The Dangerous Culture of Fitspo

Most often referred to as “fitspo,” fitspiration is a trend that’s made to encourage and motivate women to appear in physically good shape. Images of muscular female bodies alongside quotes make up a majority of social media fitspo posts. While it was conceived to inspire girls to be strong, fitspiration places a heavy emphasis on appearance and little to none on actual health. Instead of positively reinforcing exercise, fitspo condemns those who don’t compulsively work out.

If you’re starting your health-and-fitness journey, or just need extra motivation, it might seem harmless to look at fitspo posts— but these posts only reinforce an ideal body type. Because the images are often airbrushed or depict hard-core athletes, the body type fitspo promotes is unattainable for most women. In addition, they encourage girls to compare their fitness journeys and measure their success in relation to other people. Fitspo teaches girls that health is determined by image and not actual well-being.   

There are many ways to stay fit without dedicating your life to exercise. Eating a balanced diet is one of them, but fitspo fails to address the importance of nutrition. Not all bodies can withstand a tough workout, and fitspo alienates those who can’t. Placing too much emphasis on exercise can cause girls to do it compulsively— and fitspo makes girls feel guilty when they miss a workout. What might have started as inspiration to exercise can turn into the overwhelming need to burn every calorie that was consumed. All of this can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety about not achieving goals— and actually develop into an eating disorder.

Because we can’t control what other people post on social media, it is up to us to handle what we consume. If your feed is full of fit people and workout videos that’s completely fine— but it’s important to not take other people’s fitness as a sign of your own bad health. No two bodies are alike, therefore no two bodies should be compared together. If other peoples’ posts motivate you to work out and eat a nutritious diet, more power to you, but don’t merely copy their actions. In the end, health and fitness is about you so make adjustments according to how you feel.  

Listen to what your body needs. Don’t exercise as a form of punishment for eating, but do it out of respect for your own body and health. Only do what feels good to you, and stop when you feel like you’ve had enough. Instead of having a finite goal and ideal body in mind, take your health journey day by day and appreciate the positive changes (mentally, not just physically) along the way.