The ‘other’ after photos…
In last week’s blog I revealed that, with hindsight, I actually deviated quite a lot from my original intentions behind #ProjectPaul.
In July I said I wouldn't be doing anything that wasn't sustainable long term or that impacted negatively on my lifestyle.
Yet with a couple of weeks of the programme to go, I opted to do a professional photo shoot to mark the end of the process and that entailed some unusual ‘tricks’ to get me looking my best, including manipulation of hydration and muscle glycogen levels, as well as the more obvious fake tan, and trimming my body hair.
These are all standard practices for fitness models and bodybuilders, and most (but not all) of the best body transformation ‘after’ photos you see are likely to have involved at least some of them. Does that make them invalid, or fake? I think that’s a subjective decision but ultimately it’s still my body, just made to look it’s best, even if it is just for a short period of time. Does someone with naturally dark skin and no body hair have an ‘unfair’ advantage here? Another debate perhaps.
|Due to all of this, it meant the 'true' final result of my journey became a bit tricky to define, as I underwent a 10 day process to look my absolute best specifically for a 90-minute session in front of the camera. The progress I made up to 10 days out is therefore arguably a more accurate reflection of a more sustainable level, so you could say that's the real outcome of #ProjectPaul. Here’s some photos I took in the mirror around that time alongside the professional ones. As you can see, the lighting and extra prep I did has the effect of making me look slightly more defined, although perhaps not as dramatically as you might think. Of course that could just mean I didn’t nail the preparation 100% which wouldn’t be surprising given it was my first time!|
I still think the photo shoot technically shows what it's possible to achieve in 12 weeks though if a purely visual image - literally a single snapshot - is the aim.
So the take home here is that getting into shape for a photo shoot like this is a different process to making long-term, sustainable changes to your body, certainly in the latter stages of a programme.
It therefore comes down to clarifying goals - do you want a temporary result or a more lasting one that might not take you to quite the same level but is much easier to maintain? There's no right answer to that, I think it's a personal decision even though many will argue that the former is unethical, invalid, or even 'cheating'. As I found though, having been through the process it changes your perception and I have a new appreciation of why people do it.
I also know that the compromises I made to achieve what I did outweigh the benefits for me personally. As proud as I am of where I got to, I'm in no way inclined to continue the lifestyle changes to maintain my physique to this level; I'd rather not track my nutrition on a daily basis and worry about exact macronutrient intake, instead just eating healthily and enjoying my 45-minute gym sessions, giving me more time to focus on my family and accepting whatever impact that has on my body shape (I am confident of course that my normal lifestyle won't lead me to being overweight and that I’ll still be healthy, particularly as I’ve continued with some of the changes I introduced and my body is now functioning more efficiently). For other, more committed people, particularly competitive athletes, their priorities are different and I have a newfound respect for those who make it their way of life.
Summing it all up
Significant and positive changes to your body and health are possible and realistic in a matter of weeks without living in the gym and becoming overly obsessive with your nutrition, but they still require a huge amount of consistency, commitment motivation and effort. How sustainable the improvements are depends on what you’re willing to compromise within your lifestyle