Why I Don’t Diet Down for Photoshoots

When you see perfectly toned and lean bodies promoting fitness brands, workouts, and supplements, you may roll your eyes and think, “Ugh, PHOTOSHOP.”

It could be some Photoshop at play, but it could also be the extremely common practice of “dieting down” or “leaning out” that many fitness professionals and models do to prepare for photoshoots, events, and competitions. In other words, those perfectly chiseled abs may not be visible all year long – perhaps even only for the few weeks (or days) leading up to the date, as the result of extensive and meticulous training and diet protocols.

I think it’s essential for people outside the fitness industry to know this, because women are so incredibly vulnerable to unrealistic body standards, and knowledge is power in this case.

I did the photoshoot for my website in the middle of December in NYC last year, and because I set the date at the last minute, I didn’t have time to even consider dieting down to a leaner weight. Instead, I jumped in “as is” – a.k.a., how I look all the time.

I brought a friend who is an experienced trainer and fitness model to help with posing for the shoot, and as we left the studio I lamented, “I really like how they came out, but next time I want to really do it right and prep for it.”

She looked me straight in the eye, and said one of the most important things that I have ever heard as an industry professional:

“Don’t do it any differently. You were perfect.”

I was profoundly moved by her words, and a year later, I realize how right she was. I still look at my photos, which are extremely reflective of my real, everyday appearance, and I feel grateful that I did not have time to get neurotic about my appearance for that shoot. These photos represent me as my first impression to all incoming potential clients, and I’m so glad that the images look like me.

Here are the three philosophical reasons that I don’t think I will ever do an extensive prep for an event or photoshoot:


My “real body” is an honest projection of what clients can expect to achieve by following my lifestyle recommendations. 

I think the last thing that people need is more distorted perceptions of the human female body. I think it is unfair to explicitly promote a balanced lifestyle, flexible eating, and whole-person health, while using a picture that was actually created by eight weeks of inflexible dieting and dehydration. It just doesn’t match up for me, and sets up my clients for unrealistic expectations for results.


I don’t have a “summer body” or a “winter body.” I have a “year round” body. 

My philosophy encourages consistency for the purpose of mental and emotional health, prioritizing maintenance over transformations. Do I believe in self-improvement, setting goals, and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone when change is needed? Absolutely. But this transcends weight or leanness – it’s more about the kinds of actions that you take in order to achieve goals, and whether those actions promote your mental health.

My philosophy is that it is better for mental health (and long-term success) to draw on a consistent repertoire of balanced eating and exercise habits all the time and to maintain those behaviors, than it is to swing back and forth between several different “protocols.”


Food should give both physical and mental/emotional energy, and “dieting down” to extreme leanness saps both.

It is well-known in the fitness industry (but not to most people) that when fitness professionals “lean out” for a photoshoot or event, that they often become cranky, lethargic, and emotional  in the week or so leading up to the date. In other words, 3-D chiseled abs come with a hormonal price tag, and you pay for it with your energy and mood.

I am married. I have a busy client roster. I work out consistently. I also like food and my balanced relationship with it. I like feeling good. I owe it to myself and to all the people I love to show up to life firing on all the needed cylinders. I need patience, energy, creativity, and vigor to fulfill my obligations and desires, and that doesn’t match up with becoming overly fixated on physique, even for a short period of time. For me, it’s just not worth it, and it doesn’t fit my life.

You Are Perfect

My friend was so right. I shouldn’t have done anything differently, because my website photos represent me and my values:

  • Creating a safe, positive place for people who want to get healthier and fitter without compromising their commitment to mental and emotional health
  • Living my own life with integrity and honesty and balance, with abundant energy for my relationships and obligations
  • Promoting programs that are oriented around lifelong habit change, which could pave the way for an intense fat loss protocol if you wanted to do it, but doesn’t make these kinds of targeted strategies essential for long-term success

And let’s do a little #realtalk – I am pretty lean. I am perfectly aware that when you look at these photos, you are thinking, “What is she talking about? Why would she get any leaner?” I’m not exactly a poster child for body type inclusivity.

This is exactly my point. We can all get so sucked into the quest for more that what we have is not good enough. And where does that path stop? It doesn’t. And that is exactly the opposite of the climate that I want to create for my clients. Instead of an endless treadmill of getting pickier and pickier about the way you look, I want to give you the tools to create the lifestyle that you want to live.

Take my friend’s words to heart: you are perfect. Do you have things you want to work on? Of course! Self-improvement is an essential part of fulfilling your potential. But it’s important to remember that you are always, always a “during” – not a “before” or an “after,” ever.

Rachel Trotta

I am a Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Physique and Bodybuilding Specialist, and Women's Fitness Specialist. I live in New Jersey in the NYC metro area, and I coach clients online all over the world. As a trainer and health writer, my mission is to make healthy living sustainable for the average person. I’m also a wife, mom, nature lover, runner, avid cook, weightlifting aficionado, history nerd, travel addict, and obsessive podcast listener. Get in touch!

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