My Views on Fitspiration

This morning, I did a Tone It Up leg and booty workout and then 30 minutes of advanced strength power yoga.  I had my coffee about an hour earlier, so I was buzzing with energy, which is usually not the case. On weekdays, I do my workouts after work (because who wants to be getting up any earlier? 6.30 is torture enough for me) and am ridiculously tired and not in the mood to sweat it out at all.

Which is why I often take a look at the fitspiration Instagram accounts I follow, to get my energy and motivation up. And yes, I admit it: thinking "this is really good for my health" is sometimes less effective than imagining myself on the beaches of Sorrento on my honeymoon this summer, looking kick-ass amazing. That's the power of fitspo.

After passionately hating the horrifying and disgusting thinspiration trend, I felt relieved and empowered when thinspo's refreshingly healthy cousin, fitspo, came along. It seemed like a great new wave, inspiring women to be strong and take care of their bodies. And "Strong is the New Skinny"? I was 100% subscribing to that. Powerful, strong and confident as a new beauty ideal? Hell yeah!

So when I heard some women's criticism on fitspo as potentially harmful, I disagreed at first. How can encouraging people to work out be bad? With the obesity statistics looking the way they do, we all need to get fit, and FAST (I stand by thinking that "ortorexia" and the like are much less of a problem in society than the very dangerous complications that can be caused by overweight). Being dangerously underweight is unhealthy, no doubt about it. But while having a muscular body is no guarantee of health, obesity is an actual disease, just like anorexia and bulimia. And hey, photos of muscular girls in bikinis are much healthier than photos of dangerously skinny girls in bikinis, right?

Well, right and wrong. While I still use fitspiration very much myself and agree that promoting what can be defined as a healthy-looking body is definitely to prefer over pushing extremely skinny or overweight women as "ideal", I've also discovered that fitspo has an ugly side. Here are just a few of the quotes I've recently read:

Your body tells you it's tired. Your mind should tell you to keep going.
Granted, if we gave up every time we felt "tired", nobody would ever work out. But still, telling someone to keep going when their body screams NO is just a terrible idea and can result in injury. Plus, why are we making our own body the enemy? Isn't your body the very reason you're doing this? Shouldn't you be treating it with love and respect?

You will regret eating that cookie. You will not regret running those laps.
Something I really can't stand is that ugly correlation between exercise and food. Why do they have to be linked together all the time? No, I don't "deserve" a cookie any more after a workout, and having been to the gym does not make it "okay" to have fries (the fact that I WANT fries makes it okay to have fries!). And hell no, I won't regret eating that cookie! I might regret eating a whole jar, but nobody has time to sit and regret eating one damn cookie.

Squat like there are three guys behind you.
Just creepy. On every front (and back).

Girls that are born skinny are lucky. Girls who have to fight to be skinny are strong.
Oh so we're back on skinny again? Wasn't strong the new skinny? And newsflash: even "girls that are born skinny" should work out. FOR THEIR HEALTH. As should you, instead of "fighting" your natural body shape. Plus, I hate that division between "lucky" and "unlucky" girls. How is it inspirational to feel like I'm not as good as someone else?

So you're not ashamed to get undressed in front of someone.
This is so ugly that I don't even know where to start. So if we miss a day at the gym, we should be ashamed to have sex? Well, isn't this a nice recipe for self-loathing and crushed body confidence, neatly rolled up into a Pinterest photo. If there's one single anti-fitspo argument, I'd say this is it.

I hate rest day.
OH COME ON. This is just plain stupid. This is designed to encourage blind obsession and make those of us who love rest day and cherish it as the luxury it is feel like we're not doing a good enough job on the other days. No one hates rest day, but the message of this quote is that you're supposed to hate it, that you should be ready to go all the time and loathe taking a break. Which is unrealistic, obsessive and unhealthy. And, let's face it, a bit fake. It's like saying "I hate chocolate".

Sweat is fat crying.

Crying is acceptable. Puking is acceptable. Fainting is acceptable. Quitting is unacceptable.
Well, from the very depth of my heart, SCREW YOU. No perfectly airbrushed picture in the world is enough to get me to keep doing something that makes me cry, puke and/or faint, no matter how much it might tone my butt. Which is not very much, by the way, as no sane-minded human being is likely to repeat something that made them cry/puke/faint in the first place. Everyone's body has limits, and not pushing them too much is probably one of the healthiest things you can do.

Bottom line is, these things all sound like they're meant to make you hate exercise. Which I guess isn't what whoever created fitspiration had in mind.

I still dislike the "Just don't do it and stay on the couch" counter-messages, or pictures of obese women that are meant to be beautiful (replacing one sick trend with another does not progress make, ladies), but now that the obsessive and unforgiving side of fitspo has reared its ugly head, I think we should all use our critical thinking more when faced with these images and messages.

These days, I'm more likely to use beautiful yogini Rachel Brathen's website as inspiration for my workouts. She takes real pride in her life and finds beauty in everything (her amazing Instagram, @yoga_girl, is what made me fall in love with yoga!). Yes, she's got a gorgeous body. Yes, her pictures are all magazine-perfect. But it's her words, her thoughts that inspire me. Rachel's friend recently passed away, and she stopped practicing yoga for a while. That's it. No "pushing herself". No "keep going". Just listening to yourself and what your body needs, is one of the best things you can do for your health.

There is one fitspo quote that I really love:

No matter how slow you go, you're still lapping everybody on the couch.
This is lovely. This quote is saying that going "fast" doesn't matter. Being perfect doesn't matter. All that matters is that you show up and you try. It's accepting, not forgiving (there's nothing to forgive, you didn't do anything wrong) and teaches you to respect your own aspirations and limits. Let's keep in mind that it's not about pushing yourself incessantly like a crazy maniac, it's about doing something that's supposed to make you stronger and healthier. Which can only be done with kindness.

For more on how fitspo can be dangerous, read this.

As an idea, fitspo is great. Let's just not let it get out of hand. Here are two fitspo pictures I love:

...let's not forget what it's all about.

Pictures from Pinterest.

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