What The Real "Before" & "After" Looks Like For Weight-Loss Surgery (NSFW)

Photographed by Samantha Geballe.
Photographer Samantha Geballe started taking self-portraits in 2013, one year before she underwent gastric bypass surgery, and she continues to photograph herself today — nearly three years since the procedure.

Her photos, when viewed all together, depict a major turning point in her life: the moment when she started to accept her body.

"I didn’t realize until after I had had gastric bypass that I had no idea what I looked like," Geballe tells Refinery29. "For some time after, I couldn’t manage my thoughts around my body. I didn’t recognize the person reflected before me."

As immense as Geballe's physical changes were after the surgery — she says she is "two adults smaller" than she was before — the procedure took an incredible emotional toll on her, as well. It was only through photography that Geballe found a way to process these feelings of alienation from her own body.

"It became a way of being kind to myself," she says. "I continue to photograph myself now because I need to see. I need to see myself. I want to understand and accept myself."

Geballe is still learning to be at peace with her body, but with the emotional distance that her photography gives her, she's already learned that self-acceptance starts from within: "If I am unhappy big, I will be unhappy small. It’s important to accept your body, even if it’s not where you want it to be."

She hopes her viewers find comfort in her photos, and in knowing that someone else out there is also working toward self-love.

"I believe in the infinite value of connection, and it is the way I combat the shame I feel," Geballe says. "At the end of the day, our lives may look nothing alike, but maybe we’ve shared similar feelings."

Click through to view a selection of Geballe's work.
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Photographed by Samantha Geballe.
Window
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Photographed by Samantha Geballe.
Cottage

Geballe: "I remember taking this picture. It was the first time I wasn’t tired while making photographs. Making self-portraits was always difficult because of my size. I can’t describe the feeling, and how amazing I felt trying everything I could think of. I felt happy for myself that day."
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Photographed by Samantha Geballe.
Morning Of

Geballe: "I took this photo the morning of surgery. December 1, 2014. I was so afraid. My check-in time was moved to later in the day, so I had some time to spare. I remember thinking, I need to know what I look like. I don’t know what I look like. I felt desperate to know and show myself the truth I still couldn’t see."
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Photographed by Samantha Geballe.
Sedona
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Photographed by Samantha Geballe.
Side

Geballe: "This image is hard for me to look at. I see the sadness I felt. I was in so much pain. My life had become unmanageable. I was dying and still couldn’t stop eating. My throat closes a little when I stare at it too long."
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Photographed by Samantha Geballe.
Split
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Photographed by Samantha Geballe.
Post Op

Geballe: "I took this in the hospital immediately after gastric bypass. I remember thinking, what the fuck did I just do?"
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Photographed by Samantha Geballe.
1 year later

Geballe: "This self-portrait was made on December 1st, 2015. Exactly one year from the photo, 'Morning Of.' It’s quite shocking to me."
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Photographed by Samantha Geballe.
Bathroom Floor

Geballe: "My body and gravity is fascinating to me. It’s a glimpse into what I would’ve looked like if I had grown up an average weight. My skin pools and pulls from me. There are times that it seems like it’s running away. I have come to love my skin. It is part of my story, and at least for today, it’s here to stay."
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Photographed by Samantha Geballe.
Double Portrait
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Photographed by Samantha Geballe.
Falling

Geballe: "I took this after seeing myself for the first time."
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Photographed by Samantha Geballe.
Untitled Cottage
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Photographed by Samantha Geballe.
Last Sheet
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Photographed by Samantha Geballe.
Night Before

Geballe: "In June 2015, I went back into the hospital with acute pancreatitis and gall stones. It’s a possible complication of gastric-bypass (or extreme weight loss), and I needed emergency surgery. I didn’t leave the hospital for a week, and in that week, I had no food or water. I felt demoralized. Yes, I had an IV, but putting nothing in my mouth (not even water) for a week destroyed my spirit. I took photos when I could. It helped me deal with being there. I took this photo the night before surgery, and I really didn’t care that every nurse thought it was odd. I knew it wouldn’t happen again. That’s what I always tell myself when I don’t want to take the picture. This will never happen again, so I need to see it."
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Photographed by Samantha Geballe.
Shower

Geballe: "I felt strong."
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Photographed by Samantha Geballe.
Stomach Hold

Geballe: "I have so much excess skin now. I’m not ashamed of it anymore. It’s my story and my voice."
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Photographed by Samantha Geballe.
Hangs
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Photographed by Samantha Geballe.
Untitled
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Photographed by Samantha Geballe.
X

Geballe: "I have had a lot of health consequences due to being severely overweight. One of the biggest is my back. I took this image right after an epidural I had earlier in the year. It makes me sad to think about the damage I’ve done to myself."
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Photographed by Samantha Geballe.
Vine Pull
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Photographed by Samantha Geballe.
Tree Stumps
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