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Body profile pictures: Worth it or not?

South Korean actor and model Julien Kang (Julien Kang)
South Korean actor and model Julien Kang (Julien Kang)
After COVID-19 emerged last year, taking body profile photos quickly became a new trend.

“My company started working from home and we couldn’t have hoesik (nighttime drinking gatherings). So I thought it was a great opportunity for me to work out more and eat healthier for a body profile photo,” said Han Ji-sung, 28. He added that the studio where he had his photos taken was fully booked for a month in June last year, reflecting the popularity of body profile shots.

About a year after the trend swept the country, however, people are raising their voices about the negative side of taking body profile photos.

“I am not saying that it is wrong to work out with the goal of taking body profile photos. I respect people who start working out with different goals and encourage people to do so. But I do want to emphasize that it can be harmful if you only focus on capturing a beautiful moment in a photo and engage in excessive workouts that are not sustainable,” singer-entertainer Kim Jong-kook, who operates a fitness channel on YouTube, said in a comment that attracted more than 5,300 likes.

A former flight attendant in her 30s who wanted to be identified by her surname, Kim, said she had experienced this negative side of the body profile trend. She prepared for her photo shoot for 130 days last year.

“My menstrual cycle changed. It used to be extremely regular for me so I noticed it right away. My period was three weeks late,” she said. “I also became obsessed with desserts and bread. I am not a person with a sweet tooth, so it was strange. After eating a huge portion of them I would often feel ashamed of myself.”

It took her a while to return to her regular eating patterns after the photo shoot, Kim added. Her period returned after she gained some weight back.

“Finding out that there are a lot of people who are experiencing similar difficulties on social media helped me a lot to recover my mental health,” Kim said.

An office worker in Seoul in his late 20s who wanted to be identified by his surname, Choi, said he also experienced difficulties after taking body profile photos. He prepared for his photography session for 100 days.

“I have heard about body profile side effects. I think it is highly likely that people go through eating disorders after the photo shoot. I also became a bit obsessed with food because I restrict my diet a lot,” Choi said. “In particular, I think people who have a weak digestive system like me need to be more careful.”

Despite those difficulties, Choi thinks the experience was worth it.

“I think it’s worth trying once in your lifetime. It was hard, but I thought it was a good experience because there was a sense of accomplishment that I experienced when it was over,” Choi said. He added that it would have been better if he had thought of it as a long-term goal.

A fitness trainer working at a gym in Gangnam, Seoul, who wanted to be identified by his surname, Yang, said he was against getting ready for body profile shots in just two or three months.

“As a trainer, I have been working out for seven years. I lost a bit more fat and gained more muscle during the last three months before the photo shoot,” Yang said. “I don’t recommend it to people who just started exercising to set taking body profile photos as their goals.”

Psychiatrist Dr. Choi Myoung-ki said body profile photos can be a good thing if the preparation process is approached in the right way.

“I view it positively. Many people will be able to feel a sense of achievement through it,” Choi said.

“Also, the culture of wanting to lose weight quickly existed even before taking body profile photos became a trend,” he said.

“People say that they became obsessed with food after a restrictive diet. That is natural because our body wants to go back to its previous state,” he explained.

He added that relying on weight loss drugs or steroids for quick results could lead to serious problems.

By Song Seung-hyun (ssh@heraldcorp.com)
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