Male? Female? Both? How Advertisers Bend Reality : Exclusive Renegade Health Article

Sunday Apr 22 | BY |
| Comments (47)

truth in weight loss advertising
Hello Size 6? Or… Hello Man/Woman Ab Monster?

Last week must have been the week I was supposed to find weird pictures…

First, I found the tattoo of the juicer that caused some lively conversation.

The second one I found was this advertisement for Sensa above on a major news website. It caught my attention because it seemed a little off.

My question is this…

Do those abs belong to that upper body? Or is that a female top and a male stomach?

Take a look at this a little closer…

truth in weight loss advertising 2

Of course, before I say anything else, I want to make sure no one is thinking that I believe a woman can’t get abs like this. It’s totally possible. There are just some things about this particular “woman” that are unusual.

#1 and #2: The skin tone and lighting on the top and bottom of the body are not uniform. If you look at the first image, you can see that the entire upper body is darker and a different skin tone than the bottom half. This indicates that this image could have two different bodies. My guess is that it’s the top of a woman and the abs of a man.

#3: The upper ab is strangely close to this woman’s breast. Anatomically, this doesn’t leave any room for her lower rib cage, which should be just about where those upper abdominals are.

#4: “Her” waist seems a little too wide for her upper shoulders.

Why is this a big deal?

It’s not so much a big deal as it is a commentary about how far an advertiser can go to get your attention.

If, in fact, they will modify their marketing images by piecing together an “ideal” human then what else are they willing to manipulate?

How about data, “clinical trials,” or testimonials?

On the Sensa website, it’s no surprise that those submitting “Success Stories” were remunerated — which is a fancy word for “were paid.”

I’ve not used Sensa — which is a powder product you put on your meals that is supposed to turn off your hunger signalling — nor do I plan on using or recommending it.

But ultimately, this isn’t about a product, it’s about what lengths advertisers are allowed to go to catch your attention.

I just want to know what you think about this? Is it fair to alter reality to sell a weight loss product like this?

Your Question of the Day: Do you think it’s a picture of a female top and male abs? If my theory is correct, do you think it’s OK for a company to advertise like this? Do you feel it’s right for success stories to be paid?

Live Awesome!

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.


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  1. Debbie says:

    I agree with you. I do think it is possible, but as a nurse who has seen lots of bodies, well this one has been altered. If you look at the lower abs and the “route” they take… doesn’t look like a female ab able to birth babies as much as it does a “slant” toward the other side of making babies… if you get my drift! just my take. No I don’t think advertisers should pay people for their success stories, or have the right to alter photos to this extreme!

  2. Wendy M. says:

    I agree that the picture looks like it’s been “put together” with the top of a woman and the abs of a man, but I see the real issue as being “Will taking Sensa really make someone look like that?” Sensa is a weight loss product, isn’t it? Since when does a weight loss product substitute for working out? Even steroids require the person to work out in order to get abs like those!?!

  3. vishva says:

    who the hell will find this picture attractive,it is hardly human for a female to look like this,,, truly gross,,,,,

  4. Andy Hawkins says:

    This advert seems typical of what is wrong with advertising today. It does look altered and if that’s the case should it should not be allowed. Advertisers seem to be routinely allowed to sell pure fantasy when it comes to what their products are capable of doing with no accountability whatsoever.

    As for people being rewarded for their comments, if their comments are genuine and truthful then why not? They are helping the manufacturer increase their profits so why shouldn’t they share?

    To me the ideal scenario would involve people posting comments as genuine feedback and then if they want to use those comments in a campaign the manufacturer would get in touch and explain they wanted to use the comment and if permission was granted they would receive xyz.

    However, the idea that a manufacturer has to pay people to give testimonials makes you wonder about the quality of the product.

  5. christine says:

    Definately not normal – its been photoshopped and poorly as its not even attractive.

  6. Barbara says:

    Definitely male “love handles” on the bottom half. Who would want to look like this!?! Yuk!

  7. Jo says:

    Must be an alien, as I have never seen humans
    with a belly button that high. Perhaps that
    is how the pics were overlapped, just saying.
    How dumb do they think we are now? Really LOL

  8. Carley says:

    I definitely think you are correct that this image is heavily manipulated, and in that sense it is the prime example of what is wrong with the weight loss AND beauty industry, and why so many women, and men, have emotional issues directly tied to their physical health and body image. How can normal people compete with a photoshopped picture, a picture which is being presented as an attainable result? This only sets up a psychologically destructive path that ultimately causes poor health in a two-fold manner – emotional AND physical. This is no different than when flipping through a beauty magazine where women compare themselves to the images they see, where they then feel something is wrong with them – EVEN IF they are in, reality, healthy. I speak from experience, where I feel I am relatively healthy but struggle everyday with body image and low-self esteem issues. I think to myself, why can’t my lower stomach be washboard flat? I have diet full of only whole organic foods, I workout 3-6x per week, and I’m a young 22 year old woman. In the end, I wish the focus could be shifted to, in a way related to your earlier post, what works for individual bodies rather than one-size-fits all. In my opinion, I strongly believe photoshop in advertisements directed toward some sort of health, beauty, or body image-related product should be illegal.

  9. Rob B. says:

    Those are definitely male obliques, unless of course “she” is abusing steroids. I concur that the upper abs certainly appear to be in the wrong place. Advertisers stoop to ridiculous lows to sell their trash products. Yeeeesh!!

  10. It is a shame that so many feel powerless instead of empowered when it comes to losing fat and just getting into normal shape. It is so basic and fundamental to do this. It is ten times easier to lose fat than to actually build muscle, and 95% of the public just wants to “lose” the excess. What they do not realize is how easy this is to do! They get brainwashed into thinking that they need “washboard” abs instead of just counting their calories once and for all, eating at the right times, and getting enough sleep. Advertisers are getting savvy that people are getting smarter (yeah they have gone from second grade mentality to fourth grade mentality, but even that is plenty to lose weight!) and are thus trying to confuse them once again. There is little money to be made by stating things in simple terms. LOL!

  11. Jean says:

    Yup,it’s disgusting, repulsive and off-putting. I barely ever look at ad photos, for which I am extrememly grateful now. I love what technology can do for us nowadays, but things like this make me want to go back to the “good old days”, if only just to catch my breath for a few minutes!

  12. Oleander says:

    Whether it is male or female or a combination of both, this physique is very ugly!
    I agree with Chris, it’s easy to keep in shape. Only keep healthy foods at home, predominantly savory. and exercise in moderation every day. Does it for me. (vegan)

  13. Beth says:

    And then the “alien” dad in the Target ad with three hands. Photoshop “fail”.

  14. Candice says:

    Let’s not forget the body builders and fitness models who take After shots at their peak and then fatten up for the Before shots. A good give-away is the development of their shoulder and neck muscles under those layers of fat. Not an area of media or marketing we can easily trust.

  15. Andreanne says:

    Horrible photoshop job! I agree with Carley, it is so wrong to advertise something unattainable. It only promotes eating disorders.

  16. kathy says:

    I don’t think this is faked, but could be touched up a bit. It is just not the usual representation of female abs that people are used to seeing. Open up a muscle mag and you will see more of this level of muscular development on women. There is controversy in the bodybuilding world and the world in general over what level of development women should attain, i.e. too much muscle is “ugly” of “unfeminine”. This discussion and the comments remind me of that.

    I think part of the strangeness is that this photo is of a torso, without the rest of the body to offer context. Also I think she is flexing her abs for the best muscle shot, which makes her midsection seem unnaturally short. (Think of someone doing a partial crunch while standing up). Third, I was able to find other photos of a female model wearing this same top and bottom but demonstrating abs exercises. Therefore I believe it’s a female physique model, and that Sensa borrowed this photo from a magazone or Web site.

  17. PJ says:

    I have been seeing a similar phenomena on the front of a popular running magazine my husband subscribe’s to. All the women runners have these same six pack abs, which are not only unattractive, but, totally unnatural. There are airbrush artists that can actually do this on a person (I googled it, ha!)

  18. Jean says:

    I thought it was definitely female/male until I read Kathy’s post above. Interesting. As far as truth in advertising goes, it ain’t never gonna happen so don’t even waste your time being outraged. All the more reason to be as informed and well read as possible and even then there’s no guarantee you won’t get duped but if you look at all the outrageous claims throughout history, we’re not as bad off as we may think — just more avenues available now for advertising and consumption. We get to talk about it and let our friends know — much faster than before!

  19. Mango says:

    Of course there is a whole lot more that we can’t see that would shed some light on the mystery! Not appealing to me a all.

  20. Harv says:

    Probably as Kathy above has stated….having been a bodybuilder most of my live…..this is what can happen when girls want to look like boys. Look through any mag with women bodybuilders. The pressure to compete is huge!
    Some of these bodybuilder women end up like the men taking steroids to get more muscular looking more like guys and cut the fat way too low.. Looking like a
    man is not feminine, ladies…slim and in shape is very good and sexy and healthy, but with money to be made by the advertisers we are getting brainwashed, both men and women……steroids have to go….the guys look like freaks, and the girls have followed..Be your best God given self….forget about the steroids,
    breast implants and other unhealthy things. As Jean above also pointed out, a lot of us are getting duped through advertising…….

  21. Elaine says:

    Even if you think a girl could look like this, I’m still not seeing how a belly button could get that high up! Find your waist, and see where your belly button is in relation to it. Then look at this picture! This picture on me would be in the middle of my stomach. NOT where my belly button really is, which is just below my waist (NOT way above my waist as this picture shows).

  22. Sue says:

    I would run from a product like that! It looks strange, and I have enough problems trying to look “normal”! I have no desire to see anything else from that company, I’ve been “turned off!”

  23. Sara says:

    Wow! Definitely altered and the hips are what caught my attention. Those are a man’s. I think advertisers have the “right” to do what they please-that’s the society we live in. Do I think what they do is right? No-it’s reprehensible and there are people out there who will try anything to lose 10lbs-anything other than common sense that is. I think the average person should pay more attention and use sharper scrutiny when considering these kinds of “amazing” products. Personally, I prefer to eat real, whole food-clean, close to it’s natural state, with a major emphasis on fruits and veggies.

  24. jackie says:

    Yes, no, and no, in that order….

  25. Cirsten Awaja says:

    No Kevin, that’s not okay. And you would think that somebody who bothers to fix a picture like that, would fix it into something that looks nice. This is one really ugly.
    It’s a shame, but by now it is very normal for people, who want to sell something, to fix pictures that way. Models have to be anorexic to get jobs and still they are made even slimer through photoshop and even pictures of the most beautiful women are put through photoshop.
    Our young girls today dream of looking like those anorexic and photoshopped women and that is really sad.

  26. Faye says:

    I think it’s a shame that people let society dictate what is cool or beautiful. Why can’t we just try to be healthy like they did years ago. They air-brush models and movie celebrities and people expect to compete with them, and now the ads we see have been altered. This ought to be illegal. We should have people like Kevin hired to do just that..find the photos that have been altered and take them to the cleaners!
    Personally, I would never have noticed this ad since I am simply not interested in anything it has to offer.

  27. Nicole (Australia) says:

    What The…..
    What is this world comming too?

  28. George says:

    I can’t remember the author, but the quote ran thus, “There are a thousand ways to tell a lie and the advertising agencies have mastered them all”. It is neither fair, or ethical, what the agencies do to promote the products. The policy appears to be, “all is fair in love, war and advertising”. Commercial television peddle these lies every day and there isn’t any legal action against them or the agencies. Thus it will always be while we accept this deluge of obvious rubbish. We only seem to react when they step over the line into racism, or obscenity.

  29. LeAnne says:

    First of all—it probably IS photoshopped, because all ad pics are. I don’t like that either, but then again you wouldn’t buy the product if they weren’t promising you your dream in a magic pill–with no blood, sweat, tears, or sacrifice. Secondly, it is AB-solutely (pun intended) possible for women to reveal their ab structure like this (they are already there, ladies, underneath that fat)–but usually only for a few weeks out of the year when dieted down to competition leanness.

    So a beautiful set of six-pack abs is ‘ugly’ on a woman?? Puh–leeeze!!! Revealing the beautiful musculature of our human body that is hidden underneath layers of ugly & unhealthy fat is something that should be admired & celebrated. But so many people use the excuse that they ‘don’t want to look like that’ to create the self-delusion that justifies their lack of effort.

    And I’m sorry–if you think this is ‘anorexic’ you have no idea what anorexia really is. Their muscle has all wasted away. It takes enormous effort & a lot of energy intake in the form of good clean whole foods to build & maintain muscle like this.

    For those who ‘don’t find it attractive’—excuse me—exactly what made you think this person was developing their body into the best physique they possibly can for YOUR opinion? Your opinion absolutely doesn’t matter. I constantly see cruel comments on Facebook pictures of beautiful fit women that are my friends & fellow competitors, & it’s usually from extremely jealous spiteful women, or guys saying they wouldn’t want to ‘do’ her. Well, she wouldn’t want to ‘do’ your lazy, judgmental, pot-bellied, lard-butt either!

    If this were a picture of a big fat person, then everyone would be afraid to make any negative comments, to be all politically correct. But they feel absolutely free to lambast & ridicule those who have worked so hard to achieve an amazing physique. Why is it OK to make cruel comments about someone who is in shape, but horrible to call a spade a spade when someone is FAT?

    Yes, this touches a nerve with me. I will be this ripped when I take the stage for my fitness competition. I am 43 years old. I am completely natural—I don’t even take aspirin or any other drugs when I have an injury or headache, much less any steroids. I don’t use ANY supplements except for protein powder, & then I prefer Sun Warrior. I eat all whole foods, I eat a LOT compared to most people, & I work my butt off in the gym to build every ounce of precious muscle I can. Yet, I get accused of all this crap all the time.

    Once I was fat & unhealthy, & even had to have several tumors removed before I got my lifestyle straightened out. Now I don’t ever even get a cold! I try so hard to be an inspiration & show people how to achieve what they really do dream of having, down deep inside. But as soon as you tell them how simple it really is, but they’ll have to give up all their vices, then suddenly—it’s just ‘too hard’, “I could never give up…(sugar, bread, alcohol, etc)”, “I’m too busy” or all the other tired old excuses. It’s simply justification for not wanting to put in the work, so they defend their choice. They want the sexy body, but they want it through some magic pill with no work & no food restrictions. AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN!

    To Carley—hang in there, dear! You’re too young to have the muscle maturity to achieve the look you want. You’re fighting the raging hormone battle of youth! Believe it or not, us ‘more mature’ ladies have a much easier time achieving a six-pack than when we were younger. If you keep training hard & heavy with the weights, you’ll be light years ahead of the game!

  30. Monica says:

    …who cares if it is real or not? It looks ugly anyway!

  31. Danielle says:

    Yup I agree. This picture is definitely altered. Its sad that this is what people aspire to and will do anything to get it, but even worse that advertisers take advantage of that. It’s a lie, plain and simple and should be illegal.

  32. Shirley Copeland says:

    I do not find the picture gross, impossible to be, or whatever. First of all, I would never study the picture that long. Some women have larger waists because of the bone structure, so not every woman has the ability to have a tiny waist. Also, some exercises “expand” our waistline instead of shrinking it. And what if it is a picture of a real woman and she read all these horrid comments? At least there is some muscle tone. And who cares whether it is a “made up” photo or not? Anyway who is over 10 years old knows most weight loss products are gimmicks for one reason or another-or else the whole world would be slim and trim. Sometimes we waste a lot of valuable energy on what is “right” or what is “wrong”. Choosing our energy expenditures requires a degree of consciousness. Sometimes we take being non-complacent to the opposite extreme. Maybe I need to be doing some type of loving service for myself or someone else instead of responding to this conversation. lol

    Like the little girl on you tube says, “be kind”.

    Wishing peace, love, laughter, harmony (and honesty) to all.

  33. Isabella says:

    Just got to keep reminding myself that advertising is all about getting me to part with my money, not to educate and inform.

  34. Astarte says:

    Absolutely photoshopped. The centre line of the upper torso does not match the centre line of the abs. There would have to be a very serious scoliosis for this to be a genuine body.
    That said, I’ve seen women with abs like this. Testosterone can do wonders!
    As for the morals of advertisers, I don’t think they have any. Therefore I suggest blasting out the message “Buyer Beware!”

    There will always be those buyers who don’t beware. We cannot be responsible for them. Just be responsible for yourself 🙂

  35. Photoshop alien? A testimonial should not be paid for. If it looks to good to be true it probably is not the truth and buyer beware. Untrue ads give you a skewed view.

  36. Hi Kevin,

    This is not lovely at all!! This “woman” on the picture lost her feminity… if she is real, and not a mix of female/male photoshop picture!!!

    Lying picture, lying company so how can we expect not lying on the selled product?!
    This kind of false picture makes so much damage to the young people!!…


  37. Bridie Page says:

    It looks quite odd and it also looks like there’s a male ‘v’ thing there…very very naughty.

  38. nina says:

    definitely very poorly “put together”.
    Also, I’m with “Jo” on the belly button thing. I think it’s abnormally high, for a female anyway, in this picture.

  39. Bryan says:

    Not so sure about the body pic. My only experience is seeing those mag covers at the check stand and I just assume they are manipulated in one way or another. So that goes the same for advertising in general for me. Killed TV 4 years ago, so I find myself hypersensitive to the manipulation when I come across it in public. Often I laugh, but sometimes I just shake my head. I don’t look a lot, but over the years I have never seen a believable before and after diet picture.

  40. Norma says:

    Thanks for sharing, Kevin. I care if it is real – what happened to honesty. It’s nice to know we can trust your postings.

  41. MB says:

    LeAnne: I really appreciate your ability to be so self-disciplined! I do not aspire to anything close to what this picture above depicts, just want to be as healthy and fit as I reasonably can. However, although I do run regularly, have always been pretty active, eat a lot cleaner than most, do my sauna regularly, and take my supplements, I have trouble with controlling myself when it comes to a few things. I do read labels and have for over 30 years, but have weaknesses; I do look forward to coffee, wine, and occasional desserts. Wish I had your self discipline, but I am working on it. When I saw this picture, I felt the angle of it was not flattering and yet I can appreciate that some people like this look, although as you stated, you have to get all the fat off to reveal it, and I wonder how healthy that is? I know body builders are totally into it, but perhaps you have to be a body builder to appreciate it. I do admire committment and determination and doing things naturally. I think the main thrust of Kevin’s comments are that manufacturing will do ANYTHING to sell their products, and for the most part, what they are selling is not going to perform the way they say it will or do what they say it will (thus the disclaimers!). Integrity is lacking in most circles today, no matter what they are selling. That is my opinion. And it IS nice, Kevin, that you strive for integrity in the information you share with us and a reasonable approach is always valued.

  42. Greg R says:

    It’s almost false advertising. The product won’t make you look like that, because you’re not a half-man-half-woman.

    The only other question is, did the advertiser assume everyone would realise it’s a fake, and therefore is a type of “hyperbole” photo?

  43. Mimi says:

    I find abs really gross on women anyway! We don’t want abs like this! Losing weight, sure – but getting a six pack is so unattractive and masculine!

  44. Velda says:

    Definitely looks to me like a woman and a man’s body. That is not the midrift of a woman. Look, when people are trying to sell something, and they can’t find anything truthful that will entise people to buy it, they have to lie. If they have to lie in order to make it seem like a worth-while product, then, hey, maybe you don’t want to buy it ……

  45. Cortney says:

    I agree this add has been changed in order to make more in sales! I believe most add’s and their pictures are lie’s. Trying to make us think we NEED the product. If you look around your home/office/garage, how many of those things did you buy because you needed them or because the advertizing convinced you that you needed them?

  46. Mary says:

    I wasn’t going to comment on this, since I think it’s obvious, at least to those of us who care about health, that advertisers will go to insane limits to get us to buy their products. Any ad you see is fake. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a man’s abs on a woman, but even if it’s a woman’s abs, as someone stated above, sensa sure as hell isn’t going to get you in that kind of shape alone.
    What made me want to say something is all of the comments about the abs being disgusting, ugly, etc. The truth is I know a lot of women who play sports who have amazing abs and muscular bodies and to me they are just as attractive as a rounder woman. We are totally buying into advertisers hands when we start to label anyone as “ugly” or “disgusting.” If you are not into muscular women, don’t date them. But please don’t call us ugly. It’s just shallow.

  47. Megan says:

    The new Sensa ad is equally as creepy and unrealistic. Have you seen it? It appears they took the “eraser tool” in Photoshop and wiped out literally half of the woman’s waist!!! It’s much more strange to me, than it is attractive.

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