Why I’m Not Getting “After” Pics

I’m coming to the end of the nutrition program I started back in January.  A few months ago, I stopped naming the program in my posts because I felt they didn’t deserve any free advertising from me. It’s not that it’s not a worthy program, but I don’t need to give them shout outs all the time either.

For the purposes of this post, I’m going to come right out and say it: Precision Nutrition.  Come January, when the program ends, I’ll write a full review like Sam did last year in her post Precision Nutrition’s Lean Eating Program: A Year in Review.

Today I want to blog about the “after” pics.  The program is based on the idea that we do our best to internalize “lean eating” habits when we work on one habit at a time. It’s a great approach that can work well. We focus on one habit at a time for two weeks at a time. Things like eating slowly, eating to 80% full, eating lean protein with every meal, you get the picture.

But for the past two week’s the habit hasn’t been like that. It’s been: prepare for your final photo shoot. And every time I think of that habit, my back goes up.

I’ve spent the entire year and longer doing everything I can to get away from the idea that appearance is the reason I’m doing what I’m doing. And you know what? I’m seeing some results in that department – internal results. I blogged about them just the other day. So if I’m seeking an internal change, why would I want to do a final photo shoot?

Well, there could be some reasons. A lot of women in my group find the idea of a final photo shoot to be kind of empowering. It’s a way of celebrating their awesomeness.  Most everyone has seen some physical changes over the past year.  And I’d say most aren’t where they wish they were. So the photo shoot of where I am today could be a way of practicing acceptance. I can see that. But it’s not going to be my way.

The other thing that irks me is the role the “before” and “after” pics play in PN’s marketing strategy.  They’re a huge part of it.  Every month, they ask for updated pictures of the standard “front, side, back” variety.  They don’t share them unless you give them permission to share them.  But if you want to have a shot at the prize money for the best transformation, then you need to agree to share them (obviously).

How does the contest work? Well, people get to vote on the finalists’ transformations as captured in the “before” and the “after” pictures.  I’ll get to the voting part in a minute.

So way back in the summer, they encouraged everyone to book an appointment for November 22nd with a professional photographer to take their final “front, side, back” series and whatever else they wanted to make them feel good about themselves. That last part is fine. But why oh why would I want to pay a professional to take my front-side-back pics?

I wouldn’t.

So I didn’t sign up. But they really try to tell you it would be better.

I agree — it would be better for them if everyone had the pictures. The transformations look that much more dramatic when you’ve got a “before” picture taken at home with your iPhone beside an “after” picture taken by a professional in a properly lit studio with the right equipment.  And then we sign the pictures over to PN and presto: free marketing.

And I object to the idea of a contest at all. Makes me think of beauty pageants and bikini contests and judging people based on their appearance.

It’s not just me who wants to discount appearance. All year they’ve been sending us lessons that focused on the internal changes — the habits, the energy, the new way of thinking about yourself and who you are. All good stuff. I’ve enjoyed so many of the assignments and the workouts and the habits. I love my team, my coach, the changes I’ve made.

But now we’re being asked to throw our pictures — of us in workout gear or bikinis — into a contest so that people can vote on how good our transformation has been in comparison to the transformation of others.  I feel icky just thinking about it. The very idea seems to run counter to all of the messaging all year.  For more on the contest, see Sam’s post Precision Nutrition: Why the Photo Contest?

And of course, don’t we all know that “before” and “after” pics are a scam. Lately I’ve seen more than one example of someone whose before and after shots were taken just a few minutes or hours apart. Like this one.

For me, it hasn’t been the most dramatic physical change of the century anyway. But that’s not why I don’t plan to participate in the photo shoot and the contest. And for those who are choosing to take part, that’s their choice and I hope they get something positive out of it even if I’m skeptical of having “Prepare for your final photo shoot” as a PN “habit” worthy of two weeks!

Here’s what I’m doing:

I’m going to get a photo book made that depicts my race history over the past two years, from that first 5K to the Olympic distance triathlons and the half marathon.  Those are the photos that make me smile when I look at them.

First 5K:

First 5K, with Sam, October 2012.
First 5K, with Sam, October 2012.


Half marathon:

At the finish line of my first half marathon with Anita, October 2014.
At the finish line of my first half marathon, with Anita, October 2014.

Those moments when I finished something I never thought I could do–I just can’t replicate those in a photographer’s studio no matter how talented the photographer is and how good the lighting may be.  The finish line photos are the only “after” shots I’m interested in!

7 thoughts on “Why I’m Not Getting “After” Pics

  1. This is such a nice post. I love your idea of the photo book of your race history. I may copy that idea!

  2. I love this post! It is so true that these programs tend to focus more on the external accomplishments. I get it, it is something that consumers can see that will make them want to buy into the product, however, hearing about how someone feels inside is so much more powerful to me. Thank you so much for sharing!

  3. I think thats a brilliant response from you. Though both of your writings I am coming to a place where I am focusing on what my body can do rather than what it looks like and 90% if the time I do well…. I love your response because it’s not about avoiding it completely out of protest but instead you are using it to make an important point. Well done.

  4. One of the women on an international women’s cycling forum where we’ve participated for over the last…8 yrs., did enroll in Precision. She showed photos of before and after in her bikini. Yes some women did vote for her, etc.

    I didn’t bother. I can’t even explain why because she looked great. I was actually a bit surprised she was even in this contest: she had her university engineering degree, now moved over into a manager’s position after a MBA. What? She STILL didn’t have believe in her own achievements?

    And note: I don’t have a weight problem. I’ve been slim for a long time and so it’s not as if I’m envious, etc.

    A better approach is how you physically feel in your favourite clothing pieces. Waist band too tight? Just right? Then that’s the best indicator even better than weigh scale.

    You’re not missing anything in that contest.

  5. Good to hear someone focusing on the inside and not the outside. Of course I like to look nice as well but the main reason I am interested in nutrition and health is how I feel on the inside – both being physically well and feeling I am respecting myself by caring about my lifestyle. Also, I’m interested in being strong enough to do the things I want to do, and watching some key health markers like sleep, blood pressure and heart rate, not just weight. Thanks for posting. 🙂

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