Surviving #fitspo on social media
Maybe it’s because I’m raising a little girl. Maybe it’s because for the past couple of years I’ve been working really hard on loving myself – and therefore my body – exactly the way I am. Maybe it’s simply because it’s everywhere and it’s hard not to think about something when it’s constantly in your face.
But lately, I find myself thinking a lot about the influence of social media and ‘fitspo’ – the so called trend of inspiring others to eat and exercise in a healthy way. All health bloggers/instagrammers fall into this category in some way, I think, if we’re posting pics of healthy meals on instagram and encouraging you to try our recipes. But true fitspo focuses more on the exercise angle, and particularly the physical results of a healthy diet and exercise on your body. The emphasis is on physical transformation and as much as fitspo influencers will tell you they’re there to promote self love and acceptance, the movement has produced some dangerous trends that have become so normal, we’ve trained ourselves to turn a blind eye to their triggers and instead accept them as modern day guidelines.
How many times have you opened your instagram feed to scroll through pics of your ‘inspirations’ where 90% of them are in a bikini or very skimpy workout clothes? Hair and makeup is done, body is on point as they work those angles like a pro, background is either exotic or very industrious, like a fancy studio in a gym.
We all know by now that instagram isn’t real. Many social studies have been done and articles written on the negative impact it has on our psyche to be surrounded by images and content that create an unobtainable ideal. Yet so often we still follow people who, despite their declarations of body positivity and messages of uplifting their communities, actually just make us feel like we don’t measure up.
Men and women are affected by this almost equally these days, but there is still no one more vulnerable than the teenage girl thinking she has to be skinny to matter. I was terrified of having a girl, because I knew long before Lexi was born that this was the world I would bring her into. A world where her jeans size defines her success and her selfies decide her self worth. Initially I wanted a boy, because I was so afraid of negotiating this minefield that not even I, as a nearly 39 year old, have all figured out. How do I guide her through a world of illusion, especially once my influence as her mom becomes all but vaporous echoes in her ear?
It haunted me before she was born and it haunts me now. Before we get to that point, we both still have a lot of growing up to do. It’s up to me to learn the skills now that will make the difference for her later, and that’s why it occupies a lot of my thoughts.
That’s why you will never see me post a bikini selfie. It’s why I don’t allow conversations in my house about ‘feeling fat’ or associations of guilt with food. It’s why I unfollowed just about every single fitness account on instagram and now only follow inspiring bloggers who post vegan recipes that I want to make. Inside tip: none of them post bikini selfies.
It’s so easy for us to get sucked into a spiral where we feel less than and social media is at times an insidious, pervasive culture of that. However, things are changing. The body positivity and diversity movement is spreading across barriers we thought it could never jump (hello, Fashion Week!). I hold out hope that by the time Lexi is a tween she will face a different world, one that has continued to make major strides in acceptance of all shapes and sizes. But I’m not naive – fitspo in some form will always be there, and instagram or something like it will always be seducing innocents with its lies.
Knowing this keeps me having honest conversations with myself about my intentions with my blog and the intentions of influencers that I am inspired by. Being real in a largely fake world is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.