I've had people tell me I needed to put up a before-and-after photo on my site. Because, well... the whole "look at me before and now see me after" transformation sells!
People see my before/after pics and they're supposed to think, "Wow, what a transformation. I'm gonna hire her to get me to that place." But the whole thing somehow seems wrong to me.
Because I don't quite buy the whole before-and-after transformation...
It's one of those times where you only see a snapshot of the me that went through this journey.
You get a glimpse in time of what my life is/was like. And it doesn't truly tell the whole story.
Because the whole story isn't just a "before" and an "after."
And that's the myth I want to dispel right now.
I have my days where I look at my body in the mirror and don't like my stomach. I have moments where I compare myself to everyone and their mom on social media. And I have times where I eat too many cookies just like everyone else.
I want to dispel the myth that life is somehow magical once you reach the "after."
Yes, I'm happy with myself and proud of how much I've healed. I am comfortable in my skin, I can go to a party and not have cake because I just don't feel like it, and I can wear a bathing suit in front of people and not want to hide under a towel.
And that story can't ever be told through my "after" photos...
Here's what I mean:
You'll notice that my "before" pics are from all different years (from left to right, 2011, 2001, 1999).
And then my "after" pics are also spread out over a number of years (2006, 2009, 2008, respectively).
What I want you to know is that the "before" and "after" all blends together.
In 1999, I was a mess and didn't even know I had an eating problem. (I just thought it was normal to binge and restrict.)
In 2002, I was at one of my heaviest and binging until the cows came home.
In 2006, I had just returned from a year abroad working in Thailand and had lost a bunch of weight.
In 2009, I was eating super clean everything and restricting like it was nobody's business.
So, you see from my photos that I was all over the place for a period of many many years. I was skinnier. I was heavier. I was everything in between.
So, here's what I want you to remember about this whole "before and after" myth:
1. Life Isn't Static
You think you want to get to the "after."
You know, the place where you've lost the weight, you feel deliciously amazing in your body, and you can go to a buffet and not go back for fifths.
But life is always changing and throwing things at you. And you've got to be prepared that you won't stay at a set place (namely, the "after").
That's the lure of this whole eating mess. You think that once you just "get it" -- "it" being the weight loss -- then you'll be happy and joyous and fine. But what happens when you do lose the weight but still hate your body? What happens when you lose the weight and then get pregnant? What happens when you lose the weight but can't maintain it?
Because that, my dear, is life. You go through periods of transition, fluctuation, and healing.
You finally reach a stable weight and then you get pregnant (cue body image issues all over again).
You achieve balance in your eating and then tragedy hits (cue dealing with emotional eating issues).
You think you've got healthy eating down and then you have to work 60+ hour weeks at work (cue stress eating and no time to work out).
You may have reached the "after," but guess what? It can (and will) change. But that's the beauty of life. We aren't supposed to get to a point and stay there forever. You get to continue to learn and grow and expand.
Your journey is meant to be just that: a journey. Each layer that you peel back and work on allows you to go deeper and evolve more and fall even more in love with yourself and your body.
2. The "after" may not feel so hot on the inside.
So, if someone looked at my pics, I'm sure they'd say I looked "better," prettier, more attractive and sexier in the "after" shots. But guess what? In all of those pictures above, I was miserable inside.
It didn't matter if I was skinny or fat. I was still obsessively trying to control my food, desperately attempting to lose weight, and critically caught up in a deep self-loathing of my body.
The size I was didn't matter. Because it's an INTERNAL shift.
The changes you want come from the inside. You may reach the quintessential "after" photo -- you're rocking your skinniest jeans, hottest crop top, and sexiest heels in the picture. You've lost weight. You're the thinnest one at the party. You don't touch desserts. But...
Are you happy inside? Do you feel at peace around food? Do you cringe when you look in the mirror?
If the answer is no, then that isn't really the "after" that you want. You want the after that comes from INTERNAL change. If you're still not feeling all that amazing on the inside, then what good is the "after" photo?
It's easy to get caught up in the illusion of the "before and after" myth. Trust me, I lived my life in search of the elusive after for almost one-third of my life. And I've realized that life isn't meant to be lived in before and afters.
Life is a delicate dance and a roller coaster of a journey.
It's a few steps of progress forward and then a frustrating step back. It's a ride of exhilaration and crushing heartbreak. But all of it is beautiful and meaningful. It's what has molded you into the strong, courageous woman you've evolved into today:
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.