You're familiar with the concept of before-and-after photos, right? Right. We are too. But "after-after" photos are new to us, and a body-positive Instagrammer named Michelle Elman is showing us what two seemingly similar post-weight loss photos can teach us about being healthy and how to get there.
On top of everything else, Elman's story is a critical reminder that we're almost never going to be in a place to make assumptions about someone else's health. We can't tell which photo is her healthy one just by comparing them, and that's exactly the point. We'll let her explain why:
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THIS IS NOT A BEFORE AND AFTER PHOTO. This is two after photos. In both these photos, I have just lost 30 lbs. But there's only one where I am happy and healthy and there is only one that makes me smile now. The one on the left. I had lost those 30 lbs through being happy. I wasn't being body positive because it didn't exist. Without trying to, or meaning to, I lost weight. Don't ask me how cause I ate cheese toasties and I drank everyday. I started eating intuitively - eating when I was hungry, stopping when I was full, eating what I wanted and when I wasn't eating, I wasn't thinking about food or exercise. I didn't obsess, I didn't emotionally eat. I didn't punish my body with workouts. I was simply happy because I had found my first real friends and as a consequence my body changed, without me even trying. I stopped caring about my weight and how I looked and I lost weight as a result. The one on the right couldn't be further from that. It was less than a year later when I was hospitalised for an obstructed bowel. I wasn't allowed to eat for 6 weeks and was fed by a tube in my veins that gave me 500 calories a day. That restriction led to an obsession. I would spend my days scrolling #chocolate on Instagram. All I did was think about the food I was banned from having. Once I even begged a nurse for a grain of rice. People would come into my hospital room and compliment me on my rapid weight loss and it would fill me with resentment cause I had been through this before. When you stop eating, your body goes into starvation mode and whatever I lost, I would gain back AND MORE. When I took this photo, I remember thinking, let's take a picture because you will never be this size ever again. I lived in fear of the weight coming back cause it was inevitable and I had no choice but to sit there and watch my weight climb. I buried this photo, and to find it I had to dig it out of the depths of my computer because even now it's hard to look at. I got my dream body and all I had to do for it was starve myself in hospital for 6 weeks. So before you compliment someone on their weight loss remember this: NOT ALL WEIGHT LOSS IS A SIGN OF HEALTH AND HAPPINESS.