If you’re thinking about reading ‘You Are Not a Before Picture’ by Alex Light, then hop off this article and get right to it. I can’t recommend this book enough, and you can also check out my review of the book to see just why I love it so much.
This book felt like it was written just for me. It felt like everything I needed to hear, packaged up into something both personal and professional. If nothing else, it proved that other people feel the way I feel. But it did more than that, it showed that there’s hope, a way to escape the clutches of diet culture; a way to like my body, and maybe even love it one day.
Here are my 14 favourite quotes from ‘You Are Not a Before Picture’ by Alex Light. It was difficult to choose, and I found myself wanting to make this a list of 20, 30, or even 40 quotes, but I tried to be strict with myself. These Alex Light quotes perfectly sum up every aspect of this book.
When I think back to my teenage years, it all revolves around my mental illness. That time was stolen by my depression and eating disorder. My life was spent calculating calories, finding time to work out and staring miserably at a reflection I could no longer recognise. Dieting was my entire personality, and it could feel so good and yet so awful.
Nothing felt better than losing weight, and yet I was constantly miserable. Because I was permanently exhausted and could barely think straight. I don’t have many memories of that time, maybe just because I didn’t have the energy to even form them.
Every new diet, every new weight loss trick felt like a beacon of hope, but never for long. Dieting is all that I was, and sometimes still makes up a huge part of who I am.
When I think about losing weight or getting toned, it comes with the inherent belief that people will like me more then. Not just potential partners, but my friends and family. It sounds ridiculous to say it out loud, but a part of me truly thinks that my loved ones will regard me higher if I had a smaller waist, toned legs or abs.
There is so much I want to do in this world. There is so much impact I want to make. And none of it has anything to do with my body. I’m almost tempted to get a tattoo of this quote as a constant reminder. Because we are here to do so much in our short lives, and none of it revolves around our bodies. So why do we dedicate so much time and energy to worrying about it?
Just look at the impact Alex has. She uses her Instagram, articles and podcast to make a difference. Not even considering this book which will help so many people. Her legacy will never be her size, it will be every person she helps and inspires.
As a society, we have such a screwed-up relationship with food. It’s truly devastating when you think about it. We’ve applied morals to nutrition, and the worst part is that it’s constantly changing. Carbs were the biggest evil, and then it was suddenly fats. Food hasn’t changed, we have.
This quote is also so important as it relates to how we apply morals to size. We’re quicker to label fat people with negative traits and morals, regardless of whether they’re applicable.
Food is food. Food isn’t guilty, it isn’t cheating, it isn’t earned.
It’s easy to feel like we’re the only ones struggling with our weight. It’s even easier to feel like we’re the problem, not the media, not society. But if only 5% of people have this ideal body type, then why are we at fault? It’s clearly not an average body, so why are we killing ourselves to get it?
None of us fit this ideal body because we’re not designed to. This quote is the perfect reminder that we’re not the issue, and we’re not alone in this.
The section of ‘You Are Not A Before Picture’ devoted to weight versus health was fascinating. I had no idea how incorrect BMIs and other weight-based measurements of health actually were. There’s also input by Dr Wolrich, advising you on how to handle doctors that focus solely on your weight or ask to weigh you.
Weight isn’t the enemy of health as we were led to believe. There are so many factors to health and weight is by far the smallest of them. Instead, the stigmatisation of weight is what stops people from getting checkups or exercising more. It reminds me of the outrage regarding Nike plus-sized workout clothes, with people claiming it promoted obesity, when really it just ensured everyone could exercise if they wanted.
And this doesn’t even touch upon the dangers to your mental and emotional health from weight stigmatisation. Eating disorders pose a larger threat to society than obesity does.
I have a lot of thin friends, and I’ve always felt so frustrated by it. I couldn’t help but notice how they’ll eat less nutritious foods and workout less often than me, and yet I’m in the bigger body, I’m the one that will be labelled negatively. It used to drive me mad, until I realised that I was the one fixating on the fact, no one else.
Health isn’t determined by your size. I’m far healthier now than I was during my eating disorder when I barely ate and constantly worked out. And yet my healthy size is bigger than other people's. The issue is how we view health, not the size of our jeans.
It’s shocking to realise that almost everything we believe about bodies, exercise and food is to fill someone’s pocket. We commit to an industry designed to bleed us dry. During our lifetime, we will pay thousands in an attempt to get that perfect body, one we needed to be born with.
Our misery is creating a huge payout for an already-rich industry. We’re not benefitting from this, we’re the ones suffering. I no longer want to be part of their cash cow, and that motivates me even more to break the diet culture cycle for myself.
Your worth will never be found on a scale or on a size stitched into your clothing. Your worth will never be found in the mirror. You are already enough, at this size, at this weight. Alex works to remind us of this, that we’re enough now, we don’t need to change, we don’t need to chase anything.
I’ve always felt like I was chasing happiness. I was always trying to find the thing that would make me finally feel happy. When someone loved me, then I’d be happy. When I reached a certain size, then I’d be happy. When I could wear shorts and like my legs, then I’d be happy.
None of these things will make you happy, at least not for long. Because as Alex says, happiness isn’t something we can discover, it’s something already within ourselves. Your situation does not determine your happiness, you do. On some level, happiness is a choice. And it can be made far more difficult by mental health struggles or toxic influences, but we will never find it outside of ourselves.
I want to be happy. I don’t want to wait for a weight or size.
Eating disorders are tightly wrapped up in control. When you’re in their clutches, you feel like you’ve never been more in control. You choose everything that enters your body. You revolve life around this one thing and it feels like you’re in charge. Recovering from an eating disorder may lead you to miss that sense of control.
But once you’ve healed, you realise how little control you actually wielded. You were at the mercy of a number on the scale. You couldn’t enjoy food, you couldn’t go out with friends, you couldn’t let go for even a minute. You were never in control.
True control is being able to enjoy food and exercise without linking it to your body image. True control is enjoying life and not living to make yourself smaller.
As women, we’re always made to take up less space. Be thinner, be quieter, be more agreeable. At its core, diet culture is about making women smaller and meeker in the world. We deserve as much space as any man. We deserve to be accepted with loud voices and big bodies.
I have felt ashamed of the space I take up in a seat, a bed, a room. I have made myself smaller for too long. I don’t need to be the smallest version of myself to be accepted, because the people that want that version aren’t those I accept in my life.
You can’t control what people think of you. Even if you were your nicest self, people will still find fault. And usually, their criticisms of you say a lot more about themselves and their insecurities than anything you’ve done. You can’t control what they think, so why try? Why lose any sleep chasing their approval? Why change how you look for someone else?
You can’t control how other people see your body, but you can determine how you view it. And your love for your body will always mean more than someone else’s.
Even at the height of my eating disorder, I hated my body, and it’s terrifying to look back and see just how thin I had become. Years ago, I felt too fat to wear many things, and covered up in loose trousers. Now I look at that body and think she was beautiful.
I’m at the biggest size I’ve ever been, and in a few years, I’ll probably look back and wish I had enjoyed this figure more.
The issue isn’t your body, it’s your mind. We can be happy at this size, we don’t have to lose weight, but we need to change our thinking. This book helped me to start doing exactly that.
Short, simple and sweet, this is one of my favourite quotes in ‘You Are Not a Before Picture’ because it’s a reminder we all need sometimes. We’re not the only ones feeling this way, so don’t struggle in silence. We’re not alone in this. We all want to dismantle diet culture and lose these awful lessons once drilled into us. We can do this together, it’ll take all of us.
These quotes by Alex Light don’t even do the book justice, you really have to read ‘You Are Not a Before Picture’ for yourself! This book is easy to read and hard to put down. It’s the perfect mix of personal anecdotes, scientific evidence and input from other experts.
You deserve to feel good in your body, so start taking the steps to get there. It’s a hard journey, one I’m on right next to you, but it’s so worth it. Discover the first step in learning to value your body.
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Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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