Student Health Education Centre
The moment I realized that there was a problem with the idea of “fitspiration” was when I stumbled onto the amusing Buzzfeed article “13 Epic Moments of Drinkspiration”. Fitspiration, a combination of the words fit and inspiration, is a term used on Internet blogs and social media to create a community in which one strives for a fit lifestyle. It is theoretically supposed to be a healthier alternative to the idea of ‘thinspiration’ – working out to become thinner – as it embraces images of toned and bulked up men and women.
Although I had heard about the hashtag fitspiration – or ‘fitspo’ – I never recognized the harm it could do to one’s idea of a healthy body image. The Buzzfeed article, initially hilarious, started to slowly freak me out. It combines quotes often attributed to ‘fitspiration’ images with pictures of binge drinking. And the hybrid pictures eerily make complete sense. For example, “obsessed is a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated” could relate as much to alcoholism as it could to a person running that extra mile. The most shocking for me was “CRAWLING is acceptable. PUKING is acceptable. TEARS are acceptable. PAIN is acceptable. QUITTING is UNACCEPTABLE”. Personally, if I saw someone with any one of these symptoms at the Pulse I would take them straight to the Student Wellness Centre.
Although the idea behind fitspo can sound inspirational, it continues to perpetuate unhealthy philosophies related to one’s health and fitness. According to the National Eating Disorder Information Centre, 27 percent of Ontario girls 12-18 years old were reported as being engaged in severely problematic food and weight behaviour. Moreover, Health Canada found that almost 50 percent of girls and almost 20 percent of boys in grade 10 either were on a diet or wanted to lose weight. These images, which are supposed to inspire us, only aggravate the unrealistic body image that is portrayed in the media and which we have come to think of as the norm for beauty. Moreover, by promoting the idea that “quitting is unacceptable,” these images reinforce the idea that anything should be done to achieve this type of toned body. Going to such extremes is often characteristic of many eating disorders and fitness addicts, where your mind is telling you that you must be committed, and that taking drastic measures is acceptable.
The idea of “fitspiration” is further problematic as many of the individuals in these posters are not only muscular but also thin. It is incredibly difficult for anyone, especially women, to bulk up or become toned without putting on additional weight. Our bodies need more calories, protein, and fat in order to actually build muscle. Furthermore, striving to have such a body is often extremely unrealistic.
The media, especially so-called “Health” magazines, perpetuates the idea that these types of goals are attainable. If you’ve ever seen the cover of Men’s Health Magazine, you’ll know that you could apparently have a set of 12-pack abs in no time at all. What they leave out when they include the “Henry Cavill Superman Workout” is that the actor was paid for several months to solely workout in preparation for his role. The studios gave him their own special food, a personal trainer to workout with twice a day, and a nutritionist. And even with all that support, Henry Cavill said it was a horrible routine, and that he was glad to be rid of the experience.
I am not bothered with the idea of being inspired in life to be fit and healthy. The problem is that these images misuse and thus create a new, unhealthy definition of fit. Having a toned, muscular or thin body does not necessarily indicate health. You could actually be overworking your body and causing serious damage to yourself. Pain is the body’s way of telling you something is wrong, not its way of encouraging perseverance. “Puking” is never acceptable when working out. I think it’s time for society to redefine the way we see healthy. We should stop creating unhealthy and unrealistic connotations for words like fit, thin, toned and muscular.