Topic Tuesday: Comparisons

“The Transformation” (By: Victoria Guentzel)

A big trend that I have noticed on social media lately is the “before and after” picture. Whether someone just finished a workout program or a new diet, there’s always some significant change in his or her appearance. Many times, these photos can be visually powerful tools to represent a triumph of achieving a goal or milestone in their health journey — CAN being the operative word. What these photos do not show is the “middle” or the not so linear journey to the “after” photo. Because of this, many negative consequences can occur to the viewer as a result.

Oftentimes, these photos place an unhealthy emphasis on the superficial side of getting healthier. The “shock factor” that most of these photos carry is some dramatic weight loss. Weight. A number. In viewing these photos, it’s easy for us to glorify the weight loss that we see, rather than the steps taken to better their health. There is a lot more to health than the number we see when we step on the scale.

I’ve been through a period of time where I attributed my self-worth to the number on the scale. My life became endless math equations, calories counting, and portion control on how many calories I could consume while still making the number on the scale go down. The number on the scale should not be the ultimate goal, but the result of healing from within.

Another qualm I have with these photos is the light in which they are painting themselves in the “before.” The before photo is just as important as the end. Demonizing the before is not the point. The person in both the before and after photo is important and represents the harsh realities of what the person went through. I’m proud of my “before.” It led me to where I am today, stronger and healthier because of it.

When I look back at these photos, I see a many year journey of restoring my weight. I see someone who has been through ups and downs, but still manages to pick herself up every time. The path from my “before” to “after” was anything but linear. It was a series of highs and lows, crying and laughter, anxiety and joy. These photos don’t show the blood, sweat, and tears that go into our journey towards recovery.

Ultimately, there is no “after” photo because it is a constant journey. I’ve learned to not focus on either my before or my after because it’s about living your “middle” in a world that is constantly changing and throwing you curve balls. There will still be moments in life where I fall, and each time I fall I know I will pick myself up again.

About the Author

Victoria Guentzel is finishing up her senior year at Middle Tennessee State University studying Nutrition and Dietetics. She plans to complete a dietetic internship and obtain her Master’s in Public Health in hopes of being a Registered Dietitian. She aspires to work with school-aged children to teach healthy and nutritious eating behaviors. She is currently developing a wellness blog, The Nutrition Beat.