Don’t Take “Before” And “After” Photos Too Seriously

Those who do dieting or exercising in order to lose weight see millions of people’s photos showing two stages of their fitness journey: before they started losing weight and after they have already spent some time doing so. Why are we advised not to take these photos at face value?

It is true that to dismiss as unauthentic the photos of the people who either exercised hard or starved themselves is unkind. There are plenty of determinate people who do the most difficult fitness programs six times a week and who transform their bodies into a chiseled piece of art. There are also millions of people who go on a diet, disallow themselves a single treat, and shed off dozens of pounds. Stating unequivocally that the photos that depict these people’s transfiguration are fake will be, therefore, glaringly untrue; at the very least, doubting their credibility will spell out our own insecurities and our jealousy towards others’ success.

With this said, doubt still remains. There are well-known cases when people took it upon themselves to demonstrate how easy it is to make these “before” and “after” photos without sweating out in the gym or counting food calories in between. People made such photos purportedly showing the results of hard exercising within as little as fifteen or even five minutes. Far from physically transforming their bodies in reality, these people simply changed their postures on the second picture that was supposed to portray this transformation. They merely stood straighter, spread their shoulders, and drew their bellies in. They also changed the light in the room to make shades fall on their bodies in such a way that their torsos appeared ripped; finally, they put on different underwear which showed their bodies more flatteringly. Thanks to these optical tricks, two pictures taken at the same time were completely different and created an impression that the person on them had worked hard to change her body.

The moral we draw from the above experiment is not to trust advertisements blindly. It is understandable that companies that aim to sell new fitness programs find it easier to appeal to customers by showing them how fitter others became after having tried their products. We are biologically conditioned to imitate others and are, therefore, easier swayed when we see what others achieved.  And yet, you should also bear in mind that these pictures show the reality slightly or even grossly embellished. When next time you start despairing that your work-outs do not give you the six pack that you saw on other people who did your program, remember that their torsos could have easily been taken from a better angle or even airbrushed.