Wellness

"Before and After" Photos Need A Serious Culture Makeover

Unless you’ve lived under a rock with no access to internet, television, or print media, you know about before and after photos.

On the left there’s a head-to-toe photo of a person who seems to be frowning with their entire body; on the right there’s a photo the same person, slimmer, beaming and possibly holding up an old pair of blue jeans.

These photos sell exercise equipment, workout dvds, weight loss programs, gym memberships, shakes and supplements. What they don’t do is sell us the truth—there’s no such thing as an “after” photo.

Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t set goals and track them, whether you want to crack that tough yoga headstand, run a marathon, or just feel hot in a pair of jeans. Goals are individual personal decisions for everyone to make for themselves.

If you find posting the photos empowering, good. If you find them inspiring, good! If you want to scrub them all off your timeline—that’s great too. You’re in charge and you know what’s best for you.

I’m saying we need to take a closer look at before and after photos and give them a makeover built on a foundation of realism. We should call them “accomplishment” photos instead.

Change the name, change the culture

Maybe you’re rolling your eyes at this tiny suggested edit. Who cares what they’re called? What’s in a name?

To that I say: naw.

Words still matter. Words affect mindset. Mindset is everything.

“After” is to “before” what “finished” is to “started,” and anyone who has achieved a weight loss or fitness goal will tell you there’s no “finished.” The work of maintenance and healthy is never over. Take it from someone who lost 80 lbs, regained 50, and then dropped 30 again—change is constant.

Calling them “accomplishment photos” instead of “after photos” raises a couple of key points. The photo is a celebration of something you’ve achieved. It also emphasizes the fact that this photo is a moment in time, and after that moment is over, you’re going to go back to doing what you do best—kicking ass, putting in the work, taking care of yourself.

If we tailor the language and the way we think about comparison photos, we can build a more transparent health and fitness culture. We need this now more than ever, when resolution season is peaking and “bathing suit season” hysteria is just around the corner.

Setting Realistic Health and Fitness Goals

I’ll say it again: accomplishment photos. This word change transmits the idea that this is not a 30-day-diet change or a cleanse or a quick-fix. It embraces the idea of long-term commitment to yourself, your craft, and your journey. It encourages the idea of sustainable goals.

This time of year can be particularly tempting for those prone to the “all-or-nothing” mindset. They might be overpromising to workout 2 hours for 6 days a week and eat no carbs—they saw someone do this and get great results on Instagram. Fake news. Maybe if people saw less “after photos” and more "achievement photos” they wouldn’t be in such a rush to the next fad workout or diet. They would take time to find the exercise they actually enjoy.

Finding a sport or a workout routine you love and can maintain is more important than desperately chasing an “after” which doesn’t exist. The “achievement photo” swap opens up the dialogue about making a routine that lasts, instead of one where you burn out.

There’s no such thing as an after photo. There are moments when we have achieved, and moments we have yet to achieve.

Imagine an inclusive fitness culture, getting real about the sustained effort it takes to really look after yourself—I can just picture it now.

Ford’s Promise to Repeal New Sex Ed Curriculum Ignores the People It Hurts Most

On election night, I watched with the rest of Ontario—and the nation—as the PCs took the majority. In Doug Ford’s acceptance speech he said his win was “for the people.”

Earlier that day, when I voted at my old primary school, I was greeted by an unfamiliar sight: the Pride flag, sailing below Canada’s red-and-white on the flagpole. I attended this school for eight years over a decade ago—there were no rainbow flags then. I don’t think the word “gay” was uttered inside those walls, unless it was weaponized like so many proverbial sticks and stones, flung carelessly by children to hurt each other.

Times, it seemed, had progressed.

Then, the day right after the election, Ford confirmed he would keep his campaign promise to repeal the new Sexual Education curriculum, installed by former Premier Kathleen Wynne.

Controversial, it tackles some of the hashtag generation’s most complex issues and lessons—subjects like consent (#MeToo), gender and sexuality (#Bornthisway), and mental health (#EndtheStigma).

Ontario’s youth are about to lose the opportunity to learn about these critical topics in a safe environment among their peers (#wtf).

In his win “for the people” Doug Ford has forgotten one very important thing: children are people too. They have minds of their own, ever-expanding worlds inside of them, and a right to the facts. Facts can be vetted, discussed, and spun perhaps—but not ignored.

In his win “for the people” Doug Ford has forgotten one very important thing: children are people too.

His concern for Ontario’s youth seems to extend no further than the opinions of their parents. Ontario’s youth are not their parents. They are growing up in a different world than their parents did. They need different lessons. The last curriculum was updated in 1998. Texting was out. Pokemon cards were in.

The new curriculum was designed to inform and protect children wrestling with a world of mobile apps, YouTube celebrities, and social landmines. It provides knowledge and tools to navigate the modern world—not omit it or ignore it.

The Ontario government refusing to discuss gender fluidity in classrooms doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, and it won’t keep kids from seeing it on the internet or even in the halls of their school. What it will do is “other” it—make it strange, make it the enemy.

Omissions of this information lower the rainbow flag from the pole. They erase those who feel invisible or misunderstood. They blind those who could be allies instead of bullies. They set our youth stepping backwards in a forward-thinking world.

The new curriculum also was designed to protect our youth. It teaches children the anatomical names of the parts of their bodies early on, giving them the language and tools to understand personal barriers and speak up when someone wrongly crosses them. These measures can shield children from abuse. 

It also engages older students on convoluted topics like the dangers of sharing sexual pictures and messages via media such as Snapchat or Facebook.

A study from the University of Calgary showed one in four teens are receiving “sexts.” One in seven are sending them. What’s more, one in ten of these teenagers are forwarding these sexually explicit messages to others without consent.

The new curriculum includes frank discussion that online actions could have real life consequences, including charges for the distribution or possession of child pornography if they share this content with peers.

The birds and the bees talk ain’t gonna cut it anymore.

The birds and the bees talk ain’t gonna cut it anymore. Neither is systematically ignoring topics such as acquaintance rape, racism, or the questioning of gender roles.

What's more: do people think kids won’t go elsewhere for information if they aren't getting it at school?

I grew up in the Ontario public school system. I learned about periods from my best friends before three years before girls and boys were separated for “a talk." In high school, Sex Education was an awkward punchline to what my peers and I had already found on the internet. Even then, we were ahead of the curve.

Now, kids have access to more info online than ever before. They're Googling. They're talking to their friends. Isn’t it wiser to give them this information in a safe, stable environment where we can prepared them for the rest of the world? To trust them and discuss with them like the future citizens they are, instead providing flimsy shelter for the sake of a political platform?

Keeping these discussions in a classroom means they’re normalized. It sends the message to teens that it’s okay to explore and engage in discussions at home, at school, and with each other. If we really want to protect Ontario’s youth, we need fight to keep this curriculum right where it belongs—in their hands.

Repealing the curriculum is a divisive step backwards. As society moves forward into equal rights, it’s a retrograde initiative that ignores the autonomy of today’s youth. It’s a move that underestimates their cultural intelligence, and puts them out of touch with the wider world outside the schoolyard.

Ford won’t suffer by following through on this campaign promise—Ontario’s youth will.

Weekly Roundup: Mirna Valerio is Adventurer of the Year, Self Care Isn't Pretty, and More

Happy Sunday, EBCers! (EBCees?) ...You know what, this is a work in progress. 

Welcome to the first-ever weekly roundup, which collects interesting articles and happenings in the sports, health, and wellness world right here for your perusing pleasure. I hope you're hungry for a little food for thought, because this week gave us a lot to chew on. 

Mirna Valerio Named One of National Geographic's Adventurers of 2018

Photo by Jenny Nichols

Photo by Jenny Nichols

If you haven't heard of Mirna Valerio, who's been shattering stereotypes and kicks all kinds of behind—get ready to meet your new favourite runner. Her cover story on Runner's World a few years ago empowered me and I know she's done the same for SO many people in the running community. Next stop, opening up the minds of the rest of the world. File this under "things that make me want to punch the air with joy and also sit in a corner and weep with happiness."

Unraveling Our Wings: Self-Care Isn't Pretty

There's nothing wrong with the occasional bath bomb, but this compelling piece from Black Girl in Om makes the argument that self-care has become a trend, or a hashtag. To heal deep, you have dig deep—places that clay face mask just won't reach. 

The Paralympics Begin Friday!

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The Olympics may be over, but that just means it's time to send all our energy and support to our Paralympians over in PyeongChang! What sport are you most looking forward to?

The Cost of Weight Watchers' "Free" Teen Program

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Recently, Weight Watchers announced they would be offering free memberships to teens, and the internet (rightfully) freaked out. This piece offers some hard facts about the brand's move, why it's destructive to today's teenagers, and actual wellness tips that don't involve inducting your kids into the diet industry, while letting them sprout and grow!

Four Ways to Stop the Dreaded Side Stitch

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I ran the Montreal Hypothermic Half Marathon (10km distance) this morning. Right in between kilometre seven and eight, I got a huge side stitch the likes of which made me curse, slow down, and prepare to meet my maker. I remembered this article sitting unread in my inbox and shook my fist at the running gods. Don't let it happen to you!