In case any of you don’t know – I took up lifting weights at the tail end of 2015 and started posting body transformation pics at around the same time. I would take my photograph every Wednesday after a morning personal training session, wearing exactly the same outfit – a pink Under Armour vest and a pair of bright blue StellaSport bottoms that I have grown to hate. And, surprise surprise, my followers loved them.
See? Of all of the posts I shared on Instagram in 2016 (801), four of the top 16 were body transformation pics; all of the top 16, with the exception of one competition, were relating to changes in my looks (haircuts, make-up, body positivity).
And on the one hand, I get it; Instagram is a hugely visual platform, and weight loss is such a universal goal that it’s no surprise my body transformation pics were really popular. But I also think that lying down and accepting the fact that our culture has become more totally and utterly obsessed with looks than ever before would be a huge mistake.
That’s not the only reason I’ve decided to stop sharing body transformation pics (in fact, I’m not going to take them any more either), but it does have a lot to do with it.
I’ve taken a bit of a break lately – not from working out, although the frequency of workouts has slowed from seven-odd a week to around three or four, but from eating super healthily and taking body transformation pics. And I’ve started feeling this massive guilt, that I’m letting my trainers down, and letting my followers down. And it was when I was considering taking my weekly photograph recently that I had this panic, thinking, Jesus, if this is what I look like after a year, what have I been doing with myself?!
Then I stood back and got a grip; I’ve been lifting heavy weights. I’ve been enjoying life. I’ve been enjoying food (and not punishing myself for it), and I’ve been working and playing and crying and laughing and all of those things in between; I haven’t been obsessing about my body, and I think that not taking those body transformation pics has a lot to do with that!
As such, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about balance, health and wellness and how not only to achieve but to measure those things. I even wrote a blog post about it, when I was teasing out my initial thoughts.
Instagram is so full of women measuring their health and their personal achievements solely on visuals. I look great in #MyCalvins, therefore I should feel proud; I look bad in #MyCalvins, therefore I should feel guilty. Where is the respect for how one’s body feels, in those thoughts? Where is the person measuring themselves not on their physical measurements, but on their ability to lift weights, and run for the bus?
I know women who post regular #gymselfies to Instagram, extolling the virtue of regular workouts and excessive sweating, but one moment of weakness in the form of a sandwich or a fizzy drink or even (heaven forbid) a bowl of carb-heavy porridge, and it’s punishment cardio for days. I was dangerously close to thinking exactly like this – and how can this possibly be considered a healthy outlook?
It’s not that I won’t be talking about the changes my body has been going through – and hopefully will continue to go through. It’s just that I’m hoping 2017 will be the year I stop measuring my body in terms of how it looks, and start considering how it feels – and actually, some of the photographs in which I can see the biggest transformation have nothing to do with my body. They’re photographs in which I’m smiling, in which I look happy and healthy and comfortable with myself.
From a cynical, thirsty-for-likes point of view, this could be considered a dumb move; social media is my bread ‘n’ butter, after all, and why not give the people what they want? But my mental health is more important than whatever validation I get from people “liking” my Instagram photographs – and I’m really hoping that my #2017bestnine will show more than body transformation pics.