A few months ago, I wrote about Tumblr banning thinspiration sites from their service in order to prevent users who use images of extremely thin women to encourage each other to lose weight. Now sites like Tumblr and Pinterest are looking into whether or not Fitspiration should be banned as well.
If you aren’t familiar, fitspiration sites use images of extremely fit men and women with inspirational phrases to help motivate the person looking at the image to get fit. The men and women in these photos are always very thin and muscular; they’re usually surgically and/or digitally enhanced, tanned, and oiled up. Nine times out of ten, the image focuses on a single part of the body like the abs or the butt. Essentially saying that the true mark of health is a six-pack or rock hard glutes. If you’re on Pinterest, these images are pretty much unavoidable as they’re very popular. Now don’t get me wrong, anything that motivates you to get out of bed, get moving and to eat better is great, but are these images motivating you to be active in a good way or are they shaming you into working out? Are these images just another form of thinspiration?
Just like thinspiration, the bodies in these images are still unattainable, unrealistic images. A lot of these images come from advertisements from the likes of Nike, Reebok and Lululemon. While these ads may look empowering with their motivational “Go For It!” sayings, but the women in these images are fitness models who spend hours a day working on their bodies. That’s not a realistic goal for the majority of people who have other things going on in their lives besides exercise. If you’re aware that what you’re looking at or “pinning” is essentially an advertisement, that’s fine, but these images and “pins” are seen and repinned by young women and men who may not know any better.
I think being healthy and working out is an important goal for anyone. But I firmly believe that shaming people by making them think that there is one ideal of health and beauty, as fitspiration so often does, is ineffective in providing long term motivation. It also perpetuates the idea that we’re only as good as our bodies look. Someone may look at a picture of a beautiful body and be inspired to go jogging, but the motivation has nothing to do with achieving a higher level of cardiovascular health and everything to do with turning their body into something worth looking at. I’ve had friends argue that if the end result is the same — a healthier body — then what difference does it make? I guess if you’re happy to achieve the “success” of a fit body while sacrificing the longer benefits that come from an inherently motivated exercise routine, I guess it’s not really a problem. But if you hope to achieve a balance in emotional and physical health, it would be more useful to begin by ending the body shaming that can come from the so called “fitspiration.”
We live in a society where we’re constantly being bombarded with images telling us that our bodies represent our value and place in the world. I can’t tell anyone what they should and shouldn’t be motivated by. I can only make that choice for myself, but I’d like to encourage you to think about the media that is put in front of you by others via websites like Tumblr and Pinterest. Think twice about whether or not it is truly motivational or if it’s actually damaging to your mind, body and spirit.