I have been coaching compulsive eating, juice cleansing, and plant-based nutrition for many years, but I have never until this point (Spring 2014) posted my “before” photos for many reasons. I wrote two extensive blogs about it recently, the first called, “Should I Post “My Before and Afters’?” and the second, which I wrote after reading dozens of comments, called “My Decision: My Before and After Photos”. This topic is very important to me; I encourage you to go read those other blogs (first one here, second one here).
Before posting these photos, I sometime received the feedback from people who were struggling with compulsive eating that they didn’t totally feel they could relate to me, because all my pictures of myself up on my blog and social media were 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 weren’t any pictures of when I was overweight.
I’ve been coaching since 2008 and started healing my own compulsive eating for several years before that, but I’d never posted “before and after” pictures. I don’t have have any shame about what I looked like when I had extra weight; I hadn’t posted them because I had other concerns:
I was 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 arbitrary. Anyone’s are, for that matter. 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 (i n 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 was deeply concerned posting before photos 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.
I am just so passionate about the truth that we all – no matter who we are, how long we’ve struggled with food, or how bad it seems to be – can heal our compulsive eating. I know the incredible suffering and pain that can consume our lives and keep us from living fully, passionately, and freely. And I want to help. So I have no preference as to putting before photos up or not. I just want to help and I want to help in the best way I can. And I don’t believe many of the things that many people who put before photos up believe – that fat shaming will get you to act, that looking like a model is better, that all you have to do is willpower your way into motivation. And because my approach has always been different than other’s approaches, I’m totally ok with not following the grain in that way.
Before and afters will never be what I lead with. They’ll never be on a book cover, they’ll never be the first page on my website. I’ll never fat shame. I’ll never say that a certain body shape is better (including any of my shapes throughout the years). I’ll never claim that weight loss is the most important thing. The dozens of people who offered their opinions (read that here) on this topic resulted in me deciding to put them up, as the majority of people did support the notion of it.
So, here they are. The interesting thing I realized in putting up this post, is that I don’t actually have complete “before” pics of when food addiction was the worst, because I either didn’t let people take photos or I deleted them. So these “befores” are actually after I’d lost about 15 lbs from my heaviest:
You’ll also notice that I’m making odd faces in both of them. In going through my photos for this post, I realized I made faces far more when I was overweight than now, and upon taking a trip down memory lane, remembered I used to do that because I was so afraid that pictures were being taken and so I put a facade of silliness and happiness on, when in truth I was miserable, suffering, and depressed.
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.