Fitspo—motivational images and quotes about fitness—is meant to be inspirational, which is awesome, but some of these images can be dangerous because they secretly promote negative thoughts about yourself. The point of looking at fitspo is to evoke a certain emotional response: motivation. In hindsight it’s hard to remember if you arrived at that emotion through positive empowerment or via emotional manipulation and shaming. Here are six kinds of fitspo that are secretly dangerous:
1. The kind that says your body is the enemy
Fun fact: Plato made us hate our bodies. He thought that our minds were cool but trapped inside these awful bodies. Rather than being a part of our person, your body was just a vessel. Your body isn’t the enemy, it’s part of who you are. Since it’s connected to the way you feel about yourself, you should learn to like it instead of treating it like an obstacle to overcome.
2. The kind that shames your current body
Some fitspo makes you feel like you are nothing until you get to your goal weight/have a thigh gap/can run for 45+ minutes without stopping. If you can’t appreciate the journey, you won’t appreciate the destination. Body love doesn’t start automatically when you hit a certain weight, it’s something you have to work on too.
3. The kind that says making people jealous is awesome
There’s a LOT of fitspo that centers around the concept of losing weight in order to be hot so that people will be jealous of you. Not only is this attitude going to make you unhappy in the long run, it’s also not likely to be a lasting source of motivation. You’ll feel better and stick with goals you have for your own benefit.
4. The kind that says every person is capable of having a thigh gap or a six pack
The people you see in fitspo photos are both exceptional in their fitness and able to utilize all the advantages of digital photos (editing, taking many and selecting the best one, deceptive angles). Everyone’s body is different. Some people will just never have a flat tummy and it’s not a reflection on their work ethic or worth as a person.
5. The kind that gives you unrealistic expectations
Fitspo is great at motivating you to set big goals without making excuses about your current fitness level. However, obstacles are natural and thinking you “should” be able to overcome them right away can actually make you quit out of frustration. Minimizing the difficulty of obstacles can make you feel crappy about yourself for not being able to overcome them. There’s a reason everyone doesn’t have a perfect body, it’s difficult. It’s okay to struggle. You will feel better about yourself if you acknowledge how hard your journey is, and that it’s a process, rather than acting as if it’s easy.
6. The kind that says there’s only one ideal body type
We’ve run the gamut with this bullshit message. “Real” women and “real” men come in as many different kinds of packaging as there are people in the world. A lot of fitspo images claim that skinny isn’t sexy, healthy is, or fit is. This looks different for every person, so how can you judge? Can someone with an illness no longer be sexy? Do your best for you, don’t make categories up for the world. We’ve got enough.
Fitness is a great goal, but self-love has a place in every part of your health journey, not just at the finish line. Do you, babes.