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It’s All A Self-Deprecating Facade: What’s Really Going On With Transformation Photos, And Why They’re Like David & Ecstasy

It's All A Self-Deprecating Facade: What's Really Going On With Transformation Photos, And Why They're Like David & Ecstasy

Photo: Andrew Dixon/Huffington Post

I read this article yesterday on HuffPost by personal trainer Anthony Dixon and felt compelled to share it. Read it. It’s enlightening, and mostly shocking if you’re unaware of what goes on behind glamorous magazine shoots and miracle transformation photos.

If you had to guess, how vast is the gap in between the before/after transformation shots above. 30 days? 60 days? 1 year?

Try 1 HOUR. 

Let that melt into your brain — that clever illusion is the product of a push up pump, advantageous lighting, 1 full-body shave, a big belly suck-in, and a flattering swimsuit.

And that’s nothing; the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Fitness models & bodybuilders go through a GAUNTLET of calculated measures — sacrificing strength, performance, and health in the process — to hit a momentary hyperapex for shoots, including tactics like carbo-loading and water loading, severe dehydration, tanning, and excruciating epsom salt baths (read this by John Romaniello).

And sometimes it’s inverted; fitness models often take “after” photos when they’re in peak physical form, fatten up for a month, and then take the “before” shot.

It's All A Self-Deprecating Facade: What's Really Going On With Transformation Photos, And Why They're Like David & Ecstasy

Photo: Andrew Dixon/Huffington Post

By no means am I indicting the fitness industry, the marketing tactics, or any of the smoke & mirrors used — they’re well-known, remarkably powerful psychological triggers, that well, work. McDonald’s even does it.

But as a consumer — a person — who’s venturing on their own personal transformation, it’s important to a) understand what’s going on, and b) set realistic expectations; because you CAN’T live up to any of that, at least not without the help of Photoshop or an Instagram filter.

Try to tune out the cover photos, the pristine models lacing the pages of Men’s & Women’s Health, and the anomalous testimonials. It’s an unfair, deceptive barometer that acts as ecstasy for the psychee; by default, you’re comparing yourself to a figment so above it all, so manipulated — so perfect — that it doesn’t physically exist (or at least only for a momentary blip in time).

It’s all a form of visual art, just like David.

And that’s why it’s so dangerous. Comparing yourself step-by-step with any of the above will always make any real, tangible progress feel diminished. You’ll never truly be satisfied — EVEN when you’re at 8% body fat with a stacked six-pack, the guy/girl in the magazine will always kick your ass — which leads to unbelievable frustration, drop-off and relapse. It’s an unnerving, self-deprecating, vicious cycle.


The Takeaway

Stop trying to look like the model in the magazine, because the model in the magazine doesn’t even look like the model in the magazine. Set progression goals for yourself and work your absolute hardest to sculpt a leaner, healthier, improved YOU.

The only picture that’ll ever be an honest measuring stick is the one of you from yesterday (or the month, year, decade before) — take one and use it to propel yourself upward.


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Bryan DiSanto

Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Lean It UP
ELLO ELLO I'm Bryan DiSanto. I'm the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Lean It UP, a CPT/CSN/Fitness Coach, Chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu – Paris, NYU graduate, ex-fat kid, and all-around fitness junkie.

I also contribute to Men's Health Magazine.

When I'm not working on my abs (or somebody else’s), whipping up avocado roses and avocado toast, or running a Tough Mudder, I'm probably yelling at a Carolina Panthers game somewhere.

Come be friends with me on Instagram (@BRYDISANTO) & Snapchat (BRYDISANTO).
Bryan DiSanto
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