We’ve all seen photos of toned fitness influencers on our Instagram feeds; in fact, some of us may count ourselves as part of that muscular social media community.
Almost every “fitspo,” or fitspiration photo, comes captioned with either an encouraging quote, a step-by-step routine on how to perform a certain exercise or a link to where you can learn said exercise.
For some, fitspo accounts are a great way to find healthy (and photogenic) meals to make at home. The acai bowls and smoothie recipes that most social media workout gurus share are accessible and easy for followers to recreate, because they’re not made by professional chefs. It’s in the captions and the ‘links in bio’ that many find the inspiration to live healthier and more body positive lives.
Maddy, an 18-year-old senior in high school, says that although she sometimes feels jealous of their figures, she also realizes, “that it’s their job to maintain that type of body [and] eat healthy. It’s a goal of mine to look like [them], but a lot of times I don’t give myself too hard of a time because I know that we are all unique.”
However, other times fitness posts can make people want to click unfollow. Personally, I know it’s easy to look at all the tan, toned bodies on the Explore page and start to feel defeated or self-conscious. As much as I’ve tried to force myself to let go of my own body hang-ups and celebrate, rather than envy, all different body types, I still sometimes find myself feeling insecure after scrolling through Instagram.
According to an article on Huffington Post, many other women find themselves in a constant battle with comparing their own diets, exercise routines, and bodies with those of the women they see on Instagram. In a small study on women looking at fitspiration posts, it was found that women who consumed more fitspo posts, rather than posts about travel, reported “greater body dissatisfaction and lower self-esteem after the experiment.”
Natalie, an 18-year-old student at Boston University, feels similarly; she says that when she looks at fitspo accounts, she feels “inspired in a bad way.”
She goes on, “I think they make me feel more guilty for not being [as fit] and that makes me feel bad and want to change, but then when I don’t, they make me feel worse for not being able to.”
There’s also a serious lack of diversity among fitspo accounts. A close friend — Cal, 19 — once commented on how he had never seen fitspo “from anyone that isn’t already conventionally attractive and skinny.” Another friend shared that they have a hard time finding people to follow who aren’t already ultra-fit, and aren’t aiming for unrealistic or unhealthy body standards.
“When I started to value my fitness more, I think I followed too many accounts that gave me an unrealistic body expectation and made me feel awful about myself,” explained, an 18-year-old student at Evergreen College. “I try and find accounts that started where I started, and ended up at a goal I feel I can achieve in time.”
Fitspiration is a peak into someone else’s health regimen, but it’s not the end all be all for what will work for everyone. It’s important to remember to prioritize health and practice body positivity. Do you like looking at fitspo accounts? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments how fitspo makes you feel.
Cover image courtesy of Getty Images.