Fitspiration: Motivator or Self Esteem Killer?

Fitspo gone wrong | Factor
photo credit: @gymalpha, @gymaesthetic

Looking at this image, I simultaneously feel two things:

  1. Day-umm! She’s smokin’ hot.
  2. Never gonna be me. (And I’ve been lifting and running and eating vegetables for like 25 years.)

I’m glad we’re trying to inspire women to be strong. (I’m assuming that’s the message here — strong is the new sexy, after all.)

But — and maybe I’m just a 30-something woman who spends too much time online (though it’s kind of essential to my job) — I can’t help but feel we’ve gone from one unattainable standard to another.

I mean, who fucking looks like this? Who has the time, the training (because yes, the type of lifting you have to do to achieve this body requires immense technical know-how), the discipline, and hell — the desire — to achieve and maintain a fitness-model body?

And where are her pants??

(Pause. Deep breath.)

To source an image for this post, I spent a troubling afternoon scrolling through the most viral “fitspiration” (or “fitspo” if you’re all cool) Tumblr feeds, Instagram accounts, and shouty memes the Wild Wild Web has to offer.

“Fitspiration” — I have to keep it in quotes, lest it become a real word — runs the gamut from truly inspirational, to overly sexualized, to downright body shaming.

Most of them feature sweaty girls working out in their underwear, pulling up their shirts to reveal a rock-hard (but still quite thin) belly, with just a hint of underboob.

None of these ladies seem to know that working out is a lot easier with a hair tie. And there are a lot of butt selfies.

The images may or may not be accompanied by a motivational quote, like this:

Work Harder Fitspo | Factor









(No pants.)

The words alone are actually alright. It’s the not-so-subtle implication that the main reason for doing those things? Is to look sexy. (And that this image, thigh gap and all, is what equals sexy.)

Notice the photo credit here is @shamefreesummer. How ‘bout we eat cleaner and lift heavier AND rock our bodies as is? That would be shame free.







Yup, I get it. Going to the gym is super rewarding. But so is sleeping. You’re not wrong for snatching up an extra hour when you can get it. In fact, you may even be healthier for it.

(Short pants still count as pants. Score one for you, @slimgenics.)

And, here’s the worst offender:

Fitspo gone wrong - Factor










For one thing, this sexy lady is skinny. (Also, she has NO PANTS.)

But that’s not even the real problem.

Skinny ladies are really getting a raw deal in the whole body-positive movement. What started as a backlash against the oversexualized, unattainable standards of beauty thrust at women by the media, has had the unfortunate side-effect of completely stigmatizing skinny.

So now they’ve got double jeopardy. They get left out of the body-positive convo because they’re already thin enough (which is seriously wackadoo), and they see nothing but negative messages about their thinness wherever they go.

Now, before you get all persnickety, I know a lot of you do get inspired by photos and messages like these. And hey, far be it from me to gank your motivation. (They’re not going anywhere, anyway, so… party on.)

But for everyone else, it’s time to get real. The food-and-fitness section of the Internet has become overgrown, choked with misinformation, mixed messages, and “fitspo” gone wrong. (I hate myself a little bit more every time I use that term.)

Aren’t you tired of the Internet bellowing at you to work harder, eat better, drink more water, and get plenty of rest?

Because even when you do those things, the Internet says you can do more. And when you run out of hours in the day (or god forbid, sleep in), the Internet keeps shouting at you to push harder! Stay strong! FITNESS!!!!!!

I call bullshit.

I’m no longer going to give credence to any platform which glorifies an unattainable body type. (And it’s not just the ladies. Man-fitspo is arguably even worse.)

Let’s listen to our bodies more. Let’s eat healthy food without freaking out about it. And hey — here’s some inspiration: let’s enjoy ourselves while we do it.

Because everything else?

Is just someone else’s butt selfie.


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