Monday, November 3, 2014

My weight loss photos have been stolen!

Weight loss is big business, to the tune of  $60.5 billion in 2013. This is not surprising given that global obesity has reached epidemic proportions. The World Health Organization reports that there are 1 billion overweight adults, with at least 300 million classified as obese. Admittedly, losing weight is no easy task. Although I’ve been active most of my adult life, after the birth of my son in 2007, my weight creeped up and I topped the scales at 209 pounds. The week of Thanksgiving 2009 I decided to take control and finally do something about it. I chronicled my journey here weekly and with hard work and perseverance, by August 2010 I’d lost over 50 pounds. That year I ran my first half-marathon and committed to a lifetime of healthy living.

It has been four years since I’ve lost the weight and I’ve found that maintaining the loss is much more difficult than actually losing it. Although my weight has fluctuated, I remain active and most of the time make good food choices. Since 2010 I’ve run 15 half-marathons, a full marathon, a 199 mile Ragnar relay and become a Zumba instructor. Healthy living is a way of life for me and by sharing my entire weight loss story online, I know (because I’ve been told) that I’ve inspired countless people.

My story has been featured in Ebony magazine, Southern Living, and the Atlanta Constitution Journal. I’ve been recognized as a fitness professional in UPSCALE magazine and featured in a national commercial for EA Sports Active. My story was highlighted in the PBS show “The Weigh We Were” and on my local NBC affiliate. Despite all of the publicity around my weight loss success, my photos have been hijacked online and used to falsely advertise and sell products that I neither endorse nor use.  My hard work is being undermined by people looking to make a quick buck using my image without my permission.

Companies both domestic and international (a Tanzanian company attributes my weight loss to eating mushrooms), 

claim I lost weight because of what they are selling. Apparently I’ve lost pounds by doing everything from the apple cider vinegar diet to eating acai berries and taking garcinia cambogia supplments.

I am absolutely livid.  After doing a google image search I have found no less than 75 instances of my before and after image on the internet. 


I learned of this because my mother's friend saw my photo alongside Dr. Oz on his show outing websites selling garcinia cambogia. Despite his efforts to stop the scammers, these sites continue to persist.  I am offended because my image is giving false hope to individuals interested in losing weight. The truth is that losing and maintaining weight loss is based on changing your personal relationship with food and moving your body. I have shed tears over this and feel helpless. I am hiring legal counsel to deal with this but I am NOT optimistic. If Dr. Oz with his cashflow cannot be removed from false advertising, what hope do I have?

This practice of stealing photos is ILLEGAL. This is my brand, one that I've spent 4 years building and to have these websites tell it, I used all different types of supplements and fade diets to lose weight. And I endorse them! This cannot be further from the truth.
I believe it is important for regular people to know that if I can do it, they can do it too. Not with supplements or quick fixes but by committing to healthy living. It takes mental fortitude to avoid emotional eating and binging. I still struggle with this and honestly when I learned about all of the sites using my photos, my immediate thought was “where is the ice cream?” I can happily report that I suppressed those urges and haven’t binged on foods that I know will add inches to my hips.

By sharing my story that I can can get some justice. I want my images removed! I also want people to view these “get thin fast” sites with a wary eye. If my image has been hijacked, I know many others have been too. I can’t abide by this and although I am not confident that my image won’t continue to be used or that I’ll be remunerated for their illegal use, I can tell the truth and hopefully inspire others with my weight loss. I did it the old fashioned way by burning more calories than I consume. I watch my diet and exercise. It is a struggle but I do it. Please don’t believe all of the hype you see online!  Here are just a few of the myriad "testimonials" about my weight loss. If you ever see my image, please let me know!



adiaha said...

I am so sorry this has happened to you. I hope you find a way to resolve this issue and reclaim your photo.

kia said...

I am upset for you. I watched your journey unfold with this transition and this is insulting. I am glad you know about it now. Good luck dealing with this spider web of scammers.

D.J. Wonder said...

Stand Strong Renee!!

Robyn Wright of said...

This sucks! I know that it happens time and time again. It is something I have worried about with my own weight loss pictures also and I started putting watermarks over the center of them - but they can still get past that. I think when we see these ads on any site we need to notify that site that they are running ads with stolen images as well. Sadly, Facebook seems to have the most of these. I have shared this post out to my social networks to help raise awareness too. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to help.

Jenn@slim-shoppin said...

I have seen this from some of my friends too who have lost weight. It will show their before and after and say 30 days you can look like this ...if you buy this product.

It's so infuriating!!! I've left comments on sites saying it's a lie, only for those comments to be not ever shown or taken down.

There has to be a way to stop people from doing it - and even more for your case since your image is being used by MANY!

So sorry about that!

Tania said...

What's wrong with people! I'm sorry this is happening to you .

The Cubicle Chick said...

This is horrible. I am so sorry this is happening to you. Are you able to contact these sites with a cease and desist and demand they take them down? I've had to do that, not with photos, but with content that has been stolen of mine in the past. I've even had to get an attorney involved which can be pricey. I pray that you can stop whoever these people are that are scamming folk with your photos. Good luck :-)

Nancy said...

Karma's a bitch, man. And I really do believe that what these people are doing - to you and I'm sure to countless others - will come back to BITE them in the future. Use it. Use it to promote yourself and your brand. Use it to express your outrage on a huge scale. Use it to start a campaign to STOP these vultures. And, oh yeah, fuck 'em all.

Jenny, Bloggess said...

So shitty. I've had my stuff stolen too and even with lawyers involved you often can't get them to stop it. Most are not in America and so they don't have to follow American law even though the products are sold here. So frustrating.

Sending love.

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