As a Registered Dietitian, it’s practically daily that I get asked about the newest fad diet or the next quick-fix fitness trend. Weight loss is a massive industry, and the different products, procedures, routines, diets, services and programs are marketed very well. They tap into our desire to look “beautiful” as society has defined it and to do so quickly.
One of the most seductive marketing tactics is the epic before & after photo followed by a testimonial about the ease of the transformation. Beware of any company that advertises this way! Before and after photos sell; it’s a savvy business move on the company’s part. However, these photos can be easily manipulated to make it look like a much more dramatic change occurred. This creates false or highly exaggerated claims of what X days on a certain program can do for you.
Granted, there are some incredible transformation photos out there. When someone loses 50 pounds, and takes a picture in the same clothes and lighting, it can be a stunning visual. Just don’t underestimate the amount of time, effort, strategic planning, sweat and tears that happened between the photos. I guarantee you it was not easygoing for the person in the picture.
To demonstrate the ease of manipulating a photo, I took my own before and after pictures today. These photos were taken just 5 minutes apart. All I did was change clothes, put my hair down, take off my glasses, change the angle of my body and add filters. And I smiled. Not only did it look like I lost about 10% body fat, but it looks like I got out of a serious depression. My life looks like it went from unhappy to fabulous… in no time at all. In real life, I don’t really look like the woman in either of these pictures!
I could easily do this with all of my clients as a way to attract more customers. I could post before & after photos all over Facebook and Pinterest, catching the attention of anyone seeking weight loss inspiration. Unless the picture has not been manipulated, even with smiling, I believe this practice is deceptive and unethical. Permanent weight loss is not super easy and it does not happen quickly.
Not only are most before and after photos false advertising, but they can be damaging on a much deeper level. Not unlike the photo-shopped models in magazines, these types of photos influence our standards of beauty and create unrealistic expectations. When we look in the mirror, we compare ourselves to these illusive images. You can see how this can lead to lifelong body image issues, which influences confidence, happiness and relationships. As a dietitian who specializes in weight loss, I see firsthand the destructive effects of impossible standards.
While the before and after photos are not going away anytime soon, know that the practice is generally smoke and mirrors. Beware of companies that use this method of advertising, and don’t waste your energy comparing yourself to any of these photos. Know that permanent weight loss is possible, but don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s a quick transformation. Your health depends on it.
If you are looking for support to lose weight sustainably using long-term behavior change strategies rather than quick fixes, we can help. Learn more about what RESULTS offers here.