So You Want To Get In Shape? Step One: Step Away From Social Media
How affective is the fitstagram community really in helping you get in shape?
It’s January again, and that can only mean one thing: renewed guilt for the lack of success you had with your resolutions last year, fresh guilt about the amount of eggnog, wine, and cookies you consumed over the holidays, and consequently, a burning desire to KILL IT this year.
According to data collected by Statistic Brain, 21% of people resolve to live healthier lifestyles, lose weight, or ‘get in shape’ - whatever that means. This is by far the most prominent category of resolutions, beating out the runner-up by over 9%. So what gives? Why are people so into getting fit in the new year, and more importantly how are they doing it?
Many people looking to achieve specific fitness goals join fitness or weight loss communities like Jenny Craig or WeightWatchers. However, much like in the rest of our lives, social media is taking over. Fitness bloggers have quite literally transformed their personal social media accounts into fitness empires touting tips, tricks, inspiration, and community (and generating millions of dollars a year in profits).
But where do we draw the line between fitspo and thinspo, and how much is all of this actually helping you achieve your new years goals?
While I understand the logic behind receiving constant fitspo reminders, when you think about it, that logic is really shitty.
The logic functions as follows: person sees pictures of other people achieving their fitness goals, person feels guilty/ fat/ ugly/ worthless/ inferior, and therefore, is motivated to go beyond the boundaries of their normal to achieve similar results.
Essentially, the entire benefit of this psychological strategy hinges upon the person in question feeling bad, in some way, about themselves and their appearance. This strategy is further flawed by the simple fact that it can never end because BODIES ARE DIFFERENT. I repeat, BODIES ARE DIFFERENT. Many of the fitspo pictures circulated in these communities portray results which are completely unattainable for the majority of the population.
For example, I could work out 3 times a day and eat exclusively quinoa and carrots and I would NEVER look like this.
I’m 5’3, it’s just never going to happen.
Therefore, for someone like myself, for whom these fitspo goals are physiologically unobtainable, this strategy creates a never-ending cycle of self-loathing that can't possibly lead to the pure nirvana, I'm sure, is waiting at the end, if and when, you finally look like Amanda Bisk (see above).
Therefore, for most people this fitspo strategy likely ends in one of two ways: (1) the person in question, who under normal conditions could not obtain such a look, goes to extreme measures and adopts disordered tendencies in order to obtain similar results, and is still never happy with their appearance. Or, (2) the person in question, who under normal conditions could not obtain such a look, feels demotivated due to the fact that they can never achieve the promoted results, feels terrible about themselves, and quits.
And this is where fitspo becomes thinspo, in my opinion. The term 'thinspo' commonly refers to communities in which pictures of emaciated people are shared to ‘inspire’ and ‘motivate’ other people to achieve a similar look. Basically, it’s pro-anna propaganda, and functions based upon the above logic.
Fitspo presents itself as being 'positive,' in contrast to thinspo, which is 'negative', based in the assumption that fitspo promotes ”healthy” bodies, and ”healthy” lifestyles, as opposed to emaciated bodies, and detrimental lifestyles, promoted through thinspo. This, in theory, is true, however, the extreme standard to which fitspo escalates our perception of self serves the same end result: people who don’t look like the people being promoted in the community feel like shit.
This isn't all to say that there is anything wrong with getting fit, OR with joining a fitness community - even one on instagram. Just consider the ultimate message each community is promoting before joining or clicking 'follow,' and try to be aware of the effect that 'inspiration' is really having on you.
Bottom line: if your fitness community makes you feel bad about yourself, leave. Clearly it isn't actually helping.
Creating a healthier lifestyle for yourself is hard work, and you should feel AMAZING about that, regardless of the results. Period.
If you’re looking to join an online fitness community for some inspiration we recommend:
Irene Pappas focus' her fitspo on beautiful stills of challenging yoga poses, and inspirational quotes. Yoga is all about doing the best you can and becoming in touch with who you already are while on your journey to achieving better health, and Irene's insta is a testament to this principle of the practice!
Though the pictures she promotes of herself are a little thinspo-y, simply because she herself is so thin - which is a body TOO, her social media feed is definitively body-positive. For us mere mortals, the inspiration comes from the quotes and the images of real women, with real bodies, and their real success using her "Bikini Body Guide" - which is a questionable title, but a kick ass work out. When I tried it, I quite literally couldn't walk without wincing for a week.
Elle is sort of like a mix of Kayla and Irene. Her insta is a mix of inspo pics of her own tight bod contorted into difficult yoga poses, quotes, and images of results real women have achieved using her program.
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