The Truth Behind Korea’s Dangerous “Body Profile” Instagram Trend

Not only is it dangerous, but it’s misleading.

Content Warning

This article includes descriptions of dieting, body image issues, or eating disorders that may trigger some readers.

One of the biggest current social media trends in South Korea is “body profile” pictures. Although these types of pictures, which focus on a person’s physique, are common for models, athletes, and other fitness enthusiasts, body profile pictures have become a common practice for anyone in South Korea.

Examples of body profiles | Rachel Yohannan (Body Profile Studio)

The goal of a body profile is to document someone while they’re in “the best shape of their life.

YouTuber Anna Lee documenting her own body profile journey | Anna Lee/YouTube 

Although the end result of a body profile is a photoshoot at one of the many photo studios that have opened in Korea for this exact purpose, the journey to taking a body profile is actually intensive.

Body profile photoshoot | Rachel Yohannan (Body Profile Studio)

For a long time before you plan to take your pictures, you would likely begin an intensive exercise plan, often relying on a personal trainer to help you achieve your ideal physique. You would also probably need to follow a strict diet since losing weight and toning your muscles a specific way takes diligence.

| Anna Lee/YouTube  

When it comes time to take the actual pictures, you may also have to spend a lot of money not only to take your pictures at the studio but to possibly get a tan and hair removal…

| Anna Lee/YouTube  
| Anna Lee/YouTube  

Have the perfect outfits…

| Anna Lee/YouTube   

And get your desired hair and makeup styling.

| Anna Lee/YouTube  
| Body Profile Studio

The end result, the body profile, then documents all the hard work and effort you put into obtaining your ideal body.

Example of a body profile | Body Profile Studio
| Body Profile Studio

In 2021, “the keyword search of body profile in Korea surpassed 500,000” by August alone. Although celebrities often show off their body profiles, impressing fans with their transformations…


Many young people have also been taking these pictures, which some trainers believe is thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic’s lockdown.

[I think] the COVID-19 pandemic has something to do with this trend. I believe that more people became concerned with their health as they were confined to the indoors and lacked exercise due to the coronavirus.

— Kim via Korea JoongAng Daily

But while body profiles might initially seem like they inspire physical fitness, many influencers who have documented their journey taking body profiles admit that they regret getting the pictures taken. Although these pictures intended to help them achieve their desired fitness, once they’ve taken them, many people end up “[gaining] more weight than before they started the body profile process.” Some can even start to dangerously binge eat. This is attributed to the influencers’ sudden exercising and dieting to extremes, which can also be its own health risk.

If I’d known about the aftermath of body profiles, I probably wouldn’t have taken them. After taking the photos, I thought I’d be more free from the pressure of losing weight […] On the day I took the photos, I ate constantly for the next 12 hours. I ate bread, cake, and haejangguk [a soup with cow’s blood, beef, intestines, and vegetables] then I went home and ate pizza, chicken, and tteokbokki [spicy rice cakes] and then went out to drink alcohol and eat beef intestines.

— YouTuber Somzzi via Korea JoongAng Daily

Of course, even though people may regret their decision to take body profiles, the pictures they have already shared with all of their followers only inspire more people to take on this fitness challenge.

Unrelated exercise picture

But while the pictures and vlogs of body profile journeys may seem inspirational, the resulting images don’t actually represent reality. A recent YouTube video exposed the truth behind these body profiles, which, as with most social media, rely on picture editing.

Two people who had previously taken their body profile pictures both admitted that they used editing to enhance the final results.

Question: You two also had your body profile photoshoots. Did you edit your results?

Both: Yes.

Two people with their body profiles | 씨리얼/YouTube

For one, even though he touched up his pictures with editing, he tried to stay “conscientious” and not do too much.

I kept mine as conscientious as possible, though.

| 씨리얼/YouTube

The other felt that his arms were disproportionate to the rest of the muscle he’d developed and wanted to correct that for the final image.

For me, it was about my relatively smaller arms. The studio did an excellent job at photoshopping them to look proportionate.

| 씨리얼/YouTube

According to a photographer, one of the most commonly requested edits is to improve abs in images. Since abs can be difficult to obtain and shape, editing can easily define your abs the way you want.

The most requested edits are for the abs. We know that abs are the toughest muscles to build with exercise.

Before editing | 씨리얼/YouTube
After editing | 씨리얼/YouTube

Still, these body profile images likely wouldn’t be possible without putting in hard work to try and build your physique. Without having any muscle definition to go off of, it would be challenging to photoshop a realistic image.

The thing is, for us to photoshop, we would need some guidance. So a bit of muscle is needed.

In fact, to be able to make a body profile for someone without muscle, they would “have to merge different muscle images together,” which isn’t likely to be requested.

In the case with people who have high body fat and the muscles aren’t visible at all-like, not without getting a CT scan-then we’d have to merge different muscle images together. But… I don’t think anyone would want to go that far for some muscular photos.

Example of before and after editing | 씨리얼/YouTube 

Although social media heavily influences self-image, which can inspire viral fitness trends, if you feel encouraged to work out, it seems far more sustainable to focus on exercise as a long-term goal rather than simply for a body profile.

Although it’s for the self-satisfaction, I don’t understand why people put all of their focus on that one photo. You can’t bet your life on that one photo. Life itself is an endless video. You should live your life with that in mind.

— Kim Jong Kook

You can read more about body profile images here.

Popular Second-Generation Idol Is Going Viral For Her Amazing “100-Day” Transformation

Source: 씨리얼, Korea JoongAng Daily, Anna Lee and Girl Style Singapore

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