Pictures (like the above one) plaster social media. We use these pictures to glorify eating disorders. They idealize near-emaciated bodies, and often associate food or weight as signs of laziness and sin.
Sites like Instagram have guidelines to disable searches for “thinspiration” or “proanorexia.” Which is a good thing, right?
Enter fitspiration. Instead of thin women, now we see muscular women in sports bras, preaching messages like “Strong is the new sexy” and “When your body says stop, keep going!” These images think they’re promoting health, but—as Harriet Williams says: “Fitspo is thinspo in a pair of Nike running shorts.”
Although fitspo praises healthy eating and exercise, it merely trades one obsession for another. This post by the Reembody blog does an excellent job of showing the different ways fitspiration promotes irresponsible habits. Starvation and other eating disorder behaviors are dangerous, but so is excessive exercise and, yes, even overly healthy eating.
Fitspo promotes an unattainable body image, masquerading it as a symbol of strength. Want to have defined legs? Spend hours on the treadmill. Want to feel “sexy”? Don’t even think about having that brownie.
I know these thoughts are something I battle with every day. I love exercising and I’d rather grab a yogurt than a Poptart.
But sometimes I’ll think of taking a rest day because I’m sick or tired or, hey, just plain don’t feel like exercising. Or I’ll have a scoop (or two… or three) of ice cream. Then I’ll open up my computer.
Images flood my Twitter or Pinterest: fit men and women with “Don’t Give Up” or “The Only Workout You Regret is the One You Don’t Have.” And it can be hard not to let these change what my body is telling me to do.
Williams says, “Fit and healthy bodies in the real world come in all sorts of shapes and sizes… The images found under the tag ‘fitspo’ do not reflect this, they are virtually identical to ‘thinspo’ pictures, save for the addition of a set of weights or a sports bra.”
Fitspiration is just as deadly as thinspiration to our self-esteem and body image. It misinforms people about what health means. Williams herself submitted a picture of her body shortly following her battle with anorexia to a “healthy fitspiration” Tumblr. The account featured her eating disorder body as an ideal image.
That’s not to say exercise shouldn’t be a part of our lives. But it’s important to know when to take a step back.
Exercise should make you proud of what you can do, not ashamed for what you are. Just because our culture associates working out and eating salads with health doesn’t mean that’s all health is.
Your body is yours. Not an image on Twitter or Pinterest.
Fuel for Thought: How do you feel about “fitspo” images on Pinterest/Instagram/social media? Is there a way to promote health in a non-condemning way?