When you see most extreme weight loss "before" and "after" photos, the "after" shot is usually a perfectly lit, expertly composed, Spanx-supported glamour shot.
But one photographer has decided say "screw it" to that. She used the results of her recent 160-pound weight loss transformation to make a powerful artistic statement about real bodies, deep-rooted insecurities and what extreme weight loss actually looks like IRL.
"We all have at least one attribute about ourselves that causes us to be self-conscious; something that causes us to feel as if we are not 'normal,'" Julia Kozerski writes on her website for the photo series, titled "Half." "Throughout childhood and adolescence, my weight led me through spells of depression caused by associated physical and emotional issues. For so long, I wished nothing more than to physically be someone other than myself believing that doing so would make me happier."
So she embarked on a "self-directed, healthy-living journey" back in 2009 and has since dropped from 338 pounds down to 178. But the transition didn't quite erase all of her problems in the way she'd always expected.
"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," she writes. "My experience contradicts what the media tends to portray. While it is 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."
Kozerski is not the first person to share her story on the reality of dramatic weight loss transitions.
Earlier this year, U.K. man John Burton dropped 250 pounds and shared his shirtless "after" photos on Reddit, in which he didn't hide his excess skin. Back in July, New Zealand hair and makeup artist Simone Anderson's pictures went viral after she posted a Spanx-free selfie in response to online haters who questioned the authenticity of her before and after photos.
"Throughout my whole journey I have tried to be so honest about the whole experience and tell people it exactly as it's happened so to be called a fake hurt a lot," Anderson told her followers at the time. "Yes, I have [loose] skin and stretch marks, but I don't feel the need to show them in every single photo I post online. I have shared my excess skin picture before, so if you had bothered to click on my page, you would have seen it."
The trend of people being open about the realities of extreme weight loss is refreshing in an era of Instagram filters, unattainable body ideals and "thigh gaps." And above all else, they're honest.
"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," Kozerski writes of her photos.
"These brutally honest images shed light on the truth of what it is like for me to live life as Half of myself."
Check out more photos below, and the full project at Kozerski's website here.
h/t Marie Claire