Fitspiration: The good and the bad (and the ugly)

Whether you’re a social media addict or the occasional browser, you most positively have come across accounts, postings, and blogs containing health and fitness information. Thousands of Instagram “celebrities” have jumped on the fitspo train to inspire followers to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Notably, these Instagram accounts are largely marketed towards a young, female following base who are particularly concerned with their body image. These accounts contain images of daily meals, exercise clips, and, most evidently, full body images.

First, I have to say the beauty of modern technology is the ease at which every day people can obtain access to health information. Specifically regarding diet and fitness, this means it’s incredibly easy to find new workout and read current studies on certain foods, nutrition, and dietary guidelines. Sites like MyFitnessPal and Spark People have created a nationwide community of likeminded individuals as well as subsequent technological platforms to help track fitness goals. At a glance, these sites and communication boards are able to provide motivation and support for those who may struggle to initiate self-improvement, or simply want the feeling of being a part of a team.

However, users have to remember the majority of community members do not have a medical background, a degree in dietetics, or a certification in fitness training. What works for some people may not work you.

Everyone’s body is different, and although these sites may provide wonderful opportunities to connect with others, the “right” answers are never obvious. What’s most important is that you remain curious as to what makes your own body and mind feel the best with regards to a workout regimen or food plan.

A trap easy to fall into while browsing the plethora of fitspiration on social media is a vortex of self-criticism. As young adults (or really any age group), we love to compare ourselves to others. It’s far too common to look at a picture of gorgeous woman with washboard abs and flowing hair on a beach and wish it were you.

The reality we sometimes forget is that, no matter what, you will never be that person in the photo. Striving to attain the same exact body composition is just never going to happen.

Our sociocultural standards of beauty, especially feminine beauty, have constructed an unobtainable standard for most of us. The “ideal” body is not one size. It’s whatever size makes you happy and healthy. Self-satisfaction based on comparison will never lead to contentment.

Recently, a seemingly scandalous move was made by Instagram superstar and model Essena O’Neill. This teen with thousands of followers announced the truth behind her seemingly perfect photos and glamorous life. She decided to delete hundreds of pictures and replace captions with real descriptions of what she did before the photo or her true emotions. These include dark confessions about disordered eating, calorie restricting, paid endorsements, and depression.

Her confession provides a powerful exposé of the side of social media that serves as inspiration to others, dictates standards and promotes an ideal. While there is no harm in having idols, it is ever so important to critique the reasons for which we admire individuals. We are too quick to denote merit to those who look “good.” Instead, I encourage you to find inspiration in genuine shared human experiences, words, and stories rather than a pretty picture.

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