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Just Say No to Fitspo

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Awhile back, my motto on my SparkPage was "Strong, Not Skinny". I'd recently found the "Strong is the New Skinny" ideal and I loved it. I loved the idea of muscles being sexy. I loved the idea of strength being sexy.

But something happened. The more I looked at the images being presented the more I realized that really the message was "Strong AND Skinny is sexy". Miles of photos of perfect headless six-packs and cleavage covered every facebook page. The message was skewed. And it wasn't motivating me. If anything, it was making me feel worse, I just didn't realize it quite yet.

You've probably heard of thinspo. I hope you have. And I hope that the sight of the word is making you grimace. The movement frequently encourages extremely thin bodies, going so far as to promote anorexic and bulimic lifestyles. The images you'll find on a thinspo page are full of hip bones, knobby knees and rib cages. If you enjoy those images, if you truly believe that this type of body is beautiful, I'm sorry. A body that is naturally very thin is one thing. Every woman is different and every woman is beautiful. But disordered bodies and disordered eating are sad and unhealthy. I won't apologize for having that opinion.

But let's take the next step and it's going to be difficult. It was for me. Fitspo is the same. There is very little difference. Just so we're on the same page, let me post some examples.

These images are just as unhealthy as thinspo. They are just another way for each of us to hate the body we have. They are a tool to sell product.

The message here is simple: Until you have this body, you cannot be happy. And if you don't have it, you aren't working hard enough.

I believed it. I fell for it. I honestly believed that if I could just continue to carve the fat away from my body I'd be more confident and finally satisfied. But the real truth is so much simpler.

If you refuse to love the body you have right this moment, starving and overtraining down to a body with a six pack is not going to magically heal your self-confidence. You will never be happy. Even more than that, for the vast majority of us, a body with perfectly carved abs and glutes is not attainable. And even if it were, it's not necessarily maintainable. Spend a little time reading pages like The Sweaty Betties, Rachel Mac, or Jenny Grothe's blog. These women all, at one time, modelled and competed. They had the ideal.

They also ended it with adrenal fatigue and metabolic dysfunction. They are a very small sampling of a much larger problem.

Holding ourselves to that ideal is to define ourselves as a body. Fitness is about health. It is not about torturing yourself with the goal of being a fitspo unicorn. Have you noticed that very few of those images ever include a woman's face? It's always a body part or a message that says, If you don't look like this, you aren't working hard enough.

Wanna know what the message really is?

-Go Kaleo

Believing that strong is sexy is a great idea. I still believe it. But when I say that strong is sexy, I mean that women who can lift big girl weights amaze me. Not their bodies. Not their definition. Their ability.


if you've yet to pick up a bar or a 25lb dumbbell, or heck, even a five pound one, that's no excuse not to BE sexy. No image designed to tear you down can ever do that if you refuse to believe it. I don't want to believe that anymore. I want to believe that my strong functional body is perfect the way it is. And if it loses five pounds, it'll still be perfect. And if it gains ten, it's still perfect.

It is still worthwhile. And I can love it just the way it is.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
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    1214 days ago
    Excellent blog. You hit all the areas spot on. Thank-you for your insight comments and article.
    1905 days ago
    Freaking amazing. This should be published everywhere.
    1905 days ago
    This is great. In a few of my responses to day I told a few of my readers that over the past week or so I am so glad that I don't have to be at my goal weigh to start feeling good about myself. From past experience I would lose weight and never appreciate the small progress because I was so consumed by my ultimate goal. It feels wonderful to appreciate my body for what it can do for me today!
    You're right we are bombarded with pictures of what we "should" look like. I even have an idea in my head of what I should look like. But it comes down to being happy with my body. I can be happy with my body and still have goals but I don't have to feel like failure when my outcome is different than what I expected.
    1905 days ago
    As I think about it, your analysis applies just as much to pictures of men used as advertisements for exercise equipment/diet supplements/gyms/etc. I don't look like those pictures, and it's unlikely that I ever will.

    But I can do 60 pushups. I can do 10 pullups. If I can hold up my half of a piano that needs to be moved, I can live without having a body that fits those promotional pictures.

    And guess what? If I'd got hung up on a desire to look like a body builder, I might never have developed the ability to do a pullup. Sometimes, you have to focus on what you want to be able to do, and let your body adjust as it will.

    2050 days ago
    Choosing self-love at any size is definitely the way to live! Hope your healing process is going well. Take care of you! Thanks for the encouragement! Spark on! emoticon emoticon
    2051 days ago
    I have no idea what adding the suffix "spo" to any word is supposed to do.

    But I love your blog. You are so right about the messages we are being sent and how they are inconsistent.
    2051 days ago
    emoticon emoticon

    Love it!!!!! emoticon
    2052 days ago
    Loved loved loved this blog. Its so true and its amazing to me that even in this day with everyone going around knowing that the images that are put out are wrong it still keeps happening.
    2052 days ago
    Preach it!
    2052 days ago
    I often find the messages in the pictures really motivational. I never realized that many of them really do show a pretty unhealthy body weight.

    Some don't, but the vast majority are still buying into the ridiculously thin image rather than something that would be a healthy and MAINTAINABLE body weight for the average person.

    Great post.
    2052 days ago
    The problem, LowFatFoodie, is not the words. It is the conflicting image. The words say Be Strong at Any Size. The image shows a headless thin torso.
    2052 days ago
    I have never heard of thinspo and sorry, I still find fit and strong women sexy and use all sorts of images to motivate myself (although I don't have many without people's heads on them!) I understand that everyone is in a different place and everyone is motivated in different ways, but I don't get how saying "Be strong at any size" can be de-motivating to anyone. Loving yourself as you are is not mutually exclusive to wanting to improve yourself; whether its your health, your mind, or even your looks-- but it may be key to being successful in actually making yourself the best you that you can be.

    That said, you are a pretty cool you, so "work it" however it works for you!

    2052 days ago
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    2053 days ago
    Holy CRAP yes. Thank you SO much for this. Fitspo bothers me every bit as much as thinspo does. It objectifies the body, and continues to set an unattainable ideal.

    I will never have a 6 pack. I'd be lucky to have a four pack. I will always have a layer of fat on my stomach. I'm okay with that. I'd like to have a flat belly, but I'll settle for flat enough.

    I want to be strong and fit... not 13% body fat.
    2053 days ago
    Very true!
    2053 days ago
    I posted a rant about fitspo a while back. I wholeheartedly agree with you! I also don't really like how they're making skinny a bad word now. I can want to be strong and skinny if I want to be. Skinny does not necessarily mean not least, to me!
    2053 days ago
    Very inspiring!
    What about having our own picture taken with our own motto on top of it - because we ARE good enough to be loved the way we are.
    2053 days ago
    Good post!
    2053 days ago
    emoticon emoticon Blog!!

    I stopped using tumblr when I realized that it was hindering way way more than inspiring/helping me.

    2053 days ago
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