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Are before and after fitness photos counterproductive?

Before and after body photos are common in the fitness industry, but you may want to reconsider their usefulness for three main reasons:

1. The equation holds
Progress photos normalize a certain pace to see results. In reality, there is no such thing as a “normal” pace to see results.

Progress photos give us no context about the individual who achieved those results. Work situation? Family responsibilities? Major life stressors? How much time available to devote to fitness and nutrition? Chronic conditions? The variables are endless.

Progress photos invite us to compare ourselves to whoever is in the photos. However, you will always be comparing apples to oranges.

2. An inaccurate representation of progress as linear
Meaningful progress toward a long-term goal is never linear. Before and after photos simplify and misrepresent progress as a simple upward trajectory toward one’s end goal.

They also feed the “all-or-nothing” mindset that is very common among fitness-minded people, and keep them from getting the results they want. People with this mindset are likely to give up and stop working to change long-term habits when they don’t see consistent, short-term results.

3. “Aesthetics first” is a very limiting scope of progress
Everyone wants to look good and feel good about themselves – it’s just human nature. But if that’s all we focus on, we set ourselves up for failure and disappointment.

Also, by the way, you look great the way you are! Progress photos also make health seem secondary, often conflating body size with health.

Karina Inkster is a health and fitness coach in the qathet region, author of five books and host of the No-BS Vegan podcast.

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