Column: Not Posting Transformation Pictures

September 28, 2020

[Opinion column written by Hafid James]

Disclaimer: This is not an attack on any coach/PT or individuals that use/post weight loss transformation pictures. This is, as title states, simply why I decided not to post them anymore.

Weight loss transformation pictures can be used by business and/or social media to define health, happiness and success by illustrating the differences of someone at the start of a journey vs a snapshot of how they may look some time later. Most put the attention on comparing the two images and not the journey in-between.

I used transformation pictures to show clients how far they have come and to continue to encourage them. I’ve posted them in the hopes to inspire others as well as to promote my services. But after a lot of self-reflection on what I want to do and how to achieve it I decided to stop posting transformation pictures and here’s why:

Why I Stopped Posting Transformation Pictures Bermuda Sept 2020

They Enforce A False Narrative About Health

Transformation pictures enforce the belief a look defines our health and if we can just achieve this look, no matter how, we will be healthy. This mindset is further reinforced by the healthcare system, marketing campaigns, social media etc. who constantly bombard us with the message that health is simply a certain look, number or test result.

I disagree, yes they can be factors but shouldn’t be your foundation. My personal definition of health is making one whole [giving your body/mind/spirit what it needs to function optimally] and balanced [as it relates to nutrients, hormones, etc].

Using a certain look or number to define health can be problematic as it often ignores so many other meaningful aspects of an individual. In my experience if they feel they look healthy they are healthy and will put little attention to actual health issues until it’s severe.

While others classified as having an unhealthy look then form unhealthy behaviours to achieve this rigid interpretation of health, usually causing more harm than good in the long run.

I’ve had both healthy weight and overweight clients suffering from chronic disease, out of range numbers, night cramps or gut issues. Ironically some “healthy” weight clients with these issues considered themselves healthy solely because they fulfilled a certain “picture of health” simply by being thin or fit.

While some overweight clients with the same issues thought if they just lost the weight, no matter how, they will become healthier. In reality weight is not indicative of health and weight loss does not necessarily equate to an improvement in health. A reduction in body fat is not the only answer in resolving health issues, yet it is regarded as the cure-all to health problems.

In the end, it was only when we changed their mindset about health did both sets of clients’ illnesses go away and they were still able to accomplish their goals.

They Encourage Image Issues

Being consistently bombarded with these images can create unrealistic expectations as well as have a negative impact on confidence and self-worth. I’ve seen people question themselves: “It is my genes, do I need to workout more, eat less, take something?” We get so caught up with the imagery without even understanding many of these pictures can be misleading using a filter, lighting, different angles, poses or clothes.

As deceptive as they can be they still can create a false standard of normalcy or status of excellence and left unaddressed can lead one from having small micro-aggressive thoughts to forming unhealthy habits such as yo-yo dieting, extreme training or eating disorders.

Many think their happiness will come by achieving a look. If they just had his abs or her legs they would be happy. I’ve had clients drop 10-20lbs and still didn’t find that happiness and usually ends up putting the weight back on. This dives deeper into self-love, self-sabotage and mental health, heavier topics reserved for another day; but worth mentioning you might not find happiness solely by a change in weight or a look in the mirror.

Nothing is wrong with wanting to improving yourself, but I feel it should come from a place of self-love and health first; body and mind. By improving your health, you can improve your quality of life and a positive side effect [not the root cause] can be losing weight and/or building muscle.

I will be remiss not to talk about how we as a society also contribute to these image issues by demonising “overweight” people. The healthcare system says being overweight causes chronic disease, while I believe their weight is just another symptom of a greater health problem.

Body fat didn’t cause their diabetes but the two are linked to the same root problem. Average size people have diabetes too, but being plus sized is just a visual symptom. Some of us would be in *insert restaurant* judging someone’s food selection if they were plus sized, “Oh they should be ordering a salad”, while we are eating the same thing if not worse but because we are thinner that makes us feel like we are better or healthier when that may not be the case.

I don’t want to promote a look to define happiness or healthy but say if you are healthy you are more likely to be happy, have a better quality of life and better achieve your goals. Not through extremes, gimmicks or tricks [oh my], but by creating a healthy mindset and lifestyle. Less likes, sure, but I’d rather tell you what you need to hear vs show you what you want to see.

- Hafid James


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Comments (2)

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  1. Opinions Matter says:

    How dare people share their internal joy at losing weight and achieving a goal.

    The society forces an unhealthy image is getting old. Currently the only images that are being asked to not be posted are ones of people not on the obesity scale. we are asked to applaud those that are BBW, yet decry an image of a proud person glad they have lost weight. We do this and claim the image is making other feel uncomfortable.


    • Me! says:

      I would ask where does it say that no one should post their progress pics or that we should endorse or encourage obesity?