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The important reason Weight Watchers is ditching before and after photos

Catriona Harvey-Jenner
Photo credit: Weight Watchers

From Prima

Weight Watchers is renowned for showing off its members weight loss transformations using the format of before and after pictures. But that's all about to change as the company has announced it's planning to ditch these style pictures – and for good reason.

Announcing the move at its brand relaunch in the US, Weight Watchers announced it believed the concept of transformation pictures was no longer fitting for modern lifestyle values. Which is an interesting spin to put on it, given that before and after pictures are everywhere on Instagram. Weight Watchers believes in making the change for a positive reason, however.

Transformation pictures, the company suggests, promotes the idea of a short-term diet that has a start and finish date. As we all well know, fad diets tend to be short-lived because they enforce unsustainable rules which often result in all the weight – if not more – being put back on. This obviously contradicts Weight Watchers' insistence that for a truly healthy revamp, a person needs to commit to an ongoing lifestyle change. Something that's permanent, and not book-ended by photographs.

Head of social media, Lauren Salazar, spoke about the change of attitude at their conference. 'We've made the decision to lose the expression "before and after" because our members' journeys are so much more about then than now,' she said. 'A journey of health, with no beginning, middle or end.'

While we completely understand the decision that's been made, and support the reasons behind it, there are certainly arguments against it. Transformation photographs have long been used as a source of motivation for people undergoing a dramatic lifestyle change, and it's rare that seeing a picture of themselves having lost a load of weight would trigger a person to switch off from whichever health and fitness plan they had been following. Usually, it serves to motivate further.

As well as that, in some cases, it's actually helpful to have an end-goal. It would be unhealthy for some people to continue to lose weight at a steady pace, and the 'end' of a transformation – often marked by before and after pictures – could merely signal the change from a lifestyle designed for weight loss, to a lifestyle intended for maintaining weight healthily.

Weight Watchers' chief executive, Mindy Grossman, acknowledged the positives of transformation pictures, however, saying: 'We're not going to discourage a member who wants to show where they are today versus where they started.'