I spend way too much time on Pinterest.
It’s a great resource for inspiration about.. everything. Whether you want to redecorate your bedroom, style that new yellow crop sweater, or discover new workouts, Pinterest has got you covered.
Talking about workouts, you can’t scroll through Pinterest without coming across Fitspo (fitness inspiration). You know what I’m talking about. Images of beautiful, super fit women accompanied with motivating phrases like “the voice in your head that says you can’t do this is a liar”, and “never give up”.
Innocuous, right? Not so much…
Instead of inspiring you to get healthier, these images make you hate your body. Its crime? Not conforming to the images you see online…
Here’s everything that’s wrong with Fitspo:
1. Fitspo Promotes A Body Ideal Impossible To Achieve
Just like women’s magazines, Fitspo encourages you to compare yourself to other women. Slender women. Taller women. Younger women. Photoshopped women.
You get the idea. Fitspo deems only one body type acceptable. A body type that very few people naturally have.
Have you noticed all the women in these photos are usually very young? Even then, a few days before the photoshoot, they undergo strict diets and strenuous exercise regimes.
On set, a makeup artist and stylist use their skills to hide their flaws (that’s if they get to show their faces at all). Only then their photos are taken by professional photographers using short-term “peaking” techniques.
What can’t be hidden, can be deleted with photoshop. Their waists are made smaller, their breasts bigger, and every inch of their body altered to make them look fitter and slimmer.
You can’t compare yourself to that. If you’re a short, pear-shaped girl, you’ll never become tall with a tiny waist, no matter how much you exercise or how little you eat. Any attempt to change your body type will only harm your body and your health.
Everyone has a different body type, and they are all beautiful. But Fitspo ignores that. Just like it ignores that our bodies have different limitations, and different fat storage systems.
Most importantly, it ignores the fact that women are more than their bodies, and that we should be valued for our goodness, intelligence, and achievements, not the way we look.
Related: 5 Ways To Learn To Love Your Body
2. Fitspo Perpetuates Fitness Myths
I know you’re smart enough to realise you can’t look like a Photoshopped 15 year old model. But you may still believe other myths that are masked as common sense.
Like, losing weight is simply a matter of eating less and exercising more. If that doesn’t work, it’s because I’m weak and lazy. If only I had more willpower, I’d achieve my body goal.
That’s a lie. Weight loss is more complicated than that. Socio-economic factors, stress, bad habits, hormones, and genetics can all affect your weight.
You need to tackle all of them if you want to shed the pounds. Eating less and less and exercising more and more will just make you ill.
3. Fitspo Encourages Exercise For The Wrong Reasons
Working out is one of the best things you can do for yourself. No doubt abut that.
But Fitspo doesn’t care about health. It doesn’t tell you to exercise so you can be free from disease, boost your feel-good endorphins, or improve your productivity.
Nope. Fitspo images encourage you to work out to “make your supporters proud and your enemies jealous.” As if a tight arse or a flat tummy are more important than a kind heart or a smart brain.
Worse, Fitspo often reduces women to sexy eye candy for leering men. Images rarely show the whole body. Heads and legs are usually cut off, like these body parts don’t matter.
Often, women in Fitspo images don’t wear gym clothes. Heck, most of the time, they don’t wear any clothes at all. If they do, it’s likely a skimpy bikini or sexy lingerie.
The message is clear: we should exercise to be sexually attractive to men, not to be healthy. I say thats’ BS.
Related: Are You Exercising The Right Way?
4. Fitspo Can Trigger Eating Disorders
Charlotte Hilton Andersen, author of The Great Fitness Experiment, believes that “fitspo may be thinspo in a sports bra.” I agree.
Thinspo (thin inspiration) refers to pictures of very thin women used as willpower motivation for eating disorders like anorexia.
Fitspo is supposed to be healthier. Isn’t exercise good for you, after all? Yep, but only in moderation. If you keep going even when your body is too tired, you’re going to seriously injure yourself.
Demonizing food can lead to eating disorders. Eating a pizza every now and then won’t hurt you, but Fitspo makes you think otherwise.
It tells you that if you want to be fit, you can’t eat anything tasty and, if you’re still not losing weight, it is because you’re still eating too much. For some people, these messages can trigger eating disorders, such as anorexia and orthorexia.
Lesser known than other eating disorders, orthorexia starts with a genuine desire to eat healthy. Sufferers may start by becoming vegetarians or vegans (nothing wrong with that), but soon the amount of foods on their blacklists becomes so long that they can’t eat anything that’s not “pure”.
Before you know, important nutrients are left out of their diets. That can trigger all kinds of diseases. Your body needs everything – yes, even fats and carbs – in moderation.
5. Fitspo Undermines Your Self-Esteem To Sell You Stuff You Don’t Need
So what’s the point of Fitspo (cos it certainly ain’t health)? And who creates these images, anyway?
Sports brands like Nike. Gyms. Work out DVDs. Pretty much anyone in the fitness industry profits by these images. Images that, at first glance, seem empowering. But in reality, they’re anything but.
Fitspo images are designed to make you feel bad about yourself. To lower your self esteem and make you feel worthless unless you look a certain way.
And how can you look like that? By buying Nike shoes. And fitness DVDs. And enrolling atea gym. And whatever else they try to sell you.
That’s why women’s waists and thighs are getting smaller and smaller every year. The goals must be unachievable because if you ever become comfortable in your own body, you won’t buy their shit.
Related: How Going On A Media Fast Helped My Self-Esteem
Is All Fitspo Bad?
Of course not all Fitspo is bad. Some photos can really inspire you to stop spending so much time on your sofa watching TV and start being more active and healthier.
How do you know when fitness motivation is healthy?
When it focuses on health, fun, and a balanced lifestyle rather than looks, sex, and dangerous extremes.
When it makes you feel excited about working out rather than miserable for not looking hot enough.
When the goal is to be healthy, not skinny with muscles.
Only when you take good care of your body, rather than trying to change it, you can truly be healthy and happy.
What do you think of Fitspo? Share your thoughts in the comments below.