The five-minute 'transformation': 'Before' and 'after'.
Is it any surprise that the "transformation" shot is so tantalising?
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, more than 70 per cent of Australian males and 56.2 per cent of females are overweight or obese.
Never fear. The diet and fitness industries have the answer right here.
Promises of terrific transformations from fat to fully fit abound. They populate the feed on Facebook as well as the advertising pages of magazines, plus TV commercials and shows.
There are even the inspiring pictures to prove that in just six weeks or less you too can have a banging bod.
It's a powerful and very profitable sell for industries that combined are worth close to $2 billion in Australia.
Only, what if you don't need six weeks to get to sexy? What if it only took an hour – or two minutes?
What if it wasn't even real?
In a recent Huffington Post blog, contributor Andrew Dixon wrote about the truth behind transformation photos.
"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," said the personal trainer of 11 years.
The reason many quick-fix programs or diets are so successful (profit-wise) is because of the before and after shots, he said.
But the problem is when the transformations "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 order to prove his point, he did his own "before" and "after" shots, taken within an hour of each other.
He let it all hang out in the first 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."
The results, which you can see above, are astounding.
To see how realistic the effect he achieved was, I asked a couple of friends to take on the challenge.
The pictures at the top of this story were taken within five minutes of each other. Apart from flexing, the only change in the second and third shots was the angle of the overhead bathroom light.
The only difference in the before and after shots of the women, taken within two minutes of each other, was the pose. In the shots below there was also a change of bikini and she added a filter to the second shot. None of the shots has been Photoshopped and no one used fake tan. You can imagine the "transformation" if they had these additional enhancements.
The point of the exercise is not that we can't truly transform our bodies or get good results in a relatively short time through attention to exercise and nutrition.
It is to simply stop being seduced by the illusion of the quick fix and to not compare ourselves to others.
"Be inspired, but don't be disappointed if you don't see yourself the way you see those models," Dixon says. "Being tricked into eating low-calorie diets and doing endless cardio is a recipe for fat gain, especially in the long term."
Fairfax fitness blogger, personal trainer and author Michael Jarosky agrees.
"The internet age has us living in an 'I want it and I can have it now' state of mind," he says. "Unfortunately, this 'I want it now' has transferred into health and fitness, where patience and persistence are what's needed for long-term success."
Certainly, a six-week program can kick-start a shift in attitude and approach that can lead to longer-term results. But fitness and feeling and looking good are not a quick-fix destination.
"Andrew Dixon shows us that Photoshop, lighting and posture are not only used for fashion magazines, but the fitness industry also uses them as bait in the transformation category," Jarosky says. "Yes, you need efficient exercise, but changing daily habits is all about reprogramming to adopt a healthy mindset ...
"Forget six weeks - I believe anybody can change their mind and body in a six- month period … for a 30-year-old, that's less than 2 per cent of their life. Mix in some patience, and you've got so little to lose … and a whole new life to gain."
It's the same conclusion Dixon came to.
"Forget about the quick transformations and focus on a life of healthy eating, well-managed stress levels, quality sleep and plenty of movement," he said. "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."
Besides, that fully fit or fat image in front of you may just be an illusion anyway.