There was a puzzle game in magazines when I was a kid where you had to find the differences between two pictures. Some were obvious and others more challenging but you could check the back of the magazine for the answers when you got stuck. I loved that game, the hunting and searching for what was absent in a picture or what was positioned differently. And while I haven’t played that game in a long time, I ran across a similar puzzle online - a set of weight loss ‘before and after’ photos.
These photos were meant to motivate me to purchase a weight-loss product that melted away fat in a fraction of the time it took my body to produce it. As I stared at the photos, I realized it was just like the puzzle game; these photos were practically identical except for a few alterations.
In the first photo, the model was slouching, in the second she was the epitome of posture. She was pasty white in the first and sported an orangey spray-on-tan in the second. The differences went on and I was intrigued. I searched out other before and after shots and found they were ubiquitous - magazines, billboards, and virtually every webpage I perused.
Many of these photos could have been taken an hour apart, just long enough for a wardrobe change, a Bobbie Brown makeover and a little coaching in how to stand to show your most sleek self.
And while this made me chuckle at first, I realized how dishonest these ads were by attempting to swindle those desperate to lose some weight and saw the advertised product as ‘The Answer.’
Every time we compare ourselves to those images of the tan-orexic creatures impersonating a normal human body, we will come up short every time.
Finding a body, undamaged by plastic surgery or airbrushed to oblivion, represented in the media is difficult and we cause ourselves pain and discontent by chasing the ideal of form over function.
I challenge you to look at the advertising that comes at us everyday with a more critical eye. Treat advertisements as a puzzle and find the ways that those images are trying to manipulate you. When you do that, you remove some of the power these images have in telling you how you should feel about yourself.