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Fitness instagrams accounts become weight loss inspiration

Opinion Column: Fit-Wit

Instagram isn’t just for artsy pics and punny captions. Scroll through the popular page on your Instagram feed at any given time and you’ll probably gloss over at least one weight loss fitness account. Many feature photos of “before and after” weight loss, healthy food and motivational quotes. Today, thousands of Instagram accounts are dedicated to those trying to lose weight or just maintain a lifestyle. With the ability to post pictures with the click of a button, people are using the app to update the Instagram community on their weight loss journey and hold themselves accountable to their fitness goals. Although these accounts often receive a lot of hate, they’re a great way to motivate someone to achieve their fitness goal.

A few years ago, the detail in which complete strangers could be informed about a person’s weight loss journey was unheard of. Aside from blogging, there really was not an easily accessible way to create a digital community around exercise and fitness.

Using Instagram as a platform to communicate with others in the diet and fitness community essentially works like a digital form of Weight Watchers — group therapy for dieters. It’s a place where people can vent about the challenges that they face when it comes to eating healthy and exercising. When people “cheat” on their diets, they hold themselves accountable to their Instagram fitness community. When they achieve a goal they have set for themselves, they announce it on Instagram and usually receive positive feedback from others on the same journey. If someone needs motivation to stay on track toward their goal, they can just scroll through their news feed.

Other benefits include the ability to motivate others and potentially become famous on social media. The Instagram fitness community has become so popular that some accounts have achieved social media fame just by using this one platform of interaction. Kayla Itsines, a personal trainer from Australia, reposts weight loss fitness accounts and promotes constant motivation within the fitness community. Her brand name workout plans were promoted solely on Instagram, and have inspired millions of people to exercise and get in shape.

Many people that started their weight loss journey on Instagram have managed to lose anywhere from 15 to 50 pounds, and even more by posting their progress and getting feedback from others. There are also people that struggle with eating disorders and use Instagram to track their road to recovery and relationship with food. There are also people that have accounts just to share healthy recipe ideas and workout tips. For these reasons, Instagram has created the ultimate online fitness community.

On the other hand, Instagram also provides an opportunity for untested diet plans and “fitness” products to be promoted to the public on a wide spectrum. Scott Disick’s MateFit TeaTox and Kim Kardashian’s waist training sessions are health fads that are probably not reliable, but people want to try anyway because they see their favorite celebrity using it. Many don’t distinguish when celebrities are endorsing a product and when they are actually incorporating the product into their daily routine. A lot of people that follow celebrity social media accounts are still under the impression that these accounts are designated solely for their personal life.

These product endorsements should be captioned as advertisements so that people are aware that when they are scrolling through the feed of their favorite celebrity’s account, a lot of what they see are ads. Although the viewer is choosing whether or not to buy the product, it can be extremely deceptive if buyers think that a product has certain health benefits just because a celebrity says so.

Another issue with Instagram is the promotion of "thinspiration" and accounts that glorify models that are extremely skinny. These photos can cause body image issues for people who think that being a certain weight or looking a certain way is necessary or desirable. Certain clothing brands have been criticized for promoting clothing with extremely thin models, which sends a strong message to the potential customers of the brand. Users should be aware of a thin line between losing weight in a healthy way and poor body image.

Although Instagram is certainly a nontraditional way to help people lose weight and stay fit, those that use it for this purpose should not be attacked or mocked. With the implementation of new forms of communication and media and the constant issue of obesity and unhealthy weight gain, all resources should be used to try to be healthy and fit.

Courtney Han is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in journalism and media studies and political science. Her column, “Fit-Wit,” runs monthly on Thursdays.

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