“Fitspo,” or “fitspiration” as it is known in full, is an adaptation of the less socially accepted, “thinspiration,” or “thinspo.” Thinspiration is a slang term used to describe using images of very thin people, typically women, in order to motivate yourself to lose weight. The thinspiration fad is closely associated with eating disorders and those who promote eating disorders.
While thankfully the thinspo trend has begun to die down, fitspo has quickly been taking its place. Fitspo is a moniker employed to describe using images of active, fit people, often accompanied with motivational phrases, used to inspire yourself to be both healthy and in shape. Sound familiar?
Despite the rather amiable goals of fitspo, it has grown to become just as dangerous and unhealthy as its forerunner. I believe that fitness blogger, Charlotte Hilton Anderson was really on point when she referred to fitspo as “thinspo in a sports bra.”
1. Fitspo Promotes Unrealistic Standards
When you look at images of fitspo, you are constantly comparing yourself to impossible standards. This is how fitspo works in essentially the same exact way as thinspo does. People often think that because they are comparing themselves to an image of someone who is fit or in shape, rather than just skinny, it makes the comparison a healthy form of motivation. However, the bodies used in these images are often unrealistically thin and generally are retouched with photoshop.
Contrary to the popular misconception about fitspo, comparing yourself to a certain body type is both unhealthy and unsafe. The bodies that we are striving to achieve when we look to fitspo for inspiration are ones that have been chosen because they already have an idealized image of physical beauty. No amount of exercise or healthy eating will change your body entirely. It’s great to strive for a healthier life and body, but it is important to understand that the same diet and exercise will shape your body differently than it is going to shape someone else’s.
2. Fitspo Can Trigger Eating Disorders
Not so shockingly, fitspo has been known to trigger eating disorders. While fitspo does encourage people to eat well and exercise often, this easily leads to a demonization of food and to abuse of exercise when your goals are not met right away.
Fitspo makes people believe that in order to be fit, you must never eat any unhealthy food. This, of course, can serve as a trigger for some of the more common eating disorders, like anorexia or bulimia, but also largely leads to cases of orthorexia.
Orthorexia is a lesser-known eating disorder associated with an obsession with healthy eating. The disorder typically begins with a regular devotion to keeping up a healthy diet, but soon turns to an unhealthy preoccupation. This infatuation leads to a damaged quality of life and ultimately puts the victim’s health at serious risk, as they reject most foods that they do not see fit to consume.
3. Fitspo Shames More Than It Motivates
It might be easy to tell ourselves that fitspo is simply encouraging us to be the best we can, but the truth of the matter is that fitspo works by straight up shaming people who aren’t perfect. Images like the one above make people feel like eating one slice of cake is equivalent to skipping a week of workouts. The truth is that these messages are more degrading and heinous than inspirational and lead to the eating disorders mentioned before, along with many other potential health and mental problems.
4. Fitspo Changes Your Perception of What Healthy People Look Like
Since fitspo promotes a certain body type, barren of any ample variation, we begin to believe that this, and only this, is what a healthy body should look like. In reality, you can be healthy and not have a six pack or buns of steel. Healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes and no one is built in the exact same way. Even if you do have astonishingly well-sculpted abs, they will look different than the photos you’ve been glorifying as the mecca for all healthy bodies.
This altered perception leads only to disappointment. When you aren’t able to shape your body to look exactly like these photos, you being to feel like a failure and this can only lead to low self-esteem and further propagate risk for the previously mentioned eating disorders.
5. Fitspo Ignores Other Areas of Health
The goal of fitspo is to encourage people to become more fit and active and work towards a healthier self. However, it often encourages this only in the terms of a person’s physical body.
Health goes much deeper than what can be seen through the numbers on a scale or in a revealing photo. Good health in its entirety includes your mental, emotional and spiritual self, as well as your physical self. Not only does fitspo commonly disregard these other areas of health but it frequently causes detriment to them as well. The feelings of failure to achieve your goals and the proliferation of eating disorders only lead to a less healthy life.
Many of us, including myself, have fallen for the deceitful nature of fitspo. What seems like innocent motivation to get the extra push you need, can quickly turn into an unhealthy obsession. When searching for motivation, be mindful of what you are exposing yourself to and remember to create your own personal benchmark for health and fitness.