Before and after pictures on social media promote body shaming and are unrealistic. These pictures make you see weight loss as the only determinant of health and wellness, and it is not. The truth behind before and after pictures is that they work to sell weight loss because they give people an aspirational vision. As a Registered Dietitian, I look for people who want to be healthier but do not want to subject themselves to before and after pictures. Instead, I want my clients to set achievable healthy eating goals.
Forget weight loss pictures!I want my Instagram feed to be full of before and after meals. For example, before: I ate Big Macs and felt gross.After: Now, I eat my version of a Big Mac burger with real food, and I feel great. My stomach feels less bloated.
What is your ultimate health goal?
When I begin working with clients, I always ask them what are their health goals. Weight loss is usually the first thing on people’s mind. Weight can be a benchmark, but I also explain to clients that weight is not the only determinant of healthy eating.
I give clients the option to track body measurements or weight, but this is the client’s decision. How your clothes fit and what your bra size is are good arbitrary measurements.For me, feeling comfortable in my clothes is important. Fitting my clothes well makes me feel put together, which makes me feel good about myself and my body.
When it comes to your health, what do you want to focus on? What is your definition of health? What will it take for you to feel healthy? When thinking about the answers to these questions, you should also ask yourself: Do you want to be the same person you were when you were 25 or 30lbs lighter? Do you want to discount all the growth, life experience and enjoyment?
Our bodies, like us, change as we get older and our eating habits need to respect this. This also means recognizing what works and does not work for you and your lifestyle. Can you commit to a weight loss program? Do you like going to the gym regularly?
The Problem with Weight Loss Programs
I like to try new programs to see what I am missing out on. I once followed a popular 21-day program. I was not happy about taking pictures or recording my measurements, but I decided to do it so I could get the full effect of the plan. I prepared and followed the meal plan and did all the exercises. And you know what? I did lose weight and some centimetres in my measurements. But once I stopped, I gained that weight back because I did not continue with the caloric restrictions.
It’s not that the plan does not work; it works, but it works because exercise and calorie deficits work, but only in the short term. What did not work was following someone else’s plan. I needed to find a plan that worked for me, that I could sustain long term.
Collecting Gym Memberships
I have a history of collecting gym memberships. I am the best customer for the fitness industry. Someone who pays their dues, but does not show up. After I cancelled my last membership, I vowed never to join another gym. I did not want to get locked into a commitment. I like to tell people that I am commitment phobic, and the only thing that I am committed to is my marriage of 19 years and my children.
I still wanted to exercise but on my terms. So, I sought programs where I could pay as you go. I know this is more expensive, but this was the only way I know I will commit to going.
What I love about Orangetheory Fitness is that they offer options that work for me. I pay for only the classes that I will attend. Therefore, when I sign up for a class, I am committing to attend. If I don’t show up, I still pay for that class. It keeps me accountable to my plan and commitment.
What will motivate you to achieve your definition of health?
If your goal is to lose twenty pounds, why? How do you think losing 20 pounds will make you feel? What is it you’re truly striving for by losing that weight?
Instead of solely focusing on weight loss, you should consider these milestone suggestions when it comes to a healthy lifestyle:
- Absence of stomach issues/pain
- Clear-headedness/ absence of fog
- More energy
- Better sleep
- Having a routine/order
- Money saved or pounds saved from not ordering in or eating fast food
- Consistency of habits, lifestyle tracking
- Positive feedback from others on meals prepared
When it comes to healthy eating, you need to stay focused and motivated. More often than not, recording numbers on a scale can be discouraging, especially if you are following an aggressive weight-loss plan. And if you want to record your progress on Instagram, take a picture of your plate full of healthy foods! Imagine how colourful and inspirational a month full of healthy meal posts will look in your feed. Remember, before and after pictures can be aspirational, but they can also be very unrealistic and not a determinant of true health.
For more tips on how to set manageable goals or to stick to one that will lead to healthy eating success, schedule a free consultation. During this call, we can talk about your goals and whether or not we’re a good fit to work together.