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Experts have hit out at seemingly ‘natural’ fitness influencers who are ‘deceiving’ followers online – and revealed how to spot a fake.
All too often signs of a ‘tweakment’ are difficult to see in photographs, so influencers can get away with passing off an enhanced body as their own.
Speaking to FEMAIL, cosmetic surgeon Dr Paul Banwell, explained the problem is being driven by social media, which places an emphasis on looks rather than genuine physical wellbeing.
He said: ‘We’re living in a digital world that is very focused on image and we sometimes forget the real reason behind why it’s important to include exercise within our lives – for our health and for our mental wellbeing.
‘I think that cosmetic surgery is becoming more and more common in the fitness industry where people’s bodies are their USP. I think it’s unfortunately all too common for fitness influencers to – sometimes even unintentionally – deceive their audience.
‘Whether they’re using filters to change the shape and look of their bodies and faces, have undergone a range of cosmetic procedures from surgery to tweakments in order to achieve the look that they have or are even distorting their body shape with camera angle tricks when taking photographs.
‘We are therefore now in a world where we are constantly being bombarded with body image ideals that are not natural or necessarily achievable.’
Experts have hit out at seemingly ‘natural’ fitness influencers who are ‘deceiving’ followers online – and revealed how to spot a fake. Above, a file image illustrating some of the procedures most commonly undertaken by women. There is no suggestion the model has had surgery
WHY DO INFLUENCERS HAVE TWEAKMENTS?
Dr Banwell said that some influencers, like regular social media users, have had their ideas of the ‘perfect’ body warped by seeing so many images of altered physiques.
Others might want to elevate themselves above the competition to secure lucrative brand sponsorships or partnership deals.
He said: ‘I think that the desire for sponsorship, selling merchandise and gaining followers plays a significant part in influencers deciding to stop being natural, but I think that another huge influence is the role of social media for propagating images of people with so-called ‘perfect’ bodies which are then considered to be the norm.
‘It means that influencers, like other people, use these as a benchmark of normality, when in fact it is not the norm for most people.’
US TV personal trainer Jillian Michaels, founder of the Jillian Michaels’ App, agreed, saying: ‘Money is a huge motivator in all industries and making it in the fitness business can be tough.
‘The fitness industry is one of the most competitive so of course younger people trying to break out are going to try and find a way to stand out. If massive muscles get you the paid post for a protein powder or recovery drink many young people would obviously be tempted to go down this path.’
However she noted that, while social media gives people a new platform on which to promote their ‘superhuman’ physiques, the ‘selling of snake oil in fitness and nutrition has been an age old practice.’
Television personality Jillian Michaels, said men who use steroids appear to have inflated muscles and their skin looks more leathery. There is no suggestion the male model has used steroids
HOW TO SPOT TWEAKMENTS
Dr Banwell explained some tweakments, like anti-wrinkle injections and fillers are subtle, while others like breast augmentation or liposuction are more obvious.
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Jillian said men who have enhanced their appearance are noticeable because they often have muscles that look inflated. Here are some tell-tale signs:
- ‘Super hero’ muscles, particularly shoulders that look ‘inflated’
- Skin looks pulled and more leathery
- Disproportionate musculature, which can create a cartoonish look
- Sometimes men get gynecomastia – which is an enlargement of pectoral tissue making the nipples point down
- Acne and stretch marks are common side-effects
Jillian said: ‘With women the most common is the butt implants/butt injections. This obviously is done to achieve that bubble butt look. I also see lower rib removal in order to make their waste look tiny.
‘It’s a cartoonish look of the tiny waist and the huge booty that would give it away. If a girl is very thin with little body fat it’s highly unlikely she will have a huge booty – which requires a decent amount of body fat.’
She said men who have enhanced their appearance are noticeable because they often have muscles that look inflated.
Jillian said: ‘When it comes to men, the most common thing you see on social is extreme hypertrophy (super hero muscles). And this is achieved through steroids. Men can absolutely build beautiful muscular bodies, but that extreme huge look – where the shoulders look inflated – comes from steroids.’
‘If someone looks superhuman – they are. Steroids have some very obvious tell tale signs. Often the skin looks pulled and more leathery. There is disproportionate musculature, which can create a cartoonish look. For example, the shoulders are huge and expand out wider than the triceps, or a guy gets massive traps.
‘Sometimes men get gynecomastia – which is an enlargement of pectoral tissue making the nipples point down. Acne and extreme stretch marks are also signs, but these would likely be face tuned out in a social post.’
Vlad Yudin, director of bodybuilding documentary series Generation Iron, explained that it can be difficult to know who’s natural by just looking at photographs.
‘People are very fast to accuse someone of lying on social media, but the truth is it’s hard to tell just by looking a photo and make that judgement. It important to mention that the use of Anabolics for fitness purposes is illegal in US.’
Peter said many people are unaware that they won’t be able to achieve the same look as their favourite influencer naturally, because titles such as ‘how to get big biceps in 30 days’ makes people easily buy into products or fitness plans. File image
THE DANGER OF TWEAKMENTS
Peter said many people are unaware that they won’t be able to achieve the same look as their favourite influencer naturally, because titles such as ‘how to get big biceps in 30 days’ makes people easily buy into products or fitness plans.
‘The real danger is what it can do long-term to people’s mental health,’ Peter said.
Dr Paul added: ‘The pandemic and associated lockdown has absolutely highlighted Body Dysmorphic Disorder because people are more aware of their bodies than ever before.
‘You can have cosmetic treatments and that will make you feel better but we need to make sure that these demands are not unreasonable.
US TV personal trainer Jillian Michaels
‘You can have real problems and still have Body Dysmorphic Disorder, and people with Body Dysmorphic Disorder do have problems that need correcting, but they are not always happy with that correction.
‘There’s a spectrum of mental health issues from a mild desire to improve appearance and feel better to having an actual real mental health issues with depression and so on.
‘But then you could have Body Dysmorphic Disorder which is a different issue with abnormal perceptions of a body part. Some of these people need to have treatment and are justified in wanting treatment but are still not happy afterwards.
‘If a surgeon or aesthetic practitioner identified anything that causes concern regarding abnormal perception or unrealistic expectations, I would refer them to our psychologist, Gaylin Tudhope. And with therapy it can be improved.’
HOW TO TACKLE IT
Dr Paul said: ‘I do think that it’s important to normalise conversation surrounding surgical intervention – regardless of who we are. Celebrities in particular have a platform from which they are able to help people make educated and informed decisions instead of leaving them to try to make them under a veil of secrecy.
‘For instance, Angelina Jolie’s openness about her preventative double mastectomy and subsequent breast reconstruction surgery helped many women across the world overcome their fear of what can often be life-saving surgery.
‘With that said, I know myself that patient confidentiality is key and it’s important to remember that influencer or not, everyone has insecurities and things that they may wish to change with surgery – it may not be something that they therefore want to talk about openly and that’s fine too.’