How Selfies Can Help You Achieve Your Fitness Goals

How Selfies Can Help You Achieve Your Fitness Goals

You probably think that selfies have a special place in the burning pits of Mordor, but don’t be down on them. They’re actually a very useful weight loss tool for measuring progress and for keeping you motivated.

Illustration by Sam Wooley.

There are a number of reasons people stop exercising, and understandably so. Fitness is hard work, plain and simple. I’ve noticed from working at and speaking to plenty of fitness coaches that people can easily get discouraged from a lack of visible progress. They might think, “What’s the point?,” and give up in a huff.

If only they’d just taken a few bathroom mirror selfies or progress pictures on a regular basis (every 2-4 weeks or so), they’d fully realise just how much progress they have truly made. (This even works for non-fitness related endeavours!)

Whether you want to lose fat or gain muscle, those selfies will help you stay on track and keep you motivated, even when you think nothing has been working. Here’s why:

They’re a Good Way to Visually Track Progress

When most people think of tracking weight loss or weight gain, they instinctively turn to hard numbers, such as body weight, body fat percentage, and waist circumference, to name a few. These metrics are all useful, but numbers only tell a part of the story. At least when physique is concerned, numbers are often poor predictors of appearance. For instance, someone at 140 pounds and 10% body fat will look very different from someone who is 175 pounds with the same body fat percentage.

A picture adds a valuable and often brutally honest visual element to your data. It gives you a much better idea of how your body is looking, since in most cases, people who want to lose weight (or gain) likely want a certain look rather than be a mere number. Plus, if you’re happy with how you look, it frees you from the obsession of chasing arbitrary body metrics.

They Establish a Starting Point

Question: If you were to head somewhere and just start walking for an hour or so, how would you know how far you’d actually walked if you didn’t know where you started?

That’s right: You wouldn’t know at all. The same is true in fitness: You need to establish a starting point.

For aesthetic-related fitness goals, this gives you a baseline. This is important. There will inevitably be days two, six, or 12 weeks down the line when you’d rather lose yourself in a Breaking Bad marathon than step into a gym ever again, or you may doubt whether any of what you’re doing matters because you don’t feel different or see changes in the mirror.

It’s during these hazy moments that you can whip out those photos to see exactly how far you’d come, and how much progress you’ve truly made. When you see the actual progress, you’re more likely to keep at it and stay committed.

As I am in the midst of my own journey to get leaner, I often think that progress is not happening quickly enough, or worse, at all. Then, I refer to a picture just four months earlier and get all giddy with excitement over my noticeable improvements (hey, I’ve got abs!) that the mirror otherwise seems to mask day-to-day. It just goes to show that when all other measures of progress seem to be going against you, those selfies could be your salvation.…

They Make a Good Transformation Story

At some point, you’ve probably read or at least heard about the amazing weight loss story of someone who lost 50kg (or in some cases over 160kg). Remember the awe you felt when you saw their dramatic before and after pictures? That wouldn’t happen if that person neglected to take pictures.

The point is that the struggles, the transformative breakthroughs, the daily work of cooking meals and working out, and your selfies all help tell your transformation story, and in turn, make an impact on other someone else’s life.

Even when you think you’ve reached the pinnacle of your own fitness nirvana, you’d be surprised by how much progress and changes you can still continue to make over the years. Yet you’ll only realise this if you keep taking photos and keep comparing them over the following months and years.

How to Take Proper Progress Selfies

Note that I use “selfies” facetiously in this context, as many folks love taking their progress (or flexing) photos right after a workout in the locker room mirror. That’s not the best kind of progress photo, but it can still work if all of your photos from that point on are shot that way.

A proper progress selfie eschews editing or fancy angles; they’re raw and honest. (You don’t have to show anyone unless you want to or are ready to.)

That being said, there is a right and a wrong way to take these photos. Here’s what you need to remember:

  • Find Bright Lighting: Bright light does not do your body any favours. You can’t hide anything from glaring lights, and that’s the point here. Try to have your main source of lighting be in front of you, and keep it consistent. You don’t want shadows obscuring parts of you that you’d like to see clearly in your photos.
  • Take Multiple Shots: You want different pictures from all angles of your body: The front, both sides, and your backside. By looking at your body from different angles, you can also see where you’ve made the most progress (and further reinvigorate your motivation), as well as identify which muscle groups you might want to improve on in your training.
  • Keep the Photos Consistent: When you take your photos, take them in the same lighting conditions, the same day, same time of day (because factors like water retention and food can affect body composition), same background, same clothes, and if possible, same distance from the camera. It sounds like we’re being anal, but as long as you keep everything consistent, you’ll get a more accurate representation of your body’s progress.
  • Don’t Suck It In: Remember that the point of this is to document your progress as honestly and as objectively as you can. Sucking in your gut is just cheating yourself, and you’re worth more than that.

So, keep taking pictures. You don’t have to show anyone. They can just serve as a visual timeline of your body’s gradual transformation and hopefully help you stay dedicated for the long haul. If nothing else, at least selfies are sort of fun to look at, and they will make for a hell of a story once you’re comfortable showing them off.

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