Don't Be Fooled By Instagram 'Before And After' Fitness Shots

by Valerie Williams
Image via Instagram

The woman behind a popular Instagram fitness account is coming forward with the truth behind those “before and after” progress photos.

If you’re trying to lose weight, chances are you follow some Instagram fitness accounts. There are men and women with huge followings who post their own progress photos along with work-out pictures, diet tips and exercise routines. One popular account has come clean about what are often “misleading” photos. She wants people to know that what you see on Instagram is not necessarily the truth and that those photos are incredibly easy to manipulate.

26-year-old Jess, known on Instagram by her handle “plankingforpizza,” is coming forward with the truth about some of the astonishing “before and after” shots you see of people on Instagram. She took photos of her physique in a bikini that she claims are only a few seconds apart, but that appear to show a lot of “progress” in the way of toning up.

In her caption, Jess describes how easy it is to manipulate the “after” photo by simply changing the camera angle, adjusting your clothing, your pose, or even flexing your muscles. She says, “On the left my posture is poor, I’m pushing my belly out as far as possible, I adjusted my bottoms to show my gross, unsightly and horrid love handles. These are often concealed by my high waisted pants and bottoms that do fit so much better now. As much as it pains me to showcase these, it also proves that my body isn’t perfect and that I still have work to do and fat to lose.”

Of the “after,” Jess explains, “On the right I’m standing straight and comfortably. I’m lightly flexing and I’ve adjusted my bottoms to hide my love handles. I’m thankful for bikini bottoms that now fit well and hide these but I’m also trying to show that they still exist quite a bit and that not everything we see meets the eye here on social media.”

Rationally, we all probably already knew this. How a lot of the before/after “fit-spiration” comparisons on social media are manipulated in a way that shows as dramatic a change as possible. That doesn’t change the fact that they’re discouraging to see. It can take a long time for photos to show any real progress and if you follow a lot of fitness accounts, flipping through Instagram and its barrage of “before and afters” can be extremely upsetting.

Jess goes on to say that though she isn’t perfect, she’s starting to accept her flaws. “You can show you best angles and hide your flaws but at the end of the day what we chose to showcase is a reflection of ourselves. My body isn’t perfect. I still have imperfections and flaws that I’m slowly learning to be comfortable with.” She also says, “Yes I like to show my best most of the time but I’ve also realized by not showing my worst that it only harms myself. Being vulnerable and imperfect is hard but lying to yourself is worse.”

And by only showing her “best” she is acknowledging that it also harms other people looking at her photos for inspiration and some idea of what they can hope for with their own progress. What Jess is sharing with the world in this post is not exactly earth-shattering — we all know not to trust photos on the internet as they’re so easy to change with a few little tricks. But it’s still hard to keep in mind when you’re in the thick of your own weight-loss and fitness journey.

It’s particularly difficult to see an unrealistic depiction of weight-loss progress when you’re recently postpartum and looking to get back in shape. Your body might feel foreign and for so many women, completely returning to their pre-pregnant state is unrealistic. And that’s ok. But seeing someone else’s supposedly rapid “progress” can certainly be harmful. Even if your rational side knows it might not be totally genuine, there’s a part of you that might feel worse about yourself when comparing the photos to your own.

Jess closes by saying, “I am not a before picture. I am not an after picture. I am not fat nor am I perfect. I’m flawed. I’m scarred. I’m insecure. But I’m learning and I’m hopeful that one day I’ll fully love me.” This is an excellent attitude for anyone trying to lose weight. We are so much more than the “before and after.” There is a lot in between those points and we should love ourselves through all of it.

Our bodies can do so much more than wear a bikini. It’s time we give them the credit they deserve and not hold ourselves up to possibly false ideals. Jess is doing a great service by “coming clean” and admitting how some of these photos come to pass. We would be wise to keep it in mind the next time we beat ourselves up for not progressing quickly enough.