to see some of your earlier pictures, by the time I saw them, that was not the focus of the journey.

You create a supportive and loving environment to help people walk this path, so whatever you choose will be from a place of kindness and honesty.

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