Putting the finishing touches on an essay, I click over to Instagram. Time to reward myself with a little procrastination. Then I see it. #cleaneating #bikinibody #nopainnogain #gohardorgohome I can’t look away.
Here’s another lifting workout I could try. Why can’t I squat like that? Maybe I should go to the gym again today. This girl in Sweden just did a two hour leg workout (#beastmode), and I only managed to squeeze in one hour of half-hearted bench presses. That salad with chicken looks so good. Did I have to have that sandwich at lunch with two huge pieces of fluffy bread? I’m sure that wasn’t enough “clean” protein to make my muscles grow and shrink away my fat. Maybe I should start weighing what I’m eating. That powerlifter knows his macros down to the last gram.
Soon, an hour has passed and I’m frantically typing into the search bar #workouts, #diet, #healthyeats. And the irony strikes me. The people I follow that posted these things… some of them are people who say they are “recovered” from eating disorders. Are these posts just reflective of their new and better lifestyles, or do they still show disordered thoughts?
This article about female bodybuilders says, “Many bodybuilders, whether they realize it or not, share this idea that their physiques reflect their morals, their work ethic, and ultimately their self-worth. It’s a notion that’s as old as the Greeks and that crops up everywhere from Bible verses to Renaissance philosophy to the weight room — and now social media. The semi-naked selfies on Instagram mean more than ‘Look at my body.’ They mean, ‘Look at my dedication. Look at my discipline. I am a better person for this.'”
Our bodies have transformed into more than physical things. Every wrinkle, mark of cellulite, jiggle of fat (real or imagined), bulge of muscle becomes our personality. Through posting selfies, hashtag-ed with everything from #bikinibody to #swole, we’re feeding this idea that our body is our identity. It’s great that we feel confident sharing a picture after a nice workout or delicious meal, but sometimes we need to think about why we are really hitting the post button. Is it because we are genuinely proud of our accomplishments? Or are we seeking to fit into an image?
We need to be responsible especially when using social media to talk about fitness and eating. A pin of a 1,200 calorie days might seem harmless enough for someone who just wants meal ideas, but show that same link to a young girl thinking she needs to lose weight (when she doesn’t) and it could be the beginnings of an eating disorder. An article about a twice-a-day body training split might be helpful to a professional weightlifter, but what about the boy looking for a radical fitness routine to stop his friends from picking on his skinniness?
(An interesting side note, a recent article I read said social media is even making girls less likely to play sports because they feel too self-conscious. They don’t think they can achieve a bikini-perfect body–because, well, virtually no one can!–so they don’t even try.)
Social media isn’t inherently evil. I use it, and millions of people do too. I’ve found great articles, swoon-worthy recipes, and tips for weight lifting.
But I’ve also been triggered by the overload of perfectly sculpted models and 200 calorie dinners. The key is to turn away from these pictures and post our own images or Tweets because we are genuinely happy with who we are and what we’ve done. We are okay exactly the way we are. We are worthy, whether we eat a pizza or eat a chicken salad or lounge on our couch with a movie or squat a new PR.
No hashtag should define who we are.
What are you Thinking Out Loud about?