The Fitspo Shit Show: Five Reasons Fitspo Needs to Die

December 10, 2015

Fitspo: Images and/or words designed to inspire individuals to strive for a healthy lifestyle.

Sounds like a great thing, right? In theory, yes! Utilizing pictures, quotes, and phrases to help keep you motivated does sound like a wonderful tool. While the original intent of these images may have been to promote positivity in health and fitness, the truth is that fitspo has veered so far away from promoting healthy lifestyles that some would say it’s more of a case of promoting unhealthy lifestyles.

As a former fitspo admirer, I understand the allure of these images.  I saw bodies I would love to call my own and didn’t give it a second thought. Pin, like, share!

Even if you aren’t offended by these images *personally*, I would encourage you to consider the impact of the recurring themes of fitspo images: over-sexualized bodies, perpetuation of an ideal body type, myths and bullshit, shame and guilt in place of encouragement. Is this a message you’d share with your best friend, sister, or daughter?

Thanks to the viral nature of social media, these images have the ability to spread faster than most moms can say, “get that out of your mouth!” So before you click send, share, tag, repost, or pin, check in and see if that Fitspo image violates any of Healthy Habits Happy Mom’s (or your own) Fitspo pet peeves.

1. That’s NOT a Fact

Fitspo images are rarely created by qualified fitness professionals. Remember, these memes don’t have to pass a BS test before gracing the screens of millions of people.

Unfortunately Fitspo images have a history of perpetuating harmful fitness myths. One of the biggest offenders include variations of, “don’t stop when it hurts” and “pain is weakness leaving the body.”

The truth: everybody has limits. Pain is beyond a little discomfort. Pain is a signal to your body that something is wrong. Ignore those signals, and you’re likely to end up hurt, burnt out, or both.


2. _______ is the New ________

Strong is the new skinny. Sore is the new skinny. Healthy is the new skinny. It’s not what you look like it’s what you can do.

I can appreciate the push towards striving to value our bodies beyond our physical appearance but the truth is, statements like these swap in one ideal for another leaving us with nothing more than what we had before.

The truth: we have a self esteem crisis. People with poor self esteem rely on external feedback to decide how they feel about themselves. We don’t need a new “skinny.” We don’t need to measure ourselves against a body ideal, but nor do we need to measure ourselves against a performance ideal. Cultivating self esteem is about learning that you are enough, as you are without needing to be seen as the thinnest/prettiest/strongest/fittest/healthiest in the room.

In addition, traits like strong, skinny, thin, small, big, and healthy are not necessarily mutually exclusive from one another. You don’t have to be one or the other. You can be both, some of them, or none of them at all. Your body, your choice.

3. No Variety in Fit Bodies

Variety is the spice of life! Search Pinterest or Google for “fitspo” and chances are you’ll find thousands of memes featuring a tan, caucasian, lean, midriff-baring, tight-clothes wearing, head-chopped-off image of a body.

The truth: there is absolutely nothing wrong with that type of body or clothing selection. But I am curious as to where all the other body types are. Bodies come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. When I look around at the women in my community, a very small percent look like, or could ever look like (because genetics) the body featured in many of these memes.



4. Shame, Shame, Shame

It’s not uncommon for fitspo images to use guilt and shame to dig up motivation from viewers. Underlying messages suggests you’re not good enough as is, someone else is working hard(er) towards their goals, and you’re just too lazy, plague Pinterest. Ya know, because it’s not that you can’t. It’s that you won’t. It’s your fault. (I really wish there was a sarcasm font.)

The truth: while using this type of negative motivation can light a fire under the bums of some, using self-loathing and disgust to fuel your fitness is not in the best interest of our long term health. Can you stay angry at yourself long enough to reach your goal? And even if you can, is that how you want to spend your time? You can love yourself now and still strive for change.


5. A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

At first glance some fitspo images might sound like a compliment, something you can get on board with. But upon reading it a second time, you catch a sneaky insult followed close behind.

The truth: these hidden insults drive home an “us vs. them” mentality. We’re right, you’re wrong. My lifestyle choices are awesome, your’s suck. While the affirmation may feel good, there is no denying that it’s still insulting to some. If we need to put someone down to raise ourselves up, well then… We’re just not doing it right. It doesn’t have to be a competition. We can all make *different* choices that best support our lifestyle goals AND be an advocate for other women as well.

As much as I would love to patrol social media for less than awesome fitspo images and erase them from the universe, it’s just not realistic.  What is more realistic is to start and engage in *respectful* dialogue about how we can create a new wave of improved, body-positive, all-inclusive fitspo.  It starts with you.

Are you in?