I want you to do a social experiment. Go to any of your social media and search #fitspiration--Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, ect. What you'll find are millions of photos of chiseled bodies, motivational memes that focus on weight loss, pictures of "clean foods," and some serious vitriol against body fat. A lot of these do not come only from regular gym goers but also from fitness professionals, which is downright irresponsible considering that I do not know of any qualified certification that would encourage such unhealthy behaviors and attitudes toward fitness.
Fitspiration has become the next thinspiration. However, instead of pursuing an unreachable level of thinness, people are pursuing an unrealistic body type comprised of an inordinate amount of muscle and an unreasonably low expectation of what constitutes a healthy body fat percentage. Thus, fitspiration is just masquerading as thinspiration by trumpeting this idea that it is about being fit and healthy instead of simply thin. However, much of what you find in fitspiration tags still focuses on being thin--only with a little added muscle.
The sharing of these "motivational" posts is anything but motivating. Instead these posts create an elitist mindset that can make the gym even more intimidating for people who are already nervous about beginning a workout program. They also create unrealistic expectations for weight loss. In fact, a lot of the bodies being used in these fitspiration images are from fitness models with a generally unhealthy level of body fat. The level is so unhealthy that female fitness models often lose their menstruation cycles.
Not only does fitspiration promote unhealthy weight-loss ideals, but it promotes unhealthy fitness ideals. Take the collage of images above, for example.
Fitspiration isn't any better than thinspiration. It never will be. It promotes exercise as a form of punishment and inflicted self-hatred. When I was struggling with anorexia, I used exercise as a form of purging whenever I ate something that wasn't on my planned to-eat list of that day. And fitspiration is encouraging this type of purging by presenting this good/bad dichotomy when it comes to our bodies and the foods we put in it. We're bad if we eat a bag of chips because we naively assume that bag of chips will make us fat and fat is bad and so now we must punish ourselves with a workout that makes us hurt and feel even worse about ourselves to burn those chips we just ate.
It's a vicious cycle, one that won't be broken until we see fitspiration for what it really is.
Motivational memes aren't all that bad. If they encourage you to get to the gym, then that's fine. They shouldn't be setting your goals for you, though. Set your own goals and work toward them in a healthy manner. Nourish your body with whole, nutritious foods. Sleep well and minimize stress. Most of all, practice self-love.
ACE Certified Personal Trainer, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, nutrition coach, young adult author, moody ballerina.
I help people perform without pain.
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The views expressed on this blog are entirely my own. Any advice I offer is not to be taken as medical advice. If you think you have contraindications to exercise, please see your physician before implementing any sample workout plans I present on this blog.
All images are either my own, from Canva, or Creative Commons