Fitness inspiration – motivational or harmful?

Eat clean Source: Get Fit Inspiration

Does looking at this photo above inspire you to go to the gym and work out?

Fitspo – which is short for fitness inspiration – is about posting or viewing photos that inspire people to get fit. An example would be the photo above, which shows fit women doing some form of exercise and tends to be accompanied by motivational words such as “Strong is the new skinny” or “Enjoy your pain. You’ve earned it.”

tumblr_mainrxWunN1rg4bp7o1_500 Source: Get Fit Inspiration

I personally enjoy trawling Tumblr blogs that post these photos. Just looking at this back bend photo makes me feel like hopping into my gym clothes and dashing out for a hot yoga class.

Source: P-ointe Shoes

Look at those lines! If only my legs did this!

However, I’ve come across a couple of dissenting views online about fitspo. The argument is that all these images of fit women present an unrealistic goal for ordinary people, may encourage eating disorders and fuels an unhealthy obsession with how the ideal body should look.

“If you do not have rock hard chiseled abs, the right workout outfit, etc., you are not good enough until you do. These advertisers will make sure you know that, because their profit depends on your wallet and your beliefs about yourself. They’ll make sure you know you must work for “it” every second. Of every day. For the rest of your life.” – Beauty Redefined

First of all, I don’t think it’s unrealistic to look fit. Save for people with medical conditions, anybody can look like that if they work hard. I’m sure these people spend a few hours in the gym or ballet studio daily to get the body they want. It’s just that most of us don’t have time or can’t be bothered. There is nothing wrong with that. I would rather go out with my friends and eat 800 calories worth of yummy food and laugh over dinner than work out for two hours in the gym. Now this is my choice not to work out but it doesn’t mean that I cannot have well-defined abs if I wanted to.

The argument that it encourages eating disorders may be a more relevant argument as different people are react differently to such images. Just because I won’t starve myself doesn’t mean that someone else won’t. That being said, if you starve yourself, you are not going to get a fit body, are you? Furthermore, it’s very rare to come across a fitness blogger who moans about restrictive eating. Most of them believe in clean eating, which is eating fresh produce and avoiding processed food. Some of them are even following the paleo diet. Now if that is not healthy, I don’t know what is.

The third criticism against fitspo – that it encourages an unhealthy body image – is probably the most relevant. If the images inspire you to take a hike in the park, try out a new dance class or sign up for crossfit, then that’s wonderful. But if the images create feelings of inadequacies in you, then clearly it’s better if you don’t look at them.

I believe that the ultimate message of fitspo blogs and photos is that fitness is something we should all work towards. It takes hard work, which includes clean eating and time devoted to exercising, but it is achievable if we want to pursue it. I think this ties in nicely with the paleo lifestyle as well, which aims for peak health by taking an interest in what we put in our bodies and what we do with our bodies.

I leave you here with a picture of US footballer Brandi Chastain celebrating her team’s victory over China in the 1999 Women’s World Cup.

Brandi Chastain

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