In light of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (Feb. 21-27), I would like to address the trend of fitspiration on social media and how it may generate more negative effects than positive ones.
According to Lauren Bersaglio, the founder and editor-in-chief of the Libero Network, fitspiration is, "any message (usually in the form of an image with a quote included) that encourages one to “persevere,” “push,” or even “suffer” through exercise for the sake of achieving change in one’s physical appearance."
We believe that fitspiration is promoting healthy lifestyle and workout habits, but it might be reaching an extreme, which is unhealthy. While we would assume that fitspiration is inspirational, research displays that after immediately looking at fitspiration images, women experience body dissatisfaction, mood disturbance and increased social comparison.
How many of you after seeing a thin, tan and toned girl on your Instagram decide to immediately go to the gym? If you said yes and if that works for you, then that is great, but I can guarantee you it does not have that effect on everyone. In fact, in my experience of looking at fitspiration images, there are some “inspirational quotes” that do the opposite of motivating and leave people feeling poorly about their body image.
I would like to keep in mind that there are negative body image ideals for men on social media as well. Unfortunately, there is not as much research on the topic as there should be.
Here are some examples of negative fitspiration:
This image is egging on the idea that if I do not spend time working out I will be jealous of other people.
The media should not be telling me that I should feel guilty for not going to the gym and that I will have to suck it in later. Maybe I have other priorities to attend to?
This is extremely offensive. Just because one person might not think a certain body type is sexy, does not make this post OK. Many people are naturally thin and cannot help that, and if people are struggling with eating disorders and body image, this is not helping.
As a society and media, we need to realize that everyone has different schedules, body shapes and walks of life, and we can’t all set our standards to the ideal fitspiration image that social media has created for us. If we all became fitspiration models, we would lose our uniqueness. We would lose the idea that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. We would lose the idea that true beauty comes from within. While I think many of us already started to lose that idea due to these standards, I believe we can put a stop to this.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it is important to exercise and eat healthy, but you can still be healthy without being super thin, toned, tan and a model. The problem is that after constantly seeing these images in the media, many people do believe that this is the standard of beauty. While I think those women are beautiful as well, I believe all women possess beauty and that should not be the only standard to follow.
I would like to challenge you to unfollow these accounts if you do. If it is motivating you to go to the gym and be in shape, then keep it. I know there are positive fitspiration accounts out there. However, remind yourself that exercise is about health, not achieving an unrealistic image.
If it is causing body dissatisfaction and the need to constantly compare yourself to others, delete it. If seeing these images on your feed every so often is going to make you feel poorly about yourself, it is not worth it. You are worth much more than these images and are beautiful in your own way.
Need help? Call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.