"Eat clean. Train dirty." "Complaining never burned calories." "Your body won't go where your mind doesn't push it." "Someone who is busier than you is running RIGHT NOW." "If it were easy, everyone would be doing it." "Suck it up now ... and you won't have to suck it in later."
You've seen these 'fitspo' sayings, right? They're usually printed in big blocky letters against some supposedly inspirational photo of someone who looks more like a porn star than any real-life female I've ever seen kicking ass at the gym. These images of overly sexualized body parts combined with bumper-sticker mottos are pinned all over Pinterest, shared on Instagram, occasionally posted on Facebook -- and they're annoying as hell.
There are lots of reasons why fitspo doesn't turn me on. It's bullshit, for one thing: all those sayings about "Strong is the new skinny" might feel slightly less hypocritical if they weren't consistently stamped over images of women with, like, 9 percent body fat. In my mind, they encourage impossible standards, they prioritize aesthetics over health, and their "empowering" words are actually custom-designed to remind you that you're not good enough.
I happen to think the vast majority of fitspo images are annoying and maybe even downright damaging, but it's a free country and people are certainly allowed to pin all the annoying/damaging things they want. Plus, as with most things, meaningfulness is in the eye of the beholder. As former beauty queen and fitness-inspirer Maria Kang might tell me,
I'm sorry you took an image and resonated with it in such a negative way. (...) What you interpret is not MY fault. It's yours. The first step in owning your life, your body, and your destiny is to OWN the thoughts that come out of your own head. I didn't create them. You created them.
Boy, do I ever have the PERFECT workout shirt for that lady:
Anyway. Fitspo images probably aren't going away any time soon, but I'll keep on eye-rolling them, because the things that actually motivate me to work out and eat healthfully don't have anything to do with crotch-baring booty shorts, surgically enhanced sweaty cleavages, or meme-making websites that exist for the sole purpose of allowing you to drop all caps sans-serif shareable slogans onto a woman's naked torso.
I'm committed to a fitness routine these days because it makes me feel better. It's part of my recovery plan, to maintain my mental health and steer clear of addictive behaviors. It gives me more energy, it keeps depression at bay, it helps me deal with the challenges of working from home.
And yeah, it makes me happier with the person I see in the mirror, in a number of different ways. It's not entirely about vanity, but I won't lie: it's not NOT about vanity.
But even thought I care about what I look like, and I do have appearance-related goals for myself, they have nothing to do with this sort of thing:
That woman's body might be a realistic goal for some (although not many, I'd wager), but it's not for me. I'm simply not built anything like that person. For one thing, I could restrict my diet to water and shredded paper and my waist wouldn't look like that, because my midsection is far more straight than curved no matter how lean or toned I am. How sad is it to aspire to be something that's pretty much as physically possible as growing four inches in height or changing your natural hair color?
Something that has helped me greatly with body image in recent months is really taking a look around my gym during a workout class. I mean, have you ever done this? Have you looked at the women who are kicking ass, who are clearly in great shape, and noticed how they're all shaped completely differently -- and how few of them look like a fitspo model?
It's funny, but the stronger and more in shape I get, the more demeaning I find these fitness platitudes. Because I know what it takes for me to get up, lace on the gym shoes, and put in the hard work, day in and day out. It can't be distilled into a five-word graphic ... and it sure as shit has nothing to do with some 20-year-old model's thigh gap.
What's your take on the fitspo trend?
Image via Pinterest