The danger of fitspiration

My days, do I love a good inspirational quote. Mae West, Helen Keller, Gandi – I bow my raspberry beret to you and your wisdom. Sometimes, just a few chosen words can brighten a day.

The presence of Tumblr means it’s easier than easier than ever to share nuggets of wisdom, usually written on an arty black-and-white Polaroid shot of a sunset. I’m fully amenable to it (in moderation).

A branch of this is “fitspiration” – exercise-focused positivity designed to make you go for that run/eat healthier/subscribe to that fitness class. Whether you’re a gym bunny or not, you’ve probably seen trickles of it on Twitter:

“Your beach body starts now”; “Ain’t nobody got time for fat”; “Strong is the new sexy”.

Let’s get something straight – being healthy is great. Being fit, strong and toned is great. Being proud of yourself for exercising is great. And if motivational fitness quotes work for you, good times, there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

But as fitspiration (otherwise known as “fitspo”) increases in popularity, I question whether it’s actually being used in a healthy way.

There is a fine line between commitment and obsession, and I can’t help but feel “fitspo” echoes the behaviour of “thinspiration” – recording every meal eaten, every squat completed, every press-up achieved. Sure, if you’re an expert personal trainer/professional nutritionist/sports science expert, this can be important.

But if you’re a mere ‘normal’ adult with certain insecurities (like me, you, and probably most of society), fitspiration can trigger unhealthy behaviours. Especially when it alludes to your self-worth being defined by how many times you went to the gym this week.

Suddenly, the new perfect body type is dictated to us in one handy hashtag – #strongnotskinny. Being skinny isn’t “in” anymore – now we need rock-hard abs and Kim Kardiashian’s curvy gluts. If “skinny isn’t sexy”, then sorry all naturally lean girls, but you’re not good enough anymore.

It leaves me cold.

Firstly, stating the obvious – skinny and healthy are not mutually exclusive.

But more worryingly, women are once again told that worth is valued on image. Hey there! Here’s another reason to feel inferior about yourself and your life… you don’t have a six-pack! Haha!

Since when was it OK for society [or more accurately, our social network peers] to dictate what the ‘perfect’ body shape was? Since when did we start feeling guilty for ‘indulging’ in a ‘naughty’ chocolate bar? Since was body-shaming anyone with body fat an acceptable pastime?

Of course, eating nutritiously is hugely important. Maintaining a healthy body weight is hugely important. Getting regular exercise is hugely important.

But personally, I want to do these things for my own well-being and mine alone. As tempting as it is to get sucked into what “perfection” is, I refuse to fixate on whether I’ve done enough squats to give my arse the ‘right’ amount of curvature (whatever that might be, answers on a postcard).


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