Could Posting ''Flaws and All'' Photos Boost Your Confidence?

By , Shelli Mosteller
Whether you're a voracious newsfeed reader or the casual Instagram browser, chances are if you're on social media you've seen the "before" and "not-quite-after" photos fitness blogger post online. Here's the setup: People take two pictures within seconds, minutes or hours, changing a few things in the "after" before posting them both side by side. For instance, on the left you might see a woman posing herself in a flattering way—flexing, sucking it in, finds that perfect angle with good lighting—and voila! This woman looks amazing. She has incredible abs, muscle definition, the whole package. Then, that same woman simply changes her posture, relaxes her muscles, pulls the compression tights down a bit and voila—she has cellulite and love handles in the picture on the right. In other words, she's a real person.

Do you have any idea how much courage it takes to post these pictures? These men and women could easily post the flattering, killer shots and let everyone believe they've achieved greatness, that they really are that perfect, confident person posing. By posting both shots, they show the reality after you pull back the curtain. The second photo says, "This is where I came from, I've still got work to do and I'm just like you." As a person with cellulite and love handles, I find both shots encouraging and inspiring. I want to shout, "Good for you!" and give them high fives or mama bear hugs.

It comes down to expectations. Weight-loss journeys are bundled with expectations coming from a jillion different directions. Television, magazines, blogs and social media posts—tons of images all telling us how we should look. We see the before and after pictures and desperately want to be the after, not realizing that most people don't walk around flexing all the time. (Honey, if you do walk around flexing all the time, you need to take a breath.) Nobody looks like an "after" 24/7; our bodies are flexible, prone to change and fluctuation. The same person that has a killer six pack probably has a few rolls when they sit down. We're not made of stone and we're all different. What works and looks great on you may be impossible for me to mimic, and that's okay. Thank goodness we're not all carefully chiseled works of art. What kind of world would that be? Where's the fun in that? That would be like walking through an art museum where all the masterpieces were the same statue. I don't know about you, but I want some Pollock and Lichtenstein mixed in with my Michelangelo.

But it takes guts to be real online—I know this from personal experience. I don't have flattering fitness pictures to post, but even I can take a headshot from a certain angle. I can crop out my large belly roll and minimize my ample derriere. I can leave mistakes on the cutting room floor. I can film from the one corner of my office that's actually clean and lead you to believe I'm an organized, all-together person. I can apply filters, use apps, dip into Photoshop. I can do all of those things.

But I try not to. I try to suck it up and post the hula hoop video that not only shows but emphasizes my belly roll. Not because I'm trying to show off how overweight I am, but because I can't show you the super amazing hoop trick I'm doing without my belly roll showing. There's nothing wrong with posting flattering shots, but if I post a carefully curated, edited version of myself online, I'm not posting the real me. I'm not a celebrity and I'm not running for president. The friends I have online are exactly that, my friends. Why would I want to try to pull one over on them or myself? So good for those incredibly fit people who are willing to show their "flaws." Good for them and thank you for being real.

We could all take a lesson from them to be brave and be yourself—belly rolls and all.

Shelli Mosteller (MOSTMOM1) has been a SparkPeople member since 2010 and currently resides in just outside of Cincinnati. On her journey to weight loss, she's experienced all the highs and lows but always manages to find the silver lining. She loves interacting with the SparkPeople Community, which she finds is full of encouraging, motivating, positive people. Married with two young adult children plus Chubbs the Immortal Guinea Pig and Bubba the English Bulldog, Shelli also works full-time as a creative arts pastor for her church.

Do these "real progress" photo series motivate you in your weight-loss journey?