Realistic Body Image in Adverts

One of the headlines coming out of London in recent days is that recently elected mayor Sadiq Khan has moved to ban ‘body-shaming’ adverts from London transport as they promote unrealistic body image, make people feel insecure about their own bodies etc.

Real or Fake?

The first point that we have to address here is just how real these so called ‘body shaming’ adverts are. While the models on these billboards and posters and in very good shape and work incredibly hard on their bodies, I’m sad to say that all of what you see may not be real. In this day and age of computer editing software such as Adobe Photoshop, it is becoming all too common for companies to edit pictures of their models to make them look better. A smaller waist, a better thigh gap, bigger breasts, all of these things can be and probably have been edited to make the model look more visually pleasing.

A classic example of this happened only a few months ago when Instagram fitness personality and former employee of supplement company Shredz, Devin Physique, was exposed to massively editing his pictures to make him look bigger and more shredded.


As you can see, this wasn’t even just a couple of small alterations and some shadowing. The scale of how much the original picture was edited just shows what these programmes are capable of and that you really need to take what you see with a pinch of salt.

Why Use Fitness Models in the First Place?

Photoshopping aside, there is no doubt that all of the models used in these adverts are in great shape and have much better bodies than most of the population (That’s not being derogatory, that’s a fact). The reason these companies use models that look like this is because they are selling products that are designed (Allegedly) to improve your body and make you look better whether that be losing weight or building muscle, so it only makes sense to have someone who is in better shape than most of the people looking at the advert.

Would you buy a protein shake from a company after seeing and advert with an overweight person on there? No, didn’t think so, because it portrays that the product they are trying to sell doesn’t work. That’s not me being horrible, that’s me just explaining the logic behind fitness supplement marketing.

Now that we’ve covered WHY companies use people in great shape on their adverts, let’s talk about if they SHOULD.

Tough Love or TLC

The reason that the above mentioned Protein World advert is being banned is because people are saying they are making people feel insecure about their bodies because they are “directly targeting individuals, aiming to make them feel physically inferior to the unrealistic body image of the bronzed model, in order to sell their product”.

On one hand you can say that the advert makes women feel bad about their bodies and can promote eating disorders as young girls go on extreme diets in order to achieve a physique which is unrealistic, unattainable and unhealthy. You could also say that is a a very direct form of marketing as is forcing people to look at their own bodies, remind them or make them think that they are not in the shape they want to be and plants the seed in their minds that by buying their product they will be able to achieve the look they desire.

On the other hand, you could say that people are simply being over sensitive and there is nothing wrong with promoting a healthier lifestyle and encouraging people to become fitter for both aesthetic and health purposes. You could also say that the picture could be motivating to people who perhaps have the desire but lack the drive to get in better shape.

Summary – The Conclusion!

Both arguments have valid points, but we can definitely conclude the following:

  1. Companies who selling products designed to improve people’s physiques should NOT be allowed to use photoshop or any other image editing software. Yes a model might be in great shape, but if the advert shows the real image then it they will still have someone in good shape promoting their product, but the body they are showing will be real and not unrealistic.
  2. Education on these products is vitally important. The two supplement companies mentioned in this blog, Protein World and Shredz, are very good at marketing their products, but sadly the products they sell aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Their products aren’t any better than all the other fitness supplements out there and are over-hyped by paying models with ten of thousands of instagram followers to promote them.
  3. While it is important not to promote an unrealistic body image, it is also important that the bang wagon doesn’t go too far. Some people are in good shape and some people are in bad shape – that’s just the way things are. Looking at models who have brilliant physiques can be inspirational and motivational to people who want to improve their look, provided the model achieved those results without the use of performance enhancing drugs (You’d be surprised how much that stuff is used).


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