5 Reasons Why Fitspo Is Unhealthy

by Gio
why fitspo is unhealthy

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:

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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 β€œpeaking” 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.

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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.

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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.

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16 comments

BebeTaian November 28, 2014 - 2:50 am

That third one also promotes something else: detrimental and even dangerous exercise habits.

Fitspo photos and blogs loooove spouting dangerous advice about pushing the body beyond it’s sustainable limits. “Yes, you can breathe?” HAHAHAHA yeah tell that to undiagnosed asthmatics, people with heart conditions that aren’t triggered until doing intense exercise (like me), and people who get injured from too much exercise and keep going back because “no pain, no gain”. If you’re having trouble catching your breath while exercising, it isn’t just that you’re out of shape. You might have a real medical condition that needs looking at. Nearly impossible to do in the States, but most other countries have healthcare programs to take advantage of! USE them!

If your legs are “that tired”, freaking stop or risk getting an injury. Do something else. There is no need to overexert, especially if you’re new to fitness. Some exercises might not be for you at all! If you’re significantly overweight and jogging, hel-lo knee injuries and shin splints! Swimming is often a much better choice; it strengthens muscle and keeps weight off of injured or weakened areas at the same time. Or you might not be able to do pullups because you have a shoulder injury. That’s fine! Just pick another thing and do what you can!

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MM Curator November 28, 2014 - 3:14 pm

I was coming over here to say the exact same thing! Not only is FitSpo unhealthy for all the reasons Gio pointed out, it can also lead to injury or other health problems. I have exercise-induced asthma and to “keep going” when I really can’t breathe is NOT a good idea. I also ran through a pain in my hamstring for months and now am finding out I may have done permanent damage by trying to “keep going” – because I was basically brainwashed to believe the no pain, no gain mantra.

Thanks, Gio for writing this post and thanks to BebeTaian for the excellent comment.

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Gio November 28, 2014 - 8:44 pm

Hillary, glad you enjoyed the post, and I’m sorry to hear about your knee. These fitness myths are really dangerous and it’s appalling that not just those in this industry but mainstream media are allowed to keep spreading them.

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Gio November 28, 2014 - 8:33 pm

Bebetaian, thank you for your great comment. That is so true. Telling people to push beyond their limits is just irresponsible, and only leads to injuries, or worse. Yes, when you start exercising after years of inactivity, even running for 15 minutes can be painful, but that’s all the more reasons to take it slow and go to a pace our bodies can take. Keep going is never a good idea. We should be encouraged to do what we can, when we can. Anything else is dangerous.

It’s also best, if you can, to have a checkup before starting exercising. Here, all gyms used to require it by law till last year. Even if it is not mandatory anymore, most gyms won’t let you join if you don’t have a medical certificate stating you are in good health. It’s not free, but not that expensive either, and can save lives. I really wish that soon access to healthcare will be made easier in the US for everyone. It’s not right to deny medical services to anyone. But I agree, if you have access to healthcare programmes, use them!

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anubhuti November 28, 2014 - 11:45 am

Very nice article.. I actually enjoyed reading it. I am also fitness freak kinda person but i never compromise on food and nutrition.. I don’t leave things forever just because someone says it’s bad… If i love chocolate, I indulge in it once in a while(ofcourse you can burn extra calories off).. Starving your body to achieve weight loss or a petite body is very harmful for the body in long run… You can never make a healthy and fit body by depriving your body of nutrition and food πŸ™‚

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Gio November 28, 2014 - 8:38 pm

Anubhuti, I’m glad you enjoyed it. And I agree. Depriving your body of any foods is never a good idea. Having some chocolate every now and then won’t do you any harm, but starving yourself or demonizing certain foods will.

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Annette December 2, 2014 - 11:56 pm

This is just another method of making women (and men) feel like shit about themselves. You never seen some normal person just jogging and bullet points saying why exercise is beneficial because it has nothing to do with how you look. All the benefits are non-visual like lower heart rate, good for depression etc.

But these benefits aren’t very sexy so we end up with images of women lifting their t-shirt wearing low cut shorts where we can almost see lady parts! So again like you said be fit so you can be sexual available to men. Meh

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Gio December 3, 2014 - 9:37 pm

Annette, I agree. Exercising has so many benefits, but being sexually available to men shouldn’t be one of it. We need to exercise for ourselves, so that we’re healthier, not for someone else.

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Katie December 14, 2014 - 8:55 pm

I dislike fitspo for many of the reasons you cited here. It encourages injuries and poor decisions, I’ve seen ones that essentially tell people to ignore pain and keep going. That’s how you hurt yourself and have to take loads of time off. Or ones that berate you for wanting chocolate or something, a bit of chocolate now and again won’t hurt most people.

Being fit and healthy is awesome. Fitspo isn’t.

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Gio December 15, 2014 - 3:50 pm

Katie, I completely agree. Extremes are never good and should never be encouraged. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Fitspo does. *sighs*

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Poonpo January 6, 2015 - 5:50 am

Fitness is something which we always neglect !! but this is wrong !

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Gio January 6, 2015 - 2:08 pm

Poonpo, I agree,. Exercising is important but, if taken to extremes or done for the wrong reasons, can be very dangerous too.

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Janessa October 23, 2015 - 6:25 pm

Fitspo promotes getting fit for the wrong reasons, I agree. It makes one feel inferior and inadequate. When photos only show body parts, it’s so misleading because we all have different body shapes and different angles can create extra unrealistic illusions that others may try to attain when it’s physically impossible.
I think fitspo can be inspiring, but surely not majority of it. I’m thinking of professional and world-class athletes who are so beautifully strong and are fit because they’re doing something they love and enjoy doing it.
I don’t look at fitspo because most search results are pretty degrading and unnecessary. Also because I don’t have time for junk in my brain.

Excellent post. πŸ™‚

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Gio October 23, 2015 - 10:37 pm

Janessa, thanks. I couldn’t agree more. Fitspo could be very inspirational indeed. We all could benefit from exercising more. But making women feel inferior for not looking a certain way is not the way to do it. And that has nothing to do with health anyway. Just the opposite in fact.

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Hannah January 22, 2017 - 5:14 am

Ahhhh! About that quote by Ashley Greene,-she’s Alice in Twilight (love that series)!

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Gio January 22, 2017 - 5:07 pm

Hannah, πŸ™‚

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