The Dangers of Fitspiration
Obesity is an epidemic. It’s putting a huge strain on an already crumbling healthcare system, the newspapers can never make up their mind about what’s good or bad for you, and documenting the obese has practically become its own genre of weeknight television. We are constantly being reminded of the nation’s growing waistlines, whether we are overweight or not. So, when the new craze of ‘fitspiration’ came about, at first it seemed like a great thing. Fitspiration is encouraging us to eat well, exercise and treat your body like it deserves to be treated. It all seemed wonderful, until you realise that just like with news about obesity, you can’t escape it. Fitspiration is everywhere; your old school friends have suddenly become expert nutritionists, or worse, Juice Plus representatives. Instagram is full of sports bras and Nike trainers… and don’t even get me started on Pinterest. Fitspiration has become an epidemic in itself and whilst it may seem like a good thing, it does have its downsides.
A Doorway To Obsession
When I was sixteen, I fell into the dark and deadly world of thinspiration. I became obsessed: I would spend hours and hours scrolling through Tumblr desperately wishing to be one of those skinny girls I saw in the photos. They told me that I wasn’t good enough, that I could always try harder to lose weight and, if I pushed myself, I could do it. Fast forward seven years later and I’m seeing the same words, just different photos. Obviously, people are going to argue that fitspiration is encouraging people to work out to become strong and fit, not thin, and encouraging people to eat well instead of not eating at all. However, what happens when those vulnerable people who were exposed to thinspiration are now exposed to another world of competition and discipline? Another world where they are told to be better and to try harder and to push their bodies to the very limits?
Those suffering, or recovering, from an eating disorder, body dysmorphic disorder or those who have low self-esteem are being exposed to a world that tells you that you are not good enough. There are no excuses in the world of fitspiration – you can’t have an excuse to not work out, and if you do, you’re lazy. Is this what we do now? Have we become so absorbed in the world of squat challenges and spin classes that we guilt trip those that aren’t? Recovering from an eating disorder is hard enough, but having people on your Facebook sharing photos that make you feel like shit because you haven’t worked out in a week makes it so much harder.
The Unnoticed Result
Some of you may remember when the media got wind of the thinspiration movement and how much outrage this caused. While I’m not saying we should be equally as shocked and outraged at the fitspiration movement, I feel that we should approach it with more caution than we have been. As I have mentioned before, fitspiration is everywhere and is not hard to find at all, so how do we know who’s viewing it? When it comes to issues regarding body image, teenagers are the most vulnerable, and with the obsession with being fit being plastered all over media both online and offline, this can have a knock on effect to the many teenagers struggling with low self-esteem.
An article was published last year reporting that boys as young as ‘ten or eleven’ were suffering from muscle injuries due to the use of Creatine. Creatine, a bulking supplement, should not be taken by anyone under the age of eighteen and is constantly being monitored by scientists because they don’t know the full extent of its side effects. How is this any different to an eleven year old girl going on a diet because she thinks she’s fat? Fitspiration, like thinspiration, encourages dangerous behaviour. For example, I found one piece of fitspiration that said “Obsessed is what lazy people call dedicated”, which is all sorts of wrong. Obsessive behaviour in terms of healthy eating and exercise is one of the main symptoms of an eating disorder and should not be promoted in any way.
The way eating disorders are presented and the preconceptions people have about eating disorders means that many people who are suffering from eating disorders go unnoticed. What I mean by this is when you think of eating disorders, you think of a dangerously thin young woman, not that guy at the gym who can lift more than you. But that guy at the gym could be taking dangerous steroids in an attempt to get bigger, he could have lost all his friends because he stopped going out with them, or failed his degree because he quit going to lectures in favour of the gym. Those suffering from eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes, and we shouldn’t be ignoring the symptoms just because “they look fine”. Though fistpiration doesn’t always openly promote obsessive behaviour, the language the quotes use says otherwise. In fact, many of the quotes can also be found in thinspiration. Fitspiration encourages people to stop at nothing to achieve the body they desire, and sometimes, though not always, those people will go to extreme lengths to do so.
So, fitspiration might not be as great as it first seemed, and there are people fighting against it. StopFitspiration is a movement that dismantles the motivational posters, and makes you see how truly ridiculous they are. Fitspiration should be approached with caution, and people should be aware of the dangers. But then, what do I know? According to one poster “only losers complain”.
Does ‘fitspiration’ inspire you, or simply make you feel worse about yourself? Let us know in the comments.