I’ve been thinking for a while now about what we see as ‘fitspiration’, especially when it comes to measuring our goals and successes online.
My views on selfies have always been mixed. While I don’t like the way that our culture has normalised this particular breed of narcissism (plus I need serious help when it comes to posing ‘naturally’), I have mild respect for those who can pull off their own self-styled photoshoots without caring about disapproving bystanders. The only time I can confidently whip out my phone for one is if I’m amongst other tourists committing similar crimes or safely in the comfort of my own home.
‘Fitspirational’ selfies, on the other hand, are a different kettle of fish. Because seeing people’s faces scrolling through your social feeds can be nice (if not a bit repetitive sometimes!), whereas seeing a headless shot of tanned, washboard abs – well that can bring all sorts of negative emotions to the surface. Shame. Envy. Unworthiness. Guilt. Not being good enough… you get the gist.
There’s a new app on the marketplace which lets you share your fitness progress through ‘healthy selfies’ where a dedicated community provides support and encouragement for one another through uploading and interacting with each others fitspo efforts. I understand that for some taking photos to measure progress really works to achieve your desired results, but I wonder whether the public nature of this will only fuel ugly competition and insecurities? I’ve read a few horror stories from bloggers who have become addicted to apps such as ‘My Fitness Pal’ which are all too quick to remind you of your failures to keep on track.
I’m incredibly lucky to feel comfortable in my body, despite not being a size 8 (which I think is a size 4 in America?!) After years of feeling like I wasn’t slim or toned enough, I’ve accepted that I’ll probably stay this shape for the rest of my life, and that’s more than fine with me. But even so, there’s still the occasional annoying niggle and hang-up that we all – including men! – get from time to time.
It may be wonderfully empowering for people to share their body transformations, but what about the thousands who feel like they’re not living up to this expectation? An expectation to go to the gym every single day, to “eat clean”, to get #strongnotskinny. ‘Fitspo’ accounts can perpetuate those negative niggles to varying degrees, and we’ve heard in the media how vulnerable women and especially eating disorder sufferers are to this kind of imagery.
Which is why I’ve unfollowed all of the ‘fitspiration’ accounts that tended to pop up on days when I’d skipped the exercise. I must say, it felt liberating! So much so, I’d encourage you to do the same – and if you need any more reason to, I’d recommend having a read of this blog post by my friend and fellow health blogger, Mel Wells.
There are lots of people making a daily commitment to eat healthier and exercise more, which is fantastic. But it can be hard work when you’ve got a full time job, a social life and loved ones sweet-talking you into falling off the wagon. A lot of these people are not posting their results and achievements online, because they’re just getting on with it, accepting the cheat days & takeaways as they come. And that’s the reality we should be seeing more of on social media.
To stop this being a rant-fuelled post, I’ll end on a more positive note! There are still lots of GREAT fitness bloggers and online personalities who genuinely do inspire me, because they aren’t merely showing off their own successes, but helping to motivate all types of bodies to move more for a happier, healthier life. I know the campaign ‘This Girl Can’ has already been widely praised by all of the internet, but for me it makes the empowering statement that we should all be joining in with. That if I can do this, you can too.