Fitness columnist Emmet Rushe reveals why 'Fitspiration' Instagram posts can be demotivational, and shares what to do if it makes you feel bad.

Instagram is fast becoming the biggest social networking app for sharing photos and videos.

With its newest features, it is overtaking Snapchat and is predicted to become the leader in this niche by the end of the year.

It already has 700 million monthly users and this is set to grow each month.

As of today, there are 915,713 active #fitness accounts and they are fast becoming the #motivation for people who are into health and fitness.

Images, memes, videos, food, training etc are all shared on a daily basis, with the aim of inspiring others to become healthier.

The official term for it is #fitspiration. 

If you have no idea what ‘Fitspiration’ is, it is the fitness style inspirational ‘memes’ that you will see frequently shared all over Instagram.

These memes are supposed to inspire and also be a call to action for the millions of people on social media.

They are the antidote to the supermodel inspired ‘Thinspiration’ of the 80’s and 90’s.

Fitspiration will have tag lines like;
‘Strong is the new Skinny’
‘Don’t stop until you’re proud’
‘You don’t get the butt you want by sitting on it’ and
‘Obsessed is a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated’

Fitspiration will have pictures of super-hot models with amazing bodies, 6 pack abs, toned arms and thighs.

They will be wearing as little as possible so they can showcase their Goddess like physiques, each one tanned and oiled to within an inch of their perfectly whitened teeth.

It is really Inspirational…..

Or is it?

What makes this so different from the ‘Thinspiration’ that they were trying to dispel?

I’m sure we all know the tagline, ‘Strong is the new skinny’, we have seen it shared on more social media platforms than Instagram alone.

The initial idea was that getting in shape and hitting the gym will be better for your health than endlessly dieting and starving yourself to try and emulate a supermodel’s waif-like appearance.

But somewhere along the way, things have gotten out of hand.

The Fitspiration movement will tell you that they are absolutely about health and they can prove it by the never ending pictures of their meals, smoothies, shakes and gym sessions that they repeatedly post on Instagram.

But is this health, or is it the same obsessive culture as the ‘Thinspiration’ movement in a different package?

When you look at the two movements as a whole, there is very little difference.

No, they are not starving themselves like the models from the 80’s and 90’s, but the same body issues still exist.

Will they like me?
Is this image ‘perfect’ enough?
Why didn’t this image get enough ‘likes’?

Pictures will be filtered, photoshopped, uploaded several times in different manners until it gets the required ‘likes’ that gives social ‘acceptance’ for the user.

When you look through some of the leading Fitspiration Instagram users, it is more like an advertisement for soft-core adult films.

The rules seem to be, wearing as little as possible while either squatting or showcasing your butt to the camera.

This is not just the female accounts, the male accounts are much of the same.

So this brings me back to my original point.

  • Is this inspirational?
  • Have we changed anything in regards to body confidence?
  • Is this inspiring you to get in shape, be healthier and go training?
  • Or is it making you feel bad about yourself?

Instagram is well aware of the issues that can come from using their platform.

Under their Help Centre they have a section on eating disorders and how to get help for it.

Social media is all about being accepted and part of a community.

So let me ask you;

Do you actually feel part of the ‘Fitspiration’ community, or do they make you feel bad about yourself?

We love being associated with these beautiful people but do we secretly hate ourselves for not being more like them?

Do you feel bad about yourself when you scroll down your news feed and see their seemingly perfect bodies and lives?

Here’s a test for you.

Go to the search tab on the app and scroll down.
The images you see are associated with the images you like, follow and look at the most.

Just ask yourself, ‘how is it making me feel’?
And if the answer to that is, ‘Well, I feel really bad about myself and I wish I could look like this’, etc., then that’s really a sign that you need to change who you are following.

You have to remember that the people that you follow the most are probably professionals, whose job it is to be in shape all of the time.

They can’t get out of shape.
They can’t let things get in the way.
They can’t stop what they do, because there are a million others waiting to step in and take their place.

Do you think they are happy all of the time and don’t have an off day?

I can assure you that they do, and probably more than you think.

But you will rarely see this, you will only see the ‘Highlight reel’. But if you saw the full movie, it could disappoint you.

Claire Mysko a director at the National Eating Disorders Association had this to say;

“Finding a community can be a positive thing.”

“And there are a lot of people who are really using social media to promote body positivity, body acceptance and the kinds of messages that we feel are more helpful and healthy for folks.”

” Still, “it’s important to be in tune to how much of it you are looking at and how is it making you feel.” Plus, the beauty of Instagram is that it’s a very visual way to check yourself.”

“If your entire social media feed is filled with dieting and fitness-related messages that might be a signal that you might need to reach out for help or rethink the approach.”

“For some people it can actually be dangerous, and can lead to more extreme behaviour.”

On the flipside, if you yourself have dozens of Instagram followers just waiting for your next fitspo picture, remember your own influence.

It should be about sending messages that are about body acceptance, and body positivity, versus the ‘not good enough until you get here’, or ‘until you reach this goal’ messages that can be gleaned from some pages.

Telling someone ‘don’t stop until you are proud’, might look good as a meme, but the underlying message is that you currently aren’t good enough and you won’t be until you look like me, or the image in the meme.

That is NOT inspirational, and it shouldn’t be given out in a message by anyone.

Some may have gotten inspiration from these and that is great, do what makes you happy and don’t let anyone stop you.

But if Instagram and Fitspiration are doing the opposite to you, just delete it.
Delete the accounts that make you feel bad and start following puppies or funny cats.
Life’s too short and you don’t need an image to ruin your day.