The pandemic had a huge impact on mental health and body image. During lockdowns, fitness took a backseat. Everything was closed and people were afraid to go outside. However, as lockdowns ended many launched themselves into a get-fit frenzy. In Korea, this resulted in the body profile trend. In a country known for extreme beauty standards, it quickly turned toxic.
Staying home for months on end during a pandemic has a different individual effect on everyone. However, there are definitely commonalities everyone faces. Not leaving the house, moving around less, and having all the time in the world to prepare and eat our favorite foods has left many with ‘pandemic weight gain’.
That, accompanied by the illusion that perpetually staying at home gave us extra time that should have been used towards self-improvement, has resulted in quite a number of people picking up exercising and dieting. In Korea, some have even taken this trend one step further, by taking body profiles.
‘Body profiles’ are a series of pictures typically taken at a professional photography studio. Albums are created with the purpose of documenting how a person’s body looks at a specific moment in time.
Although many think of body profiles as a nice thing to do to be able to look back at themselves in the future, that isn’t the full picture of this trend. In Korea, there seems to be a particular urgency to take these pictures at a young age in order to document only the ‘prettiest’ versions of themselves. According to the trend, body profiles are exclusive to those under thirty and before they’ve had children.
The number of people booking body profile shoots has recently shot to an unbelievable number. Every photography studio that offers body profile shoots in Seoul is always fully booked months in advance.
Although it is true that not every photography studio will offer this particular style of shoot, the numbers are still shocking to see. The preparation for each body profile shoot and the culture surrounding it is no simple feat.
Most people typically try to book the earliest possible shoot time, which can be anywhere from 3 to 5 months away.
They then use the ‘end goal’ of the body profile to motivate themselves to lose an unbelievable amount of body weight and fat during a short period of time. Trendsetters engage in rigorous diets and exercise with only the short-term effects in mind.
Thanks to the ever-increasing popularity of this trend, there are a number of popular influencers who have joined in. As a result, there are now countless YouTube vlogs of people preparing for their body profile shoots. These videos show every bit of preparation. And honestly, I find them difficult to watch.
Many of these creators show both their good and bad days. They document their triumphs through record weight losses and their difficulties. Many even cried on camera after overeating.
Although the preparation for body profile shoots is viewed as positive by many in Korea, I don’t think it is. The popular opinion is that people are undergoing a positive change towards a heather lifestyle. I mean, yes people are eating clean meals and exercising more frequently but it’s not sustainable.
As one YouTuber said, the journey only truly starts after the shoot ends – when they try to return to their life before, only to realize that it is unreachable.
In most cases, the diet that people go on a month before the shoot happens is very rigid. Meals consist only of chicken breast, steamed sweet potato, and vegetables in extremely small portions. In addition to extreme dieting, they exercise for 2 to 3 hours a day. They weight train and do lots of cardio exercises to define their muscles before the shoot.
Many say that it’s doable considering the end goal is not far away. Plus, it’s worth it for the body profile photos of a lifetime. However, it is by no means a healthy way of dieting. When the shoot is over, the person’s initial reaction is always to celebrate. The reward mentality kicks in. The result is typically extreme binge eating.
After literally starving their body of the nutrition it needs for months, high-calorie cravings kick in. Due to the mentality that they ‘finally deserve’ the food after reaching their goal, they are quick to give in.
This is probably the worst possible type of dieting you can do for your body. Our bodies are programmed to store nutrients after periods of starvation in the form of fat. Naturally, our body learns from the period of starvation and prepares for the possibility of nutritional deficit. This makes the effects of weight gain after body profile shoots immediate and harder to reverse than other forms of weight gain.
Although I personally do not believe that the mere notion of taking a body profile shoot is bad, the culture surrounding it is toxic and incredibly unhealthy.
Anyone is free to do as they wish. However, I do not think it’s right that the Korean media is labeling this trend as the ‘ideal healthy lifestyle’. People should know that it’s a fad diet that is unsustainable for the vast majority of people.
I hope that for anyone that is looking to get fit, taking a body profile shoot is something that is a symbol of confidence rather than an end goal. We shouldn’t be glamorizing and promoting toxic diet culture for a mere Instagram or dating profile picture. Instead, we should set our sights on healthy and sustainable living.
Interested in Korean diet tips that aren’t toxic? Click Here to read about Korean diet tips for improving your skin’s appearance.