How we see ourselves in photos can have a huge impact on our Body Image. We can be feeling great and then all of a sudden we see a photo and BAM, our feelings about ourselves can change in a second.
As a Body Image coach and Personal Trainer I hear this a lot, it affects me too – of course it does, I am only human.
It turns out it affects a lot of us.
We often can not stop these thoughts coming into our heads, but we can learn to control how we react to them and how they affect us. A great way to do this is to understand a little bit more about how we perceive things. How we perceive the photos we see of ourselves, because that’s the thing – it is all about perception.
By understanding this, it opens us up to compassion towards ourselves next time that BAM hits us.
The camera doesn’t lie (myth)
Within the Fitness industry especially, we are told that photos are a great tool to show progress. With one PT in particular (no, his name was not Dick) telling me I should take a photo of myself every single day. Which I did while I was in the depths of diet culture, and did it improve my body image? No. Did it make me healthier? No. Did it make me want to keep going to his gym in the hope that one day I would feel good? Yes…
Unpopular opinion from a fitness professional – ‘progress photos’ are not important for success. In actual fact they can be detrimental.
According to research, progress photos and body checking (the habit of seeking information about your body’s weight, shape, size, or appearance) can lead to negative feelings when done too often.
These sorts of behaviours can all end up worsening your mood and then lead you down a path of comparison. Researchers also found that body checking is closely associated with disordered eating. This is because if what you see does not meet up to the incredibly hard to reach ideal we have all been sold, then you forget any feelings, any intuition about what your body actually wants and needs.
You become a body is be looked at, from the outside. Not a body to be felt from your own perspective. So progress photos are not a recommendation you will get from me.
How can cameras tell the truth? You are a 3D person. The world around you is 3D. A photo is 2D.
Camera angles can do all sorts, a photo is a small glimpse, a split second of your life. Often, as you can tell from the photo above of Beyoncé, images can be distorted. This then distorts the view you have of yourself.
Do not let it ruin the moment, what really matters is the moment you were in, the moment you were enjoying life. That is beautiful.
But Kim, I still want to look good.
First of all, you need to know, your body is not wrong. These are just words but in time you will start to realise that these words are, in fact, true. We have been conditioned to believe our bodies are problems, are flawed and we are constantly comparing ourselves to other people highlight reels these days. Which a lot are not even real anyway.
Your size / weight does not have moral value attached to it, even if you did actually “gain 10lbs” 2 fingers up to the camera 🖕
When you’re standing in front of someone, you get a 3D sense of their size. Without that extra dimension, in photos, a human arm can look way smaller or larger than it really is. Professional models learn to manipulate their body shape by moving parts of themselves closer or farther from the lens.
Pictures can also catch you in action, capturing a split-second ugly expression that no one would have ever noticed in person.
The way you actually look, what other people see and experience, can never be fully captured on a photo. The feeling you give people when you speak to them, when you dance with them, when you make them laugh – that can not be captured. That is the TRUE reality of you.
A picture can never tell the whole story of who you are or even what you look like.
Ultimately we need to stop giving ourselves such a hard time
Our time and energy is worth so much more than one 2D split second from a perspective that others rarely see.
No matter what PT Dick may tell you.
Focus on the feelings, focus on what matters. Focus on the fact that;
Your body is not wrong.