Before and After Pics – Legit or Not ?

We’ve all seen the late-night infomercials with super-fit workout gurus and often even celebrities showing off their before-and-after pictures following their use of some dietary plan, workout regime or gimmicky exercise equipment. After curiously watching such programs, we all ask ourselves the same question. Are those before and after ab pictures legit? Even Mike Chang, who I can honestly say has a legitimate fitness program – I know, because I’ve been committed to it for several years now – has been criticized time and again for uploading fallacious before-and-after pics.

In the majority of cases, all you have to do is look closely to determine whether those pictures are real or not. I’ve seen a few that were blatantly altered by some graphic program or another; “photo-shopped” is the putative term to describe it. And why not? Celebrities have had their photos air-brushed for years to remove blemishes before magazines go to print.

I remember watching an episode of the Rosie O’Donnel Show as a young teenager (mid to late 1990’s) in which one of my favorite celebs, Jenny McCarthy, pulled out an enlarged poster of herself from a cover-page or CD or something of that nature and started drawing circles all over it. Each circle represented a spot where the publishing company had air-brushed things out of the photo, like a cold sore on her lip, stretch marks on her thighs, slimming of the belly, etc. If they were doing this over 15 years ago to celeb photos, why would anyone think they aren’t at least touching up some of the highly commercialized before-and-after pictures of fitness gurus and their ‘most successful’ clients?

That episode has always stood out in my mind because that was the day I realized that even the “beautiful people” aren’t perfect. And I think it made me enjoy the chocolate bar I was eating at the time a little more. But I digress… I’m not saying photo touch-ups are common in the fitness industry, but we can safely assume some less scrupulous individuals are doing it.

The more common way to semi-fake a before-and-after weight-loss photo is to simply adjust one’s posture and facial expression. Let’s face it, only the most physically fit people in the world can stand up and show off an amazing body without tightening up a single muscle. After watching hundreds of Mike Chang’s videos, from the intense workouts to the comical parodies, I can safely say he is one of them – at least he is now, maybe not so much in the beginning of his career. Point being, for the majority of people who have moderately fit bodies, simply relaxing all muscles will make the belly stick out to some extent and remove the appearance distinct muscle definition.

This is the most common technique used in falsifying before-and-after pictures, and was even highlighted by an ABC News segment over the summer in which a long-time professional personal trainer, Andrew Dixon, was able to transform his body from ‘overweight’ to ‘muscular’ in just one hour. He did it by taking a before photo in nothing but a pair of short (pulled low to show the full stomach) with low lighting. He let his belly hang out and slouched his shoulders for the first picture. He then went into the bathroom, shaved his head, facial hair and chest, rubbed himself down with coconut oil and took another picture, this time with his muscles tightened and overhead lighting to bring out his six pack abs. The difference was amazing.

According to Dixon, all it takes is posture and lighting to transform the average, frumpy-looking body to physically fit. What you have to watch out for is when the person looks younger in the second picture than in the first, and the obvious change in lighting. Unless they quite visibly lost 100 pounds or more, and are promoting something way better than a “quick-fix” diet plan, it’s probably nothing more than a trick of the camera.

If you bring up Mike Chang’s original before/after, which, if I remember correctly, was taken around 2006, the slumpy-frumpy technique was apparent. He let his belly hang out, his arms drape loosely at his sides, and may have even puffed out his cheeks (although he does have a strong jawline, so maybe not). In the ‘after’ photo, he notably clenched every muscle from the neck down, and was either drenched in sweat or lathered in oil to bring out the sculpture of his physique. While I do believe Chang indulged the camera to get his original before-and-after pics, if you compare those pictures to his most recent photos, the improvement is undeniable. He is one of those rare people who can stand tall, let it all hang loose and still look amazingly fit. Plus, he follows the exact same fitness guidelines that realistic professionals recommend as paramount to actually losing weight, getting fit and attaining six pack abs – a healthy diet, regular exercise and sustainability.

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