We Should Ban Before and After Photos

Written by Jonathan


These photos were taken 5 minutes apart without changing anything except the angle and the light. If you still need more evidence read this article.

We have worked with hundreds of clients. The vast majority of whom want to lose weight. Even clients that say they don’t care about their weight during the assessment often ask why they haven’t lost any weight after a month when they see us 2 or 3 times a week. Or the even worse expectation of losing weight seeing us 1 time a week or less and not taking any responsibility on their own time. Having this expectation is not our client’s fault, it’s the media’s fault, it’s other personal training and ‘fitness’ company’s fault, it’s supplements advertising’s fault. It’s the fault of every before and after picture you’ve seen. Everywhere you look you see magazine covers like this, before and after pictures like this, followed by ‘get the results you desire in 10 minutes every day’. Leading you to believe that doing this program will give you the body of everyone in this marketing without changing anything else.  Based on my experience it takes a multifaceted approach that includes, diet, exercise and most importantly habit change to see long lasting PERMANENT results. If you’re someone that goes from doing nothing to doing something you will see ‘results’ no matter what that something is and if it’s too different from your everyday life there is no way you will keep up with it.

All this marketing is bullshit.

We have been training client’s for years that work much more intensely than any of the women in the advertising in this video above, but they watch videos like this and get discouraged because they work so hard and still don’t appear the same as the women in the video. Even though they themselves have lost significant weight and no longer need a variety of medications they were taking in their pre-exercise lives, but for them these images are just demoralizing. For the average person these results just aren’t attainable.   Don’t get me wrong if you don’t exercise and want to start exercising and an exercise program looks like something you can do, then do it. The vast majority of benefits from exercise are found beneath the skin, in your blood, your brain and your cells. But don’t expect to look like the person on the cover, because you probably won’t.

So, what does it actually take to get an incredible body like we see on the cover of magazines and in before and after picture’s?

Exercise – No matter what kind of exercise program you follow (hypertrophy, strength, mobility) if you want to build significant muscle you have to lift to failure. That means lifting until you can’t possibly lift anymore (this goes for women as well). It also means to lift a minimum of 3 times a week for 45 minutes, but more likely 4 or 5 times a week for 30 to 45 minutes, until you physically can’t lift anymore (you can shorten this time by increasing the intensity but that should really be reserved for advanced lifters).

Nutrition – Even more important than exercise are your dietary habits. Everyone is a bit different with respect to metabolism and height. Most women will consume between 800 and 1200 calories a day and men 1500 to 2000 for several weeks to ‘cut’ weight for a photo shoot or figure competition of some sort.


Womans sample diet

Mens Sample Diet 1800 10 1900 Calories









Courtesy of My Fitness Pal

Note* These totals may still seem high for some people but don’t forget this is usually accompanied with 45minutes to an hour of intense exercise a day which would burn anywhere from 500 to 1500 calories depending on the intensity of the program. So it’s actually starvation when you throw the exercise in.

After these celebrities, models and trainers leave the cover of the magazine, finish their photo shoot or go back to their everyday lives they start eating like a more regular person would and probably exercise the same amount but at a lower intensity and they put weight back on to be a more normal body size.

Recap what is takes-

  • Exercise to total exhaustion several times a week
  • Eat as little as possible, so you will be hungry most of the time
  • Take diuretics the day before and of the shoot – (especially true for figure competitors and body builders)
  • A good photo editing program
This photo was a $1

This photo was a $1


If all of this still isn’t enough. I bought these for a dollar  – Which means anyone can buy them for any product

We need to ban before and after photos, period.

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