Being fit requires dedication, consistency, frequent goal-setting resets, and patience; all of us who are regulars at they gym, on the courts, or on the trails know that some days, you're just not into it — so it makes sense to want to inspire yourself, to get some free motivation. Visual cues, including quotes that get you going, or a shot of your fave celebrity working out can push you to go further, harder (or just get off the couch), right?
A new Web phenomenon, fitspiration, is exactly that; visuals that encompass great bodies, motivational phrases and more. But if you look a little closer, plenty of the images shown actually look like thinspiration (the now widely banned practice of posting superskinny images of bodies to keep from eating).
Are fitspiration boards and tumblrs really just thinspiration in disguise? And can they be just as harmful? Studies have shown that thinspiration boards, which are frequented by anorexics and other eating disordered folks, can also cause healthy people to feel poorly about their body image.
“A lot of these things are very reasonable — they say things like ‘Just start,’” David LaPorte, a psychologist at Indiana University of Pennsylvania who has studied body image and social media told Today Health. “Or, I love this one: ‘Failure isn’t falling down; it’s refusing to get back up.’ The trouble is when you surround all those good messages with images of people that are unattainable for most women, quite frankly,” he says.
When LaPorte pulled up two Pinterest pages (one that's thinspiration, the other fitspiration) he says, “There are very, very subtle differences, but they look, for all intents and purposes, identical,” says LaPorte.
Body image is a tricky place to play with personal perception: the images we look at can dramatically change how we feel about ourselves. And images shouldn't be used to shame ourselves into doing a workout. Through experience I have learned that positive reinforcement is always the best way to motivate oneself, and to keep on track. While looking at images of a woman with a completely flat stomach might seem like just what you need to start some sit-ups, it's probably because you are ashamed of your stomach not looking like that. So instead of working out so you that will feel great afterwards, because it feels good to move, because you know it will boost your immunity, lower your stress levels and help you sleep better, exercise is motivated by first feeling badly about yourself. Not good.
Is all fitspo bad? Certainly not. “(Fitspiration) does contain some good advice and healthy recipes, but that can veil the hidden negative and potentially harmful messages such as ‘Exercise til it hurts,’” psychologist Mia Holland told Today Health. “If someone sees the positive information listed ... they will be swayed to think all of (fitspiration) is positive and helpful – when in fact, it is not.”
Related on MNN:
- Pinterest bans thinspiration and other pro-anorexia images from site
- Do health-tracking apps spur risk-taking?