Fat Tuesday: The Eye of the Beholder

The word that provides the name of our parsha this week – Vayera – means “And he (God) appeared”, and of course, appearances can be one of the driving factors in any weight loss effort. Yes, healthy choices, well being, and even medical issues are all reasons people cite (and good ones, for sure) but the vast majority of folks who put forth the effort to lose weight are doing so because of how they look or how they want to look. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, it was certainly a factor in my decision.

Which brings me to the topic of those before/after photos.

Before I dig into this, I want to be clear that I am not “throwing shade” (as the cool kids say) at anyone specific. Nor do I want to diminish the pride and excitement people feel when they are able to show the very real progress they have made.

What I *do* want to make visible (#seewhatididthere) is the manipulation that is done (often by vendors out to sell you something) that take small (or even zero) changes and make them seem like monumental improvements.

These same techniques also feed into the body image issues that many people (especially young women) struggle with, due to impossible values presented as “real life” in print and media.

And that’s where I want to start. Let’s begin with the now-famous 2011 “Evolution” video from Dove which showed how both practical effects (makeup, lighting, etc) and digital effects (photo manipulation) are used to create images of people who literally do not exist, but present them as attainable standards of health and beauty.

Next, I want to play around with my own image. Just your usual bathroom selfies. Note that I took all of these on the same day.


(Before and After. Not Really)

A quick google search for “fake before and after pictures” yields images much more sophisticated than mine. Angle, lighting, posture, clothing, hair style, etc all can have an enormous impact on the finished product.

To repeat my point from last week, it’s not about the goal. It’s not about the “finished product” because YOU are never a finished product. You are always a body in motion, a work in progress.

The point of all this is that, as I mentioned in the food invitation last Friday  it’s all too easy for us to blind ourselves to the truth, or to let outward appearances obscure our vision of what may be right in front of our eyes.