How does a movement that is supposed to promote health actually damage women’s self-esteem and promote unhealthy behaviors?

In the last decade obesity rates have soared throughout the world. In an effort to curb this epidemic there have been many attempts to inspire people to get healthy.  One of the most popular trends in this effort comes in the for of Fitspiration posts on social media.

What is Fitspiration?  Fitspiration refers to posts of images and encouraging slogans that are aimed to get people moving and making healthy decisions. Fitspiration posts can be found on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and Tumblr. On the surface, these inspirational quotes and images seem to advocate for healthy eating and consistent training. So, what is so bad about that?

Many fitspiration posts include an image of a gorgeous and impossibly fit person with the quote “Weakness is a Choice”. Another shows a super-toned woman doing a one-handed handstand with the quote “Sacrifice is giving up on something good for something better”. While these slogans do not seem harmful on the surface, the people viewing these posts automatically compare themselves to the images they see.  It is during this comparison that the negative thoughts begin to permeate reminding them of their own perceived failures to get fit. By promoting this mindset, fitspiration posts are inadvertently promoting negative thoughts. These negative thoughts can be major triggers for people with eating disorders.

According to researchers at Flinders University in Australia, these fitspiration posts do more harm for women in particular. The Australian university conducted a study of 130 women ages 17-30.  At the beginning of the study, the women were asked to rank their overall body satisfaction and mood. After the assessment, the group was split into group A and group B.  Group A was shown fitspiration images while group B viewed travel images. After viewing the images, the participants were asked to complete the body satisfaction and mood surveys again. The group that viewed the fitspiration images reported lower self-esteem and were less satisfied with their bodies after the experiment than those who just viewed travel images.  It was concluded the participants’ dissatisfaction could be directly attributed to the fact that the women were comparing themselves to the people in the fitspiration posts.

So how can we help diminish the harm that fitspiration can promote? We must start by educating the public what is actually healthy and to remind them that comparing themselves to others only results in negative feelings. Instead of focusing all your energy on the unattainable, focus your efforts on making changes that you can accomplish.

For more information on eating disorder treatment and recovery contact Ramey Nutrition today!