The journey doesn't stop once you've lost the weight.
We're used to seeing the frumpy, dumpy before pictures, and the beaming after pictures. The message is that once you've lost weight, your life becomes perfect. All your problems are immediately solved, and now that your body is freed from its flesh-prison, it's flawless.
This is the message that the media gives us, but the reality of weight loss is very different.
Photographer Julia Kozerski's project "Half" chronicles her experience of going from 338 pounds to 178 pounds, and the aftermath of losing so much weight. Her photos aren't photoshopped, airbrushed glamour shots — they're raw, brutal, and unflinching.
They're difficult to look at, but that isn't because of the nudity, or even the folds of excess skin and stretch marks; it's the pain that Kozerski is clearly experiencing. Obviously, any body image, shame, and self-esteem issues she may have had at 338 pounds didn't magically disappear with losing half her body weight.
In the artist's statement for Half, she said, "While I genuinely believed that my hard work and dedication would transform me into that perfect person of my dreams, the reality of what has resulted is quite the opposite. My experience contradicts what the media tends to portray. While it's easy to celebrate and appreciate the dramatic physical results of such an endeavor, underneath the layers of clothing and behind closed doors, quite a different reality exists."
In an interview with The Huffington Post, Kozerski said that her project will be a success if other people see her photographs and realize that they aren't alone in their body image struggles. "We are all 'flawed' in some way. But if you know that you aren't alone and that there's no 'normal' — no 'right' or 'wrong' — you can live openly and freely," she said.
Half is more than just a photo series. Kozerski describes it best:
"These photographs are self-portraits. They serve as reflections of my experience and address and explore my physically and emotionally painful, private struggles with food, obsession, self-control, and self-image. These brutally honest images shed light on the truth of what it's like for me to live life as Half of myself."
1. For better ... or worse?
Is it the start of a new life with her husband, or the beginning of a new struggle?
2. Shed your outermost layer...
... and you'll reveal the true scars of weight loss.
3. Mirrors don't tell the full story
Weight loss is more emotional than physical.
4. Looking at yourself is a daily struggle
And mirrors become the enemy.
5. It makes you feel so small.
You pull inside yourself, hiding but still vulnerable.
6. It's the side of weight loss that nobody sees.
"There's a great focus on looks and numbers, and less on how the person is feeling."
7. Back to where it all started: food.
Though the weight is gone, the pain lingers.
8. It can't be washed away.
You think you can hide, but you never really can.
9. The pain is coated with stretch marks.
They leave physical reminders of the struggle.
10. Longing for self-love can never seem to push through the dark.
If you think losing weight automatically means instant self-love, you're wrong.
11. The weight is gone, but emotions are just coming to light.
Release yourself from guilt, obligation, or punishment.
12. There's more underneath the surface
This is what's underneath layers of clothing after a dramatic weight loss: pain.
13. Even a lover's touch can't help.
It's that low self-esteem controlling your emotions.
14. But body image shouldn't control your life.
Don't be afraid to be honest with yourself, and with others.
15. Just remember that we're all "flawed."
All of us, no matter what size.