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Our goal was to lose weight by Thanksgiving, so we all needed a story. I'd say 98 percent of us were married or had an SO, but we'd all take off our rings for the videos and say ditzy stuff like: "I'll finally put that profile up on OKCupid now!" They once asked me, "Can you say you're going home to show off for anyone from high school? We've only got three people with that story."
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"His name is Mitch Quarterback. He was captain of the handsome team and went to Yale to major in ab studies."
Then we took our "before" photos, which were artificially rigged to look as bad as possible. We were told not to wear makeup or brush our hair, and then they stuck us in tiny outfits in rooms with shitty lighting and told us to stick out our stomachs. No, I'm not exaggerating, check it out:
According to the ads, losing weight even airbrushes your gut and adds a good 2 feet of hair!
In this fantasy world, there's an epic war raging where only those who look good in a red two-piece will survive.
All told, I lost around 20 pounds, but they didn't like the real "before" picture because I looked too thin in it, and I had the audacity to smile. I think I maxed out at 215 in college, so they used that picture. There was another woman who weighed 291 pounds like two years before the show started. She spent years and got major surgery to get down to 160. She applied to be in this infomercial to lose 15 pounds, but they used a picture from when she was nearly 300 pounds as her "before." They compared those two pictures, a whole human being's worth of weight apart, and yet still advertised it as "LOST 15 POUNDS," as though the only difference between you looking like a steaming pile of food-meat and a yoga teacher is that last bit of stubborn holiday belly.
Remember when I said they didn't like me smiling in the "before" picture? Here's how that conversation went:
"The producers think you look too happy for the weight that you're at."
"You're overweight, aren't you depressed?"
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"Don't you want to cry a little? It can get rid of some of that water weight we talked about."
I don't take sad, unflattering overweight pictures. That's not what I do. That's not what anyone does, actually. The human ego is a fragile thing, and Facebook photos are the flimsy scaffold we use to prop it up. Speaking of which, I was one of the very first "success stories" they put up on Facebook, but they strategically cropped my photos, because I've always had thin legs. In the "before" picture, the legs weren't visible, but in the "after" picture, the program was like "LOOK HOW THIN HER LEGS ARE" -- even though they didn't actually look any different.
"We didn't say '-- ARE NOW.'"
Those testimonials you see at the end of every weight loss infomercial were the only times we actually met a producer. We were sprayed up, given multi-hour makeovers, and put in corsets. We were told to always use complete sentences so they could get sound bites. And even though we hadn't been using the DVDs, we were briefed on what was going on in each of them because we had to pick a favorite trainer and write down how much we liked her. I had a friend who didn't play by the rules and tried to take a stand at that point. She was kicked out. But I was very good: I said what I was supposed to say with a smile. I remember shame-binging on Ben & Jerry's afterward. And yes, I did gain it all back.
For more reasons you can't trust what you see, check out 13 Mind-Blowing Tricks Advertisers Use to Manipulate Photos.
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