In today's social media overload, do you find yourself following the profiles of "fitspo stars" who seem to have the most amazing life, running on some exotic beach, bending into unbelievable shapes in a faraway jungle or wiping that bead of sweat off their chiselled abs in a shiny state of the art gym, all the while giving you advice on how to achieve the same results but actually making you feel less secure in your own abilities?
You're not alone. Even those of us who profess to be experts in the field of fitness and who seem to have plenty of confidence in their own skin can fall victim of the insecurities that can come from having an endless stream of "fitspo" clogging up our newsfeeds.
I have been in the fitness industry since 2008 in a variety of roles but have been with Vision Personal Training as a personal trainer (and now multiple studio owner) since 2011. Since coming into the industry in 2008 I have seen a massive rise in participation levels and the general acceptance of exercise and healthy eating in our day to day lives which is of course a positive but I have also seen a rise "competitive fitness posting", the gym selfies, the gym check-ins with a little paragraph detailing the training plan or PBs achieved, the progress photos or photos of the green smoothie for breakfast all broadcast to the masses on social media. This increase in competitive fitness posting has been in direct relation with the rise in the celebrity status given to those who seem to be able to create the best photos or taglines or hashtags.
During my time in the industry I have battled with my weight and my self-confidence issues have only become magnified by following these fitspo stars on social media. I am a healthy weight, I am strong and fitter than the average person, I can run marathons and participate in triathlons and I enjoy a balanced diet where everything is in moderation and I have a successful career and happy marriage. So, I would be the last person you would think would fall victim to feelings of insecurity and anxiety due to the fitspo images, but I, just like many others, did.
In late 2014 I decided to properly start using Instagram. I have had an account since late 2012 but really used it. So, when I decided to start using it, I obviously started following all of the big names and faces of the fitness industry. The more I followed the more obsessed I became. I would trawl through the dozens of images and profiles of the fitspo stars for at least an hour before bed and I would eventually go to sleep feeling so inadequate that I could not understand why I owned a successful fitness business, why were people paying me to help them achieve their health and fitness when I didn't have a perfect six pack or didn't have a following of hundreds of thousands of people? I started to become obsessed with the cleanliness of my food. My Nutri Bullet was my best friend and it was even packed into my suitcase (along with kitchen scales, body weight scales and little bags of protein power) when I went to visit my parents in Queensland for Christmas. I food shamed my friends and family and lectured them on what was in their food, all the while stressing about how I was going to eat at my friend's wedding. I bought umpteen dozen "clean eating" cook books in a bid to again compete on how good a wife I was, baking clean goodies for my husband and posting the finished products to Instagram when I was done. This went on for months but it wasn't until one night I realized I was nauseated by my feelings of inferiority and all of the competitive posting was making me feeling stressed, anxious and was the complete opposite to the image I actually wanted to display to the world. In one moment of enlightenment I realized that the fitspo movement was making me unhealthy and I had to make a change. I had to stop using Instagram and un follow anyone who made me feel less than acceptable.
As I put distance between myself and this short episode in my life, I began to reflect on how these images, sayings and endless tips from these fitness celebrities made me feel and how if they could make someone who knows a thing or two about health and fitness doubt themselves and their choices, what damage could they be doing to the general public?
I know that these fitness celebrities are trying to do the right thing, that their motivation for postings these images and quotes come from a good place, a place where they want to help and inspire people to be a better version of themselves, but really are the creating a culture of insecurity?
Since coming to my senses, I have stopped making green smoothies and no longer look in the mirror and see every flaw, I eat healthy food but don't obsess about it and I exercise to make me feel good not to get a 6 pack. I have started following travel blogs, some professional athletes and fashion experts, things that make me feel happy not worthless. I do not follow any fitness celebrities anymore and although I appreciate the time and effort it takes them to create the perfect Insta image I now know that behind every perfect photo there is hours of extreme work and many other photos that would be deemed unusable. I respect what they do but have come to realize that for some it may be empowering but for many it is intimidating and either may be creating an unhealthy relationship with eating and exercise or turning them off it completely.
So, who do you follow on your social media channels? Do they empower you and make you feel inspired and awesome or do they intimidate you and make you feel unworthy and anxious? If you fall into the latter category make a change now, un follow anyone who doesn't make you feel amazing and realize that by living a balanced, healthy and fit life with a few treats and lazy days thrown in for good measure you are living what I like to call "real human fitspo" and should wear that loud and proud!
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