You Are Not a Before Picture – Alex Light

Published By: HQ
Pages: 288
Released On: 09/06/2022

When we look in the mirror, so many of us see a ’before’ picture: the miserable person in the side-by-side shot waiting for the ’glow-up’ (read: weight loss) that will bring true happiness. But it’s not our fault that we see our bodies as projects in need of constant work: this is just one of the beliefs that has been ingrained in us by diet culture. We have been taught to view ourselves as a collection of ’problem’ areas for which the billion-dollar diet industry holds the solutions.

Step-by-step, You Are Not A Before Picture provides a framework for changing the way we view ourselves and the world around us. Working with experts in the fields of psychotherapy, fitness and nutrition, Alex empowers readers to interrogate their underlying beliefs, challenge the external and internal forces that are holding us back, and finally find freedom in our bodies, for good.


I knew this would be an entertaining and important book when I found myself crying whilst reading the introduction.

I think everyone – young or old, male, female or otherwise – should follow Alex Light on social media. She has seriously got her finger on the body-confidence pulse.

I’ve always been a bigger woman, throughout my childhood, teenage years and adulthood, so if I went the way society dictates, I should be horrified with my body and obsessed with diets. But I’m not. Yes I could be a little healthier, especially as I now have to use a wheelchair sometimes, it would be easier to push me if I weighed a little less, but I’m not someone particularly bothered by clothes size or the number on the scales. Maybe it’s because I grew up before social media and so didn’t experience any online trolling, and I didn’t have things like Instagram, so I wasn’t bombarded with photos of ‘thin, beautiful’ women, so it never really affected me.

But for young girls now who pick up a size 12 only to see it’s been marked as an extra large (considering the average size in the Uk is a 16-18), that can really affect them, creating a state of disorder eating and body dysmorphia.

This book is full of facts and statistics, as well as Alex’s own thoughts and experiences. She’s taken a very active role with this book, sharing what had to have been quite the traumatic and difficult time, but by doing so, it shows young girls – and boys – that it’s okay to struggle and that things can get better.

I don’t know who did the illustrations but I really like them. There’s not a lot of them and they’re very simple, but they just add another layer of personality and humanity to the book.

I think it’s an important book to have at schools and colleges. The world of diet culture and body sharing and body positivity is one we all play a part in, and if we can get books into the hands of children and younger adults, maybe it’ll put a stop to the issues as they age.

What I did find interesting was Alex’s look on how non-fat people can also help those affected. Things like fat-shaming is only going to move on when our allies help. When we stop being so afraid of using “fat” as a description. It’s not a dirty word, it’s an adjective, and we need to build a world where that is the norm.

When I was young and at school, I had the odd fat-related insult, but I would come back at them with, “yes, I am fat”, and as soon as you take away the negative connotations, you get your power back, and this is what this book is about – giving you your power back.

There’s a lot of lines that stand out as important, but for me, my favourite line comes near the end of the book in chapter 12, where she says, “ If you eat a biscuit, you don’t become a biscuit!” I know she was fighting against the whole ‘you are what you eat’ trend, but it made me laugh as I’d quite like to be a biscuit. Biscuits are yummy and everyone is happy to see a biscuit.

If I wasn’t so against writing in books or tearing pages out (that’s just me, you do you), I’d be highlighting every line of this and handing them out so everyone gets a chance to hear her advice. The temptation to buy several copies and leave them for people to find grew with every chapter.

No, Alex is not a doctor or a nutritionist or qualified exercise instructor (as far as I’m aware), but I think that helps, as it shows she’s one of us and it means more – well, it does to me anyway. I don’t need another doctor telling me I’m too fat, instead I need a friend to tell me it’s okay to be fat.

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