Kayla Itsines, Jen Selter, Michelle Lewin — just a few examples of #fitspo Instagram accounts that are supposed to get girls hype to exercise and be healthy. But does it eally work? Are Instagram photos of women with killer physiques actually successful in making people enthusiastic to work out? Or is is potentially harmful for the female psyche? 

A matter of perspective

First, a question: what is the first thing that comes to mind when you look at this photo? I think it's supposed to make me say something like "Wow! She looks great! I want my butt to look like that!" But the reality is quite different—when I look at this photo, it makes me feel bad about myself. It makes me wonder if I should skip hanging out with my friends later to go jogging instead. It makes me worry about the ice cream I ate last night when I was watching a movie.  A far, far cry from inspired, that's for sure. 

The problem

For people like me, who can't get in the zone simply by seeing other people's progress, these fitspo accounts could prove very detrimental. The effects of idealized fitness images are quite damaging: anxiety, depression, and mood swings have been empirically diagnosed amongst college age women. This phenomenon also manifests itself in the minds of young teens and adults.

The original fitspo message was that being muscular and toned was better than the thigh gap. But here's the problem: many women posting fitspo photos that others try to emulate are both skinny and toned, creating a disparity between what is and isn't attainable, as research has shown that being exposed to muscular women is just as negative as being exposed to thin women if the subjects of the photo are both muscular and slim. 

Time matters

Another, more tangible problem with fitspo lies with time. Take Kayla Itsines, for example. Kayla Itsines runs a fitness business focused on getting "bikini body confident", so she makes money by working out, eating healthy, and posting pictures on social media. Obviously, the average woman doesn't have this luxury.

As a busy college student, working out multiple times a day, several hours at a time is just not in the cards for me. People, myself included, tend to forget this when they look at fitspo accounts, so questions such as, "how come they can look like this and I can't?" or "how much time do I have to spend in the gym to look this good?" come to mind. Inevitably, this leads to feeling inadequate, depressed, and frustrated, none of which is good for anyone. 

A 21st century dilemma

Especially in today's society, it is extremely difficult not to give in to the pressure of being perfect and exhibiting literally zero flaws. Newsflash: it's impossible. No one is perfect. The average millennial lives life through a social media filter, and fitspo is just an extension of people trying to look as perfect as possible when, really, it just isn't feasible for most women.

Pretty, unfiltered 

beer, coffee
Anvita Reddy

Not only do I struggle to look at fitspo accounts because I know that looking like the women that post photos is ridiculously unattainable, but also because I know that fitspo accounts cause insecurity amongst women everywhere, therefore not contributing to any sense of female empowerment but instead just making women feel uncomfortable in their own skin.

Fitspo should make people proud of their bodies no matter how they look —being fit should not solely be about how most toned or sexy one is. Instead, it should be about how to be happy and comfortable in one's own skin, which is the real answer to living a fulfilling life.