Stop Fitspiration!

Fitspiration:  These are images or messages that rather than promoting exercise to improve health instead “..equate exercise with ‘perfecting’ one’s body – contributing to negative body image and compulsive exercising behaviours.”  Lauren Bersaglio, creator of #StopFitspiration, founder Libero Network.

#StopFitspiration:  A project “..to bring awareness to the harm of fitspiration messages and to offer support for those recovering from exercise addiction while providing information and tips for a more healthy, balanced, and body positive approach to fitness.”

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We all need a little motivation or inspiration to get moving and do healthy stuff.  The fitness industry knows this and even has its own term for it – Fitspiration.  I know you’ve seen them.

It started out innocent enough as quotes offering encouragement for those that need it. Done right and you’re uplifted, motivated and exercising to improve your health.  I used to love these images and shared them with my clients to inspire healthy lifestyles and choices.  After all, I’m about guiding people to achieve improved health and quality of life.

As with everything in an industry where more is better, it went extreme.  After that, my opinion of fitspiration changed.

Now the messages are, for example, “I don’t stop when I’m tired, I stop when I’m done.”  Or “Unless you puke, faint, or die, keep going”.  Often accompanied by pictures of scantily clad, glistening female torsos in a provocative pose.   Somehow, looking a certain way has become synonymous with being healthy and the message is getting confused, sexualised and driving many to aim for unattainable ideals while promoting poor self-esteem along the way.

If you throw up from working out, is this really healthy? If you’re beyond exhausted and every part of your body is telling you you’re tired and you really should stop, shouldn’t you listen? How did it become so accepted that we must suffer for our health?

Not all fitness inspiration fits this category, some messages encourage health but if you’re cool, you’ll know that hardcore is the way to go and fluffy health-promoting messages just don’t cut it.

Global conglomerates love fitspiration, dressing up advertisements as motivational messages to get us to buy their stuff. But are they just making us feel inadequate, depressed and ugly?  The obvious solution is to buy their stuff and feel better.  If these images cause me to feeling inadequate, depressed and ugly and I’m a fit 30-something working in the health industry, what does it do to the next person?

You would have thought 20 years after Naomi Wolf emphasised the oppression of women through society’s focus on appearance and the pressures to conform to an ideal body type we’d be over this sort of thing, yet this attitude persists causing a whole new generation of young people to obsess with how they look sometimes at the expense of their health.

It isn’t just women who are subject to these pressures to chase the ideal body anymore, males are propping up an exploding supplement industry, striving to be ‘shredded’ and ‘ripped’.   What is all this doing to our health – physically, mentally and emotionally?  How far can we be pushed to attain the ideal look?

Wolf wrote 33,000 American women told researchers they would rather lose 10-15 pounds than achieve any other goal.  This can’t have changed much in the last 20 years except that women (and now men) have higher expectations to conform to even more unrealistic ideals held up by media and society and represented on screens and in print.

I’m all for health, being a healthy weight and looking after yourself, but if your biggest goal in life above anything else is to lose 10-15 pounds we really need to consider our perceptions, values and the things that shape them.  It is not OK that we never seem happy with our bodies, but it isn’t our fault either.

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