Progress photos are used by personal trainers and fitness enthusiasts to track how well they or their clients are doing with a programme. They are a valuable tool in tracking progress.
However, there are a lot of issues with these.
For nearly every person who takes a photo of themselves in significant undress to show body shape, when you are not happy with your body, this can be a stressful and anxiety filled experience.
Personal Trainers need to be mindful about this. Clients are often reluctant to take these photos. I would recommend these photos are kept private between the client and the trainer, and only ever posted in a public forum with written consent of the client. The downside of taking weekly progress photos such as using apps like My Fitness Pal, is often there is minimal visual progress. This can be disheartening regardless of how much progress they have made in that week.
Another problem is a lot of people just look like they breath out on week 1 and breath in on week 2. This goes against the point of the photo.
These photos need to be accurate, or they serve no purpose to anyone.
What the client wears in these photos should be appropriate, there is a growing trend of women posting photos of themselves in their underwear and men posting topless pics as well. Although these photos show body shape which makes it easier to assess progress, there is also a lot of negative impacts on this.
One of the big issues stems from when these photos are posted online through social media. The objectification of clients and the disrespectful and inappropriate comments that follow have a negative impact on the clients and fitness enthusiasts’ mental health.
Clients have even said they don’t want to take these photos, even after they have reached their goals because they don’t want to receive messages or comments about their bodies because it can make them feel uncomfortable.
Another point around this is the impact it has on other people.
If you are overweight, insecure, and struggling with body confidence, seeing somebody who is very different from you posting their body start and end photos can prevent them from wanting to start or continue their journey. If there were more progress photos of people who are overweight or obese losing weight and building a healthy body, I believe this could lead to more people wanting to partake in a healthy lifestyle.
There is nothing wrong with someone building muscle or toning but this seems to be filling the social media channels which can have a negative impact on most people who happen to be overweight or obese.
So how should we use progress photos?
Firstly, I recommend clients and enthusiasts wear gym clothes in all photos. Ideally the same clothes in each photo. This would allow people viewing the photos to see progress without the person being objectified.
Secondly, any photos posted on social media should be at least 12 weeks apart. This is since most noticeable changes take place after 12 weeks.
Thirdly, clients should either breath in in all photos or breath out in all photos. Consistency is key.
Finally, personal trainers should be mindful of their clients and who views their content. Posting a variety of progress photos considering different goal would help to educate people that fitness is for everyone. This, hopefully, will result in more clients signing up with more healthy goals. In summary, progress photos can be a great tool. But so is posting scale updates, tape measure updates, wellness updates etc. Fitness is not just about aesthetics there is so much more to it.
I hope more people will take heed of this feedback and we can make fitness more positive and inclusive for all.