Chances are that if you follow any fitness accounts on Instagram at all, you’re faced with “before and afters” and transformation pics on the daily. They’re a staple in the health and fitness industry to show client progress, to market programs and to show the trainer’s own personal transformation.
There’s a bit of a debate going on at the moment in the industry as to whether or not transformation posts are helpful or harmful, and the jury is out on this one. Some people feel that they are super motivating and show their clients hard work and the success of their programs. Others feel that they can be a trigger for harmful thinking around body image, fitness and health.
While it’s a great marketing tool, sometimes it can be quite devastating to your mental state to constantly see successful transformations taking place all around you. It can start thoughts of comparison and self-judgement – “why am I not progressing as fast as them?” “why aren’t my before and after pictures being shown by my trainer?”.
So – how, in an industry driven by transformations, do we not compare ourselves to others? It’s not easy to be objective when you aren’t feeling great in your skin, but here are some thoughts that might help when you’re feeling the comparison sink in:
- Their goals are not your goals, and their “why” might be entirely different to yours. You might want to gain muscle, and they might want to lose fat. Both are valid goals, and both will look vastly different from the other in terms of progress.
- Their starting point is almost definitely different to yours. Some people have never exercised in their lives. Some people have been in sports since they came out the womb. This vastly affects how your body (and your mind) responds to diet and exercise.
- Their body might respond differently to the same program. No two bodies are the same, and we will all get different results at different paces even if you’re following the exact same program. This depends on a ton of different things – genetics, stress levels, daily activities, your job, personal life and more. All these elements play a role in your health and fitness journey!
- You have no idea what’s going on in their minds. Sure, they might look great and they might have made amazing physical changes to their body – but they might be stressed and anxious. They might not feel the same about their body as you do – we can’t judge someones mental or physical health from a picture. So be careful when you assume that they must be more confident or happy in their body than you are in yours.
- Weight-loss is not the only progress metric when it comes to health. Appearing thinner or smaller is not necessarily a measure of fitness and health. Perhaps you’ve improved your relationship with food, or been able to sleep better at night or have more energy and work harder and get a promotion, but still weigh the same. You cannot tell any of these by how much fat you have or haven’t lost – but you’re fitter and healthier all the same!
- They might be willing to make the trade-offs you aren’t. Some people are cool skipping out on family meals or taking their food with to a function. Some people are OK sticking to a meal plan 100% and putting their exercise as a priority over anything else. Maybe that’s just not for you, and that is totally OK! You might realize that being super lean isn’t worth it for you. And there is nothing wrong with that.
So remember folks – a before and after photograph is only one snapshot in time. While it can be a helpful tool to track physical changes, stay on your toes with regards to your mindset and don’t get dragged down the comparison rabbit hole when looking at other people’s progress. If you’re moving forward in any way – then you’re doing good! If anyone ever makes you feel otherwise – perhaps give them an “unfollow” and remember – your journey is yours, and their journey is theirs. Both are valid and valuable!
This feature image was created using mock-ups from Freepik