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Even Fitness Influencers Are Fed Up With The Amount Of Lies, Photo Editing, And Manipulation That Go Into Fitspo Social Media Posts

A photo of Alicia Stern, which have been manipulated with the BodyTuneEditor app.

Gabby Jones for BuzzFeed News

The quickest way to tell if a fitness influencer has edited their body in a video is to look at the background. Curvy poles and warped windows are dead giveaways. Other times you’ll find crooked shadows in photos or a filter momentarily disappearing from the video.

John Dorsey, known online as “Goob” or “your favorite influencer’s least favorite influencer,” is an expert at spotting these blatant — and subtler — manipulations. In one video, he argues to his 70,000 Instagram followers that Chinese fitness influencer Jessica Shen seems to be using a waist-cinching filter in a post about a bodybuilding contest that she won.

“I can’t say I understand this. … You won,” Dorsey says in the video. “You beat everybody. You got this video after beating everybody, then said, ‘Let me make my waist even tighter.’ Why?”

The 32-year-old bodybuilding coach has gained notoriety by calling out bad behavior in the fitness industry online, ranging broadly from revealing the criminal background of an influential member of the powerlifting community to alleging that a fitness microinfluencer faked cancer to exposing edited photos. Dorsey’s account has been taken down for alleged community guideline violations 12 times, which he attributes to fitness influencers and their fans fighting back.

Dorsey is not alone in calling out edited posts. Dozens of communities exist on Instagram, Facebook, and Reddit dedicated to spotting inconsistencies and edited images posted by image-obsessed influencers. BuzzFeed News interviewed eight fitness influencers popular on TikTok and Instagram, and they all acknowledged that editing and filters is an open secret among the industry and that almost everyone does in some capacity — although, of course, all of them vehemently denied doing it themselves.

The tweaks are often subtle, they said — a slightly bigger bicep for men and a more cinched waist for women. Often, they’ll see someone has edited their photos with adjustments to the hips and butts to achieve…


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