Have you ever heard of it?
It is the short name of those fitness inspiration pictures you see all over Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. I’m sure you have seen them on your friend’s timeline or Pinterest boards under the category of “MOTIVATION!”
These pictures typically have a super lean girl lifting weights, running, eating a salad, or just staring into the camera with phrases like “Be stronger than your Excuses” or “Strong is the New Skinny.”
Oh, you know, pictures like this one….
I used to be the girl who blew up everyone’s newsfeed with the fitspo images. Every so often I would hear someone say she didn’t like them because it made her feel bad and I would just ignore it thinking, “Oh, well, she’s just not serious. She just doesn’t want it bad enough. These images should do nothing but inspire!”
While I totally agree and believe that images and words can be used to motivate and inspire you and others (I do have a FB page after all), over the years I have come to really not like these images at all. I don’t use them anymore and stay away from them.
Let me explain why…
These images are supposed to motivate you to get up off the couch and go workout. That’s cool. I think we all need to get off the couch and move more. But, how do these images attempt to fulfil this purpose? They show you a super lean girl who is exercising and screams the message, “If you would just get off your lazy butt you could look like this too!” Guilt and shaming are never a good method of motivating. How about “Go out for a walk because it will make you feel better physically and emotionally”?
These pictures can also present impossible or even unhealthy standards. Try this one on for size…
Sure, I am an advocate of workout intensity but this is just too much. Perhaps if you feel like you will puke or faint your workout is too intense and you could be risking injury and burnout. Work up a sweat. Challenge yourself. Be safe and be smart!
Also, while many of these images advocate health the catchy phrases are often thrown across a girl with insanely low body fat %’s. There is a time and a place for a low fat % such as at a physique competition and even then the look the girl achieves is usually only there for one day. The same goes for the photo shoots these girls do. That girl on the poster that says “Skinny is not sexy. Healthy is.” was mostly likely that lean for one day for that photo shoot. That projects an impossible standard. And when I see these posters that try to say skinny is not the goal, I think “Okaaaaaaaaaaaaaay, then why is the girl who is supposed to inspire me to be healthy impossibly lean?” For example,
I can look at these fitspo pictures and I can objectively assess what they are saying and walk away none worse for wear. But, guess what? I used to not be that way. I used to look at these pictures and these captions and I would judge my progress by what I saw. I would look at the picture and look in the mirror and think that I was not trying hard enough. I would diet harder and I would exercise harder. And then I would feel guilty because my body was not living up to the standard of some other girl’s body. Craziness. That was me then and I am completely different now. But, unfortunately, I have a feeling that more women than want to admit it are affected negatively by these images. And if it isn’t the women it is their daughters who have not learned how to truly love their bodies.
Here is where it got really ugly in my head in regards to these Fitspo pictures. As I’ve done research into these type of images I came across that fact that many of these images are actually thinly veiled Thinspiration. Have you ever heard of Thinspiration? Thinspiration is images that are passed around Eating Disorder communities, such as Anorexia and Bulimia, as sources of Motivation to stay the course in their disorder in order to stay thin at all costs. You are inspired to be thin. Thinspiration. It is evil and it is wicked.
Gah! Thinspiration sounds horrible. It is!! I wouldn’t look at real thinspiration as motivation. But, I would look at Fitspiration and sometimes I would be inspired and sometimes I would not. I would often feel guilty and “not good enough.” These images were becoming triggers for unhealthy thoughts.
I have heard it said, “fitspo may be thinspo in a sports bra.” While I will advocate for healthy exercise till the day I die, I also know that too much exercise can be just as harmful to your body as not eating enough food. Fitspo can be just as guilty in triggering unhealthy behaviors as thinspo.
Lastly, there is no place for body shaming. Why do we have to float images around of what we consider to be the perfect body type. It is demeaning and deflating. Guess what? We are all different and we all have different bodies. No particular body is better than another because each body houses an eternal soul. There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve your body because you want to be healthy but, Lord knows, don’t try to improve your body because you think another body is better than yours.
We need to build each other up.
We need to inspire each other through our actions and our words.
We need to pursue health and performance.
We need to get out there an enjoy life and being the people we were created to be.
We don’t need a picture to show us how to do that.
Before I close, I do need to show you two pictures that I do find very inspiring and beautiful. These women are all very strong and amazing and they all have beautifully unique bodies.
Now, before anyone gets upset, I have no doubt that some women honestly do look at fitspo and are genuinely inspired by it. It does not trigger unhealthy thoughts. And to those women, I say, “ROCK ON! Keep being awesome.” But, I stay away from fitspo because I know my past and I know many, many women are the same.
I like to stay in the business of encouragement.