“Before and After” versus “Then and Now”

If you are reading this and are still on your way to achieving your goal it is my hope that this post will contribute to your ability to sustain the objective of a life-long healthy weight.

Weight loss “Before” and “After” pictures are great.  Whether of ourselves or others these pictures offer a great opportunity to sustain our motivation and inspire us to stay our course.

When Shape magazine first came out, I’d always grab one while waiting in line at the grocery store and eagerly flip to the “Success Stories” for the express purpose of seeing the before and after shots.

Thirty years later and about 100 pounds gone – I’m still doing this.  Kind of a “seeing is believing” sort of thing.

And now that we’ve got Facebook and other social media at our fingertips we can not only be inspired by others but also share our own successes – which millions of us do every day.

As a matter-of-fact, a recent visit to my Facebook page is what got me thinking about the subject.  Someone had posted their “Before and After” shot.  They’d just reached their “goal weight”.  Looking at these two photos my initial reaction was a sense of shared joy and I immediately “commented” my congratulations.

Everything about her “After” picture – from her smile to the way she held her body – shouted out loud and clear – “I did it!”

I found myself thinking about that woman for the next few days – but my initial sense of sharing her joy in obtaining her goal was morphing – I realized I was concerned about her.

Why should I worry?  I mean here was a lady who’d set a goal to lose weight and had done just that.  I mean, she looked absolutely great.

I gave this a lot of thought and came up with two reasons as the source of my concern.

First off, I realized that it wasn’t the pictures that she posted that got me to worrying about her – it was something she’d said.

She said that she would never go back to “who I was before”.

Now, it’s perfectly understandable to want to “leave behind” aspects of ourselves that we are not proud of, or did not like, when we have changed our behavior and this change in our behavior has produced positive results in our lives.  Breaking negative or harmful patterns of behavior and ways of thinking that hurt us makes us feel good about ourselves NOW.  But we must maintain a somewhat delicate balance between breaking free of negative behaviors versus disowning our “past selves”.

But why would one want to maintain a relationship with a past self-image that only caused us both physical and emotional pain?

Well, my experience has been when I have compassion and empathy for my “past fat self” this serves to motivate and inspire me to be kind to her, to take care of her – by continuing to lead a life style that supports sustaining a healthy weight.

On the other hand, when I experience even just a tinge of the self loathing I was so familiar with when heavy it is all too easy for me to relapse into negative and harmful behaviors that DO NOT support sustaining a healthy weight.

So, it seems to me that what is useful to disown are the past false limitations we erroneously believed were just part and parcel to “who we were” rather than disown our “past” selves.

What I saw as my second concern about this woman was not limited to just her – it was the whole idea of thinking in terms of “before” and “after”.  As you most likely already know what motivates me most when it comes to writing this blog and a central notion of Fitegic Planning in general is the difference between an objective and a goal.  They are quite often thought of as the same thing – not so.

An objective can be thought of as a “state of being”.  It is continuous.

A goal has a start, a middle, and (most important) and end.  It is finite.  You set a goal. You reach a goal.  You’re done.

“Sustaining a healthy weight” is an objective.

“Losing 50 pounds” is a goal.

You probably get my drift.  “Before” and “After” are both precise moments in time.  They are not ongoing.  When we think in terms of ongoing we must be doing things NOW that sustain our ability to achieve our objective (a healthy weight) continuously.  And life is nothing but a series of “nows”.

The danger is that, when we think in terms of “being done”, having “finished”, or “achieved our goal” this all too often translates into “stopping” – and, when it comes to sustaining a healthy weight, this most usually means gaining some, all, or even more, of our weight back.

So, it seems to me that thinking in terms of “Then” and “Now” versus “Before” and “After” could be very useful.

Framing reaching our goal of losing weight in terms of “that was then, this is now” does not imply some sort of finish line because sustaining this “now” that we worked so hard to achieve motivates us to set new goals and develop strategies and tactics that support our ability to sustain our objective (sustaining a healthy weight) throughout the changing circumstances and situations life brings us.

I have compassion and empathy for who I was “then”.

Who I am “now” is grateful for the lessons learned from my “then” self.

It is only when I integrate both my “then” and “now” that I am whole.




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