Instagram's 'fitspo' may be resurrection of Tumblr's 'thinspo'


Fitspo is a trend and hashtag that’s been relevant since Instagram’s earliest days. Influencers like Tammy Hembrow have built their brands and amassed millions of followers by posting pictures of their toned bodies and their lifestyles — but underneath those motivational images may lie a dark message. 

The fitness community on social media can be a warm place for people to get motivated and begin their fitness journeys. Yet, some argue that there is a trend among the most famous gym-goers: They are all very thin. 

Some have noticed that the fitness inspiration Instagram movement is eerily similar to the "thinspiration" that once took Tumblr by storm. When Tumblr was a popular form of social media, the pressure to have a thigh gap and protruding ribs was very real. That same sort of pressure has manifested in a new way on Instagram, under the dangerous guise of being considered healthy. 

Most girls don’t feel the pressure of having tiny thighs anymore. Rather, we long for small waists and toned butts that we think can be achieved from extreme workouts. We rearrange our schedules, cut carbs out of our diets and lift dangerously heavy weights to meet a goal that may not even be attainable. 

Whether it’s staring at the reflection from a middle-school bathroom mirror or a gym one, the feelings of self-hatred are still there. Looking at your reflection and wondering how many squats it will take to get the roundness of Hembrow’s booty replaced the old thoughts of how many bowls of ice cream you’d need to skip to get Acacia Brinley’s body. 

Exercise is an excellent way to increase serotonin levels and maintain a healthy lifestyle. But if exercise means monitoring your calories like crazy or following every intense workout that trainers tease on their Instagram, perhaps it’s not the boost of endorphins we need. 

When one thinks of fitness for girls specifically, one body type definitely comes to mind. That body is very thin with lean muscles and a toned butt. It’s important to note that being fit and having a thin or lean body has nothing to do with each other. One can be fit no matter what sort of body type they have. 

This issue becomes even more serious when we consider the fact that some of the leading Instagram fitness accounts could’ve gotten extra help from plastic surgery or illegal steroids. 

A lot of celebrities who post their intense fitness routines have admitted to getting plastic surgery as well. For example, the members of the Kardashian clan continually discuss their workouts and diets, yet have gotten numerous surgeries to enhance their butts and other body parts. 

I’m not dismissing the work that fitness influencers put into their craft — one’s fitness journey is deeply personal and can be quite beautiful. But it becomes a problem when the people behind their brands aren’t honest with their followers. 

There’s a level of accountability for any influencer, but especially with those that claim they have built their bodies without help from plastic surgery or any other treatments that wealth can buy. Fitness influencers should be more transparent with their followers, so that they don’t have to injure themselves trying to get a body like theirs. 

The worst part of it is that there’s a serious lack of dialogue on this issue. Dismissing or not recognizing the extent of the influence that female fitness influencers have on our psyche is part of the problem. Fitspiration becomes so dangerous because it is branded as being healthy and necessary for self-care. 

People should train as if their bodies are working with them, not against them. You should love yourself before and after entering the gym. 

Like anything else in the beauty industry, we have to remember that fitness influencers profit off of our insecurity. Each time we feel guilt for eating sweets or wonder how we can get our arms to be more toned, we’re buying into the mindset that our bodies aren’t good enough. It may feel like we absolutely need to buy our favorite fitness model’s workout routines, but we really don’t. 

The next time we hit the gym, we all should remember that we’re there to improve our general well-being, not to meet some impossible standard. Here’s a gentle reminder to be kind to yourself, and that what we see online can definitely be deceiving, especially regarding fitness accounts. 


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