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Are before and after fitness photos counterproductive?

Ask an Expert: Karina Inkster
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Before and after physique photos are rampant in the fitness industry, but you may want to reconsider their usefulness for three main reasons:

1. The comparison trap
Progress photos normalize a certain pace of seeing results. In reality, there’s no such thing as a “normal” pace of seeing results.

Progress photos give us zero context about the individual who’s achieved those results. Work situation? Family responsibilities? Big life stressors? Amount of time available to dedicate 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’ll 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 someone’s end goal.

They also fuel the “all-or-nothing” mindset that’s very prevalent among fitness-minded folks, and holds them back from getting the results they want. Folks with this mindset are likely to give up and quit working toward making long-term habit changes 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 — that’s just human nature. But if that’s all we’re focusing on, we’re setting ourselves up for failure and disappointment.

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

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

If you have expert advice to share with Peak readers, email editor@prpeak.com for submission details.

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