The fabricated and fabulous world of fitspiration: why it’s damaging young people.

So I’ve been doing some thinking about the old Gram.

And I’ve been thinking a lot about the amount of likes and followers people have on the Gram.

And I’ve been thinking a lot about the fitspiration hashtag that we see on the Gram.

I feel really lucky. I feel lucky because I got through most of my teenage years without Instagram. And, thankfully, without the influence of the fitspiration hashtag.

When I was navigating my way through puberty (as a slighly chubby, pimply and insecure teen), thin was in. And let’s be real. Thin has been in for decades now. It rarely goes out of fashion. Which is sad and frustrating, because most women aren’t the thin we see in popular media.

I made my way through puberty awkwardly at best. My boobs grew and shrunk. I got stretch marks on my thighs and my belly as my weight fluctuated. And I was deeply, deepy self conscious about every single aspect of my young and growing body.

And this was without the insidious and toxic pressure of social media.

Without the fitspiration hashtags and the explore pages and the Youtube subscriptions.

nike
Shout out to Nike Women for being actually diverse. Image via @NikeWomen Instagram.
And still, even without that additional influence, I caved under the pressure and decided that I had to fit the mould I saw plastered on every magazine and movie screen around me. I started to change myself to be what I could see.

And now, with the rise of social media, the pressure for girls and women to look and be a certain way is totally inescapable.

The research is now showing what we already knew. Young women who view fitspiration images and posts on social media networks end up feeling worse about themselves.

Surprise, surprise.

The fitspiration movement, although designed to encourage people to exercise and move their bodies, isn’t providing women with real and tangible positive health outcomes. In fact, it’s doing the opposite.

The fitspiration images we’re exposed to make us meer mortals believe that being thin and toned the same time equates to being healthy. And that health can’t possibly look like anything else.

We know in our hearts that this isn’t true. We know that fitness isn’t determined by what we look like or what our weight is. Fitness is measured using proven scientific methods. Fitness is measured by health professionals with qualifications. And for some people, being thin and toned is what fitness looks like for them. But that is certainly not the case for most people.

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Fitness looks different on EVERYONE. Image via @breakingdownbeauty.

But if adult women aren’t able to objectively view a fitspiration Instagram or Facebook post and understand that fitness looks different on everyone, how is a teenager supposed to?

But these images are just harmless aren’t they? They’re just pictures, right?

Wrong.

They are harmful. And that’s now been proven in academic research.

These images and hashtags are contributing to women engaging in some really unhealthy behaviours. Juice cleanses, extreme dieting, over exercising. Just to name a few.

wtf
WTF even is this? #fuckfitspo.
But it’s not fair to target the women (and men) who make fitness their business. Because I’m sure their intentions are sound. I assume in most, if not all cases, that these people don’t want to make women feel bad about their bodies. They want to help people get healthier andto be the best versions of themselves.

But these fitness gurus who have siginificant followings on Instagram and Facebook also do it to make money and to build their brand. And that’s what this is. It’s business.

Even though we know that our health isn’t determined by our looks, we view those fitspiration posts and feel that familiar drop in self-esteem. Because we’ve been impressioned to believe that exercise is a means of getting and staying hot. And when exercising doesn’t make us hot, thin or toned like we expect it to, we get confused and frustrated. Why don’t I look like blah blah on Instagram? I did all the exercises they described.

But here’s the catch. We all have different bodies. They respond differently to exercise and fitness looks different on all of us.

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Fitness looks different on all of us. Image via @breakingdownbeauty Instagram.
I, for instance, tend to carry more weight in my legs and thighs. Genetically, I am not predisposed to have long, thin legs. For me that isn’t natural. No matter how much I exercise, no matter what I eat, no matter what I do, my bone structure will be the same and my body will fight to be what it is naturally.

It’s taken me a long time to come to accept that fact. It’s taken me longer to embrace it. And sometimes, if I’m being honest, scrolling through my Instagram explore page and viewing those fitspo posts brings back that pang of self-consciousness. The one that women across Australia feel every singe day.

So when welook at these images, which are impossible to avoid, we need to bear in mind that fitness doesn’t look the same on everyone. In fact, it looks different on everyone. Because we all have unique bodies that respond differently to certain exercises.

Also, those fitness models, they make a living off working out. You don’t. So when you compare youself to her (or him), it’s kind of like trying to compare the maths skills of a year 10 student with the skills of an accountant. Of course they’re going to be different.

Your body is damn fine. Whichever way it comes.

 

There are Instagram accounts out there you can be following to build up your own body confidence.

Here’s some to check out:

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4

 

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