By Andrew Dixon HuffPost
There is no doubt that we live in a world of manipulation, false promises and exaggerated claims. This is especially true in the fitness industry. I've been a personal trainer for more than 11 years, and clients and friends are always telling me about the next amazing diet or exercise program. Like Insanity or P90X hold the secrets to fat loss.
The reasons these programs become so popular is because they are presented and marketed very well. These marketing campaigns use testimonials and before-and-after transformation photos. Before I claim it's all bull****, I want to make it clear that there are definitely some very impressive, genuine physical transformations out there. What I do take issue with are the transformations that are manipulated with Photoshop, professional lighting, postures to degrade or enhance their look, pro tans, sucking in or pushing out a bloated belly or flexing muscles vs. not flexing to obtain an optimal look.
In my opinion, these photos are selling false or exaggerated promises of what 90 days, etc., of their program can achieve. Long-lasting results take years of consistency, hard work and dedication. Results that happen quickly are often temporary, and this is another factor that needs to be taken into account when looking at these transformations. Did the individual cut calories to starvation levels or cut out entire food groups to reach a very low body fat percentage for the photo shoot, only to rebound a few days or weeks later? This must be considered when setting your goals and expectations based on someone's program.
I decided to take my own transformation photos to see what was possible with just a few easy tweaks. About six months ago I was around 185 pounds and about 16 percent body fat. I was feeling particularly bloated on the day, so I asked my girlfriend to take a before shot. I then shaved my head, face and chest and prepared for the after shot, which was about an hour after I took the before shot. I did a few push ups and chin ups, tweaked my bedroom lighting, sucked in, tightened my abs and BOOM! We got our after shot.
As you can see, I'm no bodybuilder, but I had enough muscle on me to catch some shadows from the all-important overhead lighting.
Just a few weeks ago I took another series of photos in an attempt to be a little more deceptive. I wanted to show a series of progressions that look like a few months of hard work and dieting. I'm about 200 pounds and 19 percent body fat in this photo series. This took under an hour to produce.
What's my point? Don't try to look like anyone you see in a transformation photo. Be inspired, but don't be disappointed if you don't see yourself the way you see those models. Being tricked into eating low-calorie diets and doing endless cardio is a recipe for fat gain, especially in the long term.
Forget about the quick transformations and focus on a life of healthy eating, well-managed stress levels, quality sleep and plenty of movement. Spend time with people who have similar goals and values and take time to appreciate yourself the way you are right now. Don't beat yourself up if you eat a cookie, just enjoy that cookie and everything else life has to offer.
We all spend too much time sucking in our guts, trying to look the way we think society thinks we should. Don't waste any more energy trying to compete with everyone else.
It's all smoke and mirrors.