Fitspo. A term I have come to loathe with every fiber of my being. Fitspo reportedly refers to images and words that women post with the purpose of inspiring themselves and others to live a fit and active life. The term stems from the more widely known term “thinspo” which refers to images and words meant to inspire women to lose weight. The hashtag #thinspo was actually banned on Tumblr and Instagram because of the constant disturbing images associated with the term.
Fitspo, in theory, sounds harmless enough. The problem is that it winds up being cleverly disguised thinspo. Thinspo charading as healthy and “body positive,” if you will. Yes, the mantras have shifted from starvation cheers to “strong is the new skinny,” but at the end of the day, the underlying problems are still present:
- We are encouraging the obsessive pursuit of a specific body type.
- We continue to be hyper focused on appearance.
- We still ultimately promote fear of fat.
The basic content of the message behind fitspo drives feelings of inevitable failure and guilt. We are failures for not “pushing it to the limit.” We must not be trying that hard if we don’t have a six-pack. This type of message works to create fraught relationships with movement and exercise, just as thinspo creates fraught relationships with food.
So how to deal with said fitspo trend? First and foremost, make sure that you are the commander and chief of the fitspo battle grounds- social media. We do have some control over what we view in social media , so make sure that you are viewing things that are helpful not harmful to recovery, and to positive body image in general. Don’t follow fitspo accounts. Blocks posts from friends who constantly give update about crossfit/marathon trainings/gym sessions, etc. from your newsfeed. Don’t fall down the rabbit hole of fitspo accounts by clicking through user name after user name on instagram. Social media can be as helpful or as harmful as we chose to make it. Additionally, stay away from magazines/other media outlets that tend to broadcast this type of message. We cannot take ourselves out of our culture, but we can work to create boundaries for ourselves within the culture.
Additionally, seek to explore your relationship with your body and movement in a safe and recovery-focused manner. Working out does not have to mean running like a gerbal on a wheel as your miserably count down the minutes until the arbitrary time limit that you set for yourself is up. Exercise and movement in general should be focused on creating a healthy mind-body connection. Strive to be active solely for the reason that it makes your happy- which means finding exactly which activities help your find your peace. This may be gentle yoga or a short walk 1-2 times a week. In fact, research shows that a fifteen minute walk outside 3 times a week releases a substantial enough amount of endorphins (those feel good chemicals) for people to notice a shift in mood! And as always, consult with your treatment team, outpatient doctors, therapists, etc, about what kinds and amounts of activity are safe during recovery from an eating disorder. (Most experts agree exercise should be put on hold during early recovery, especially if weight restoration is a focus. However, individual factors can impact how and when people should begin to incorperate activity later on).
So in summation, Fitspo is here with us at the moment. This is unfortunate, however we always have choices. Our choices are: a. play into the trend and passively view it as it comes our way, or b. stand up to the “fitspo bully'” and become proactive in our responses to such troubling material. The choice is ours. So sorry Fitspo. I already made mine- You are not empowering. You are not inspiring. In fact, like I said, you are kind of a bully. And there is nothing less inspiring than a bully.