"Fitspiration"...and why it is so dangerous

When you look into the mirror, what do you think about the person staring back at you? Do you turn from side to side, competing in your own personal bathing suit contest with the biggest critique being yourself? We live in an age where we are bombarded with retouched advertising. Even our attempts to escape via mindless social media scrolling, doesn’t help as the images we see that are meant to inspire often leave us feeling less than whole. 

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Working out for hours on end to achieve the #fitspiration stamp of approval will not solve all of life’s problems. We have all been guilty of self comparison, but spending the mental, emotional, and physical energy of comparing your abs to those of another person’s 6-pack is a slippery slope. These comparisons can quickly and without realization aid in a slow progression of exercise addiction, eating disorders, and body dysmorphia. 

I have watched the #fitspiration cult change from a fad-like following, to a very dangerous addiction. Training harder and hiding behind a guise of being a “health lover” can become all consuming. Working out changes from an endorphin release, to being the most important part of the day — ignoring rest and increasing the risk of injury. Juice cleanses becoming kryptonite and CBD oil is worshipped. Pulling away from social activities, friends, and family becomes a byproduct of the obsession with a thin frame or a chiseled physique. 

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I do my best to avoid viewing social media images to be a standard of perfection that controls my self-worth. Sure, I’d love to have Michelle Obama’s arms, but I’m not going to give up my nightly chocolate chocolate to do that. And, even if I did, my body was made the way that it was made. I’m never going to be super curvy or become Hulk Hogan without some form of artificial enhancement.

Disordered eating can be caused by societal pressures to lose weight, have high muscle mass and spend strenuous hours at the gym. Warning signs can appear in the form of extreme leanness, preoccupation with weight and/or food, mealtime rituals, and excessive strenuous exercise, stress fractures, unending fatigue, depression, and low self-esteem.

I can recall going through my 200 hour yoga training. I was practicing next to a girl that kept doing handstand after handstand with a rock hard body. I felt so inferior and wanted to walk out the door. When I went home that night, I realized that I had no idea what that girl's life is like. She may very well go home and practice that handstand for 5 hours and have little time to spend with family or friends. She may have a disordered habit or thought process. These reality check-in's are important.

Our culture and mainstream media pumps out images and quotes that focus on pain and working against your body to achieve results. Thus, "fitspiration" nurtures a disconnect between the body and the spirit. Instead of focusing on the bodies we don’t possess, we should be embracing the bodies we were given. In order to do this, we should focus on loving ourselves. Here are a few things to keep in mind: 

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1. Apologize.

Say sorry to yourself for all of the cruel negative self-talk that you inflict on yourself. You wouldn't say the things you say to yourself to your worst enemy...so it should stop there because it is self defeating.

2. Be grateful.

Our bodies are incredible gifts. They take us from place to place and allow us to experience this beautiful world. Take time to recognize the magical things your body allows you to do. 

3. Think kind thoughts.

Be kind to yourself, every single day. Think, “I am perfectly all right just the way I am,” and “I'm uniquely beautiful, inside and out.” Be unapologetically you.

When I look in the mirror, I try my best to be happy with what I see. It's not because I have Michelle Obama's arms, supermodel legs, or a 90's pop star abs, but rather, I'm thankful that I am healthy enough to move my body every single day. I fuel my body with nourishing foods that allow me to be all that I am.

Every day is another opportunity for you to love yourself.

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Meghan Ann Martin