My answer: it depends. Progress pictures will be good for some individuals and bad for others. It is a question that I have been asking for myself recently – is it good for me – therefore I have been giving the concept a great deal of thought.
I know some individuals who take daily progress pictures. I know that if I took pictures everyday, I would become depressed by the lack of change from one day to the next (or perceived change in the negative direction). I would become overly concerned with my appearance (which is already borderline considering my concern with appearing as if I am someone who works out). I think that an individual’s mental health, stability, maturity, and so forth have a significant influence on whether or not he/she can healthfully take progress pictures and use them for motivation and/or self improvement.
From a coach and trainer perspective, I encourage clients to take progress pictures every 4 weeks. This is often enough to be a reasonable amount of time to wait. It is long enough to see visual change – in some cases. And this schedule does not create a risk for obsession or unhealthy habit of picture taking. Why do I warn against progress pictures becoming an obsession? Do we need another way and reason to judge our own bodies and appearances?
So yes, I do take progress pictures
I take personal progress pictures. I do this on no specific schedule, just when I think about it. Lately, I have been overall pleased with what I see. Can you say the same? For a short time, I was experiencing anxiety over the imperfections I saw in these pictures. During this time, I was also taking daily progress pictures. I reduced the frequency of my pictures. AND I changed my thinking – seeking the positive aspects of each picture. I am becoming much more lean. When I put pictures from October and today side-by-side the difference is amazing to me. I am down 12-15 pounds, I do not weigh myself often enough to really know, and the difference in my definition is wonderful!
Method for measuring progress
I measure my progress with my physical fitness assessment – performed every 3 months – and progress pictures. I use pictures as part of measuring my progress for numerous reasons. One reason being that I avoid scales and weight goals. I have a history of never being satisfied with my weight. Once I reach the goal, I am continually decreasing my desired weight. This is unnecessary and even detrimental to my efforts.
An important note is that I can wear the same clothes – though they wear differently today than they did then it is not noticeable enough to me. I do not weigh myself. Clothes are not a good measure for me. I need a measure! I need these images to motivate me to keep my diet on track and stay lean. The primary change in recent months has been in eating habits – and slipping into old ways and still fitting into my clothes – that is risky business!
The phantom fat
What I see in the mirror is not real. I see more fat in the mirror than the pictures show. What a relief! I have discussed the realities of phantom fat – despite my awareness of this psychological enigma, it still sneaks up on me! What we see of ourselves is distorted – and this has been highly publicized recently with the Dove Real Beauty Sketches.
There is complex science and psychology behind the differences in how we view ourselves in the mirror versus in pictures – and each one of us has varying discrepancies. These discrepancies are the result of our personal thoughts and feelings. What we see in the mirror is a reflection of what we feel (the Beauty Sketches sort of support this phenomenon, as it is a result of the image we see of ourselves and we most often see ourselves in mirrors).
I am me. You are you. What works for me will not always work for you. And what works for you will not always work for me!
There is no right or wrong, good or bad. Each of us is an individual – making each of our experiences individual. I know others who take daily pictures and thrive. I have learned that daily pictures are detrimental for me. Most times, we need to experiment and learn through trial and error what will work.