Wake up on a Tuesday morning, open your Instagram feed and it’s hard to avoid a “#TransformationTuesday” post. Some of them are lovely pictures of a redecorated bedroom or a landscaped garden but in the main they feature people bragging about their weight loss. This is a hard post to write because these posts have become so commonplace in our society and most people have become so overexposed to them that they don’t consider the lasting impact these images are having on the self esteem and body image of everyone who encounters them.
Celebrating an achievement is no bad thing. Many of these people sharing transformation pictures have embarked on a healthy eating and exercise programme to feel healthier, fitter and stronger, and that’s great. The problems start in the photo description. The person normally begins by deploring their body in its previous form with statements like “why didn’t anyone tell me I looked like that” or “I can’t believe I let myself get like that”. And it extends in to the comments section with responses like “Wow, what a difference, you look amazing”, “skinny Minnie” and of course “you look so much better”.
It doesn’t take a genius to see this is body shaming. It’s toxic for the person because condemning their previous picture taints memories. If you look back at old pictures and shame yourself it makes you doubt every joyous moment captured on camera. On my own body positive journey I struggled with this – when I was going through a bad time with my mental health and lost a lot of weight this was compounded by friends telling me I looked “better”. Every time I looked at a picture of myself with those friends I was constantly paranoid that they were judging me in, what up until that point, had been such a happy memory.
The toxicity for people seeing the image is also clear to see. Living in a world where we are constantly concerned by appearance and being accepted, seeing someone so clearly state that one body type is better than another is damning, especially if you look like the before picture. Without realising, this person, possibly one of your close friends, has directly stated that your body is not good enough and needs to be changed. In most cases it’s almost certain that the picture has been posted without any regard for these implications and it’s not meant to make anyone feel bad about themselves. That’s why it’s so important that everyone is made aware that these actions have wide reaching consequences.
Recently I’ve started a little fitness challenge with a friend. As a result I’ve seen certain changes in my body, like muscles beginning to pop again. For me it’s just a bit of fun and competition, not to lose weight or “tone up” but even still you won’t see any progress pictures of my body appearing on Instagram. Comparison is the thief of joy and I never want to be that person. I’d love to inspire people to work out for fun and to stay strong but never through comparing bodies.
There certainly are ways to post a #TransformationTuesday picture without the body shaming, such as focusing on the new things you can do with your body as a result of your healthy lifestyle such as completing a physical challenge you wouldn’t have managed before, or talking about how much more energy you have since you started eating breakfast rather than snacking on junk food throughout the morning. It’s probably too late for most adults to be saved from the negative affects of body shaming, we’ll have to fight against them for the rest of our lives, but it’s not too late for children and teenagers. Social media users are getting younger and younger and unless your accounts are private they can see your posts. Before posting a before and after picture consider if you would want a teenage (or younger) son/daughter or an eating disorder sufferer to be exposed to it.
Have any of you had experiences of this kind of body shaming within your friend group? How did you deal with it? Leave a comment below.