What you typically see as an after is actually a DURING photo.
During my period of weight cycling.
During my disordered relationship with food.
During a disastrous mental health period.
During episodes of extreme stress, anxiety and panic attacks.
During those excruciating days on the treadmill.
During the shame spiral of not looking how I “should.”
During the quest of beating my body into submission.
During the ignorance of internal queues that something was wrong.
During the negative thought patterns.
During the harmful ways I motivated myself.
Receiving praise at my DURING phase only reinforced the negative treatment, promoted the belittling attitude and awful behaviors I was inflicting on my body. It made me more disconnected with myself, and fed into my need to continue this performance, albeit a negative one.
I was nourished by the validation from others – it was the only way I survived, that I was able to continue to push myself to keep going. “See Maura, others love you and praise you when you lose the weight. You must keep moving forward.” Only feeling great shame and embarrassment when I’d gain the weight back.
You are seeing a during, certainly not an after.
Each diet, each restrictive attempt, even in the name of healthy living, would eventually result in weight gain. 80-95% of DIETS FAIL. That means that most of my attempts in restrictive eating (i.e. dieting) will fail.
Let me reinforce something: The DIET fails, the statistics are very clear about that. The diet fails, I do not fail.
Yet, diet culture wants to place the blame on me, it was all my fault the diet didn’t work. I failed, I didn’t have enough willpower to stick it out, I needed to try harder to stay on plan, I am not strong enough for this. It was never the diet’s fault, it was always mine.
Here’s the truth: I am set up for failure from the beginning, that’s the way diets are – they are not sustainable in the long run. I am simply succumbing to what diets are supposed to do. Keep me in the cycle, keep me buying all the miracle tricks, potions, drinks, food plans, and believing all the new age fads.
I wouldn’t want someone praising the disordered behavior and terrible mental health of the woman in the middle. I don’t want someone to be inspired by a woman so conflicted, so torn up, so miserable. Behind that smile hides some awful truths about how she really feels about herself, about all the misery she’s endured to get there, about all the stress she feels to maintain that body. Behind that smile was a war raging within, fighting two internal forces, pushing her to do things she didn’t want to do, never being comfortable, never giving herself a moment to relax and breathe.
Every day of my life is a during, never an after. Every single day, my body is changing. Who I was 10 years ago isn’t the person I am today. As I grow, expand and evolve as a person, so does my body. I never fought the emotional and personal growth because those I would gladly welcome, but I’d certainly fight the body changes I’d experience.
As I change, so does my body.
I welcome those changes now. I don’t fight the ebbs and flows I experience.
I listen to my body and its queues on what it wants to do, how it wants to feel and how it would like to move.
That is peace within my body. That is body acceptance. That is body confidence.
That is winning the war I was fighting inside myself!
Behind that smile now is a woman is loves herself fully, and embraces all that her body has to give her.
PS – AS ALWAYS – I don’t care if you diet/want to change your body/etc. You have body autonomy so you can do whatever you want with your body. I am simply calling out what I see and how this terrible cycle has affected my ability to love myself and be confident with who I am and how I look. Using before & afters to sell diet plans/weight loss isn’t right, because HEALTH doesn’t have a certain look.