How ‘Fitspo’ Makes Us Hate Ourselves

January 25, 2016

No one’s body looks like that in real life.

While you were scrolling through your Instagram feed today, I bet you came across at least one photo of an incredibly skinny girl in gym clothes showing off her abs with some semi-inspirational quote on it supposedly motivating you to put that donut down and go for a run.

The health and fitness hype has gotten so big, it’s impossible to ignore it. We’re told that sugar is the devil and sitting at a desk all day will make us die young.

We’re bombarded with green smoothie recipes, no-excuse workouts, and a whole lot of motivation in the form of ‘fitspiration’ pics. They’re everywhere, but especially present on social media.

While there is nothing wrong with a bit of virtual motivation to lead a healthy life, many fitspiration pics are extremely questionable and promote a lifestyle and body image that is highly problematic.

Case in point: the abundance of concave stomachs and so-called #bikinibridges (the gap between your hips bones which protrudes when you’re scary skinny) on Instagram.

After the thigh gap, the bikini bridge is the latest fitspiration obsession, and young women especially, seem to see it as their ‘fitness’ goal. Of course, having a thigh gap or bikini bridge has nothing whatsoever to do with being fit or healthy, and is often a sign of being underweight.


Another type of ‘fitspo’ pic I find disturbing and highly offensive is what I like to dub the ‘shamespo’, usually a photo of some athlete working out with a quote like, ‘Someone who is busier than you is in the gym right now’, or, ‘Pain is acceptable. Quitting is not.’


Excuse me? First of all, if someone busier than me is working out right now, good for them. But nobody should feel ashamed if they decide to take some relaxation time instead of running on a treadmill.

Perhaps the most disturbing of all, is the rise of Sanctimommies, new mothers instilling guilt in their peers by flashing their lithe bodies just days after giving birth, because apparently, ‘There are no excuses’. In my opinion, there is no better excuse for not going to the gym than a baby keeping you up all night and requiring 100 per cent of your attention.


What the fitspo trend completely ignores, is the fact that we are all different. Our bodies are different, our lifestyles are different and our priorities are different, and that’s a good thing. Of course being healthy is important, and fitness is a big part of that, but there’s a wide range of body types and shapes that might not equal a size zero, and yet, they’re still fit.

Most fitspo images promote self-hate instead of motivating us to be healthier. Not everyone is cut out to run five miles a day, and some people might never have a thigh gap, no matter how hard they train and diet. All aspiring to images of fitspiration will do for those of us who fit into that category, is make us hate our bodies, which can lead to eating disorders, or even body dysmorphia. 

As a matter of fact, a recent study by the Burnet Institute which surveyed 1001 people aged 15-29, showed that teenagers who follow fitspo pages on social media are more likely to develop eating disorders. What’s even more shocking, is that 70 per cent admitted to having misused detoxes and dieting pills in order to achieve the ideals displayed in these images.

What we need to understand, is that we shouldn’t see our bodies as enemies that we have to constantly beat into submission in order to get to a place of self acceptance. We should celebrate our bodies just as they are, and be thankful for all the wonderful things they’re able to do.

If working out is your thing, and it makes you happy, great. If not, that’s fine, too. Your only motivation to change your body in any way should be to keep your health in check, not to emulate a contrived picture with a ridiculous quote on it.

Images via mandatory.com, motivationalgymquotes.com, and savemybond.com.

Comment: Do you think fitspo images are healthy?


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