By Lee Hyo-jin
Flexing muscles for photo shoots was once reserved for celebrities and professional athletes. But recently, an increasing number of young, ordinary Koreans having their toned, muscular bodies professionally photographed after months of working out in a challenge called shooting one’s “body profile.”
Social media channels are flooding with posts including body profile photos. The body profile hashtag has over 2 million posts on Instagram, and hundreds of YouTubers have been participating in the challenge to update their viewers on their progress.
Body profile photos have emerged as a trend among people in their 20s and 30s, who are choosing to spend their time at home amid the COVID-19 pandemic focused on their physical health and perfecting their appearance.
They engage in months of intensive workouts with personal trainers in order to shape their bodies for a photo session reserved at a studio. Weeks of restrictive diets, living on salads and chicken breasts are a must, while some people are choosing not to drink any water a day before the photo shoot in order to dehydrate the body as much as possible.
“The trend has much to do with Korean social media and the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Kwak Geum-joo, a professor of psychology at Seoul National University.
“Working out has for a long time been a common hobby for young people. But after the pandemic began, which has forced them to socially distance from others, it seems to have evolved into a trend to share the photos of their toned bodies with other people via social media channels, as a way of showing their self-development.”
“With dinner gatherings involving drinking frequently being postponed these days, I thought that this would be a great opportunity to make my body into the best shape of my life and record it in photos,” said a 28-year-old office worker in Incheon surnamed Lee, who took her photos in mid-August after nearly three months of intensively working out.
During the preparation period, Lee strictly controlled her carbohydrate intake and exercised at a fitness center with a personal trainer for up to three hours a day.
“Although the whole process was quite challenging, improving my body image through regular exercise helped me build self-confidence. Making the reservation for a photo shoot was good motivation that kept me focused and interested in exercising.”
However, many people who have participated in the body profile challenge have been left with some unexpected side effects. Lee was one of them.
“After the photo shoot, I became obsessed with my diet. I began stepping on the scale every day, and constantly checked the calories of everything I ate. And I can’t stop eating snacks once I get my hands on them,” she said.
An office worker in her 20s, who wish to be identified only by her surname of Son, is also suffering from several stressful side effects, including yo-yo dieting effects.
“I took the photos in July after over six months of workouts and a strict diet. But then I regained six kilograms during last month alone,” she said. “Along with binge eating and intense cravings for food, I’m also experiencing hair loss and menstrual irregularities.
“I think that people who wish to take such photos should keep in mind that it is far more difficult to maintain one’s body shape after reaching the goal,” she warned.
Health experts warn that losing weight in a short period of time may result in health problems.
“Severely restricting one’s carbohydrate intake reduces the glucose level of the brain, often resulting in headaches, lethargy and fatigue. The extreme loss of body fat, in the case of women, may lead to hormonal imbalances which cause menstrual irregularities,” said Hwang Hee-jin, a comparative family medicine doctor at Catholic Kwandong University St. Mary’s Hospital.
“An excessive diet may also weaken the immune system, which makes people frequently sick with colds or enteritis, along with hair loss.”
Lim Ah-young, a trainer at a gym in Nowon District, Seoul, says that in order to prevent such side effects, it is necessary to consult with an expert before and during the process.
“What is more important than making the deadline for the photo shoot is to keep track of your health condition and make adjustments to the plan if necessary,” Lim said.
“How much muscle a person can build and how much fat one can lose in a certain period of time vary a lot depending on that individual’s specific eating habits and health condition. It’s better to decrease calorie intake gradually, as drastically cutting calories will eventually make it difficult to keep the weight off in the long term.”Internet Explorer Channel Network