When did you realize there was something about your body you didn’t like? For me, it started in middle school. Before that, I didn’t really think about it. I mean, I noticed that everyone had a different type of body, but that never made me feel bad about myself. But middle school really was a difficult time. Most of my friends had slim and “perfect bodies” according to the tastes of the teen kids at school. However, we all looked kind of deformed, since we started growing up and some parts do it before the others.
I’ve always been what the general consensus calls curvy and it was great, until I realized people saw it as a flaw. I started dieting at the age of 13 and it was hell. Until one day I just realized that wasn't life and just gave up. It wasn't that I learned how to love my body. Because I didn't. On the contrary, I just stopped worrying about it, at least publicly. It was a time where body shaming was in. You turned on the TV and you’d see people making fun of the fat character. The issue here is that it was all about being skinny, not healthy. Which makes me think, has that changed?
In the past years, we’ve witnessed some sort of transformation. There’s a whole movement promoting body positivity and encouraging people to love their body. I say "some sort of" because being skinny is still a beauty ideal many aim at –perhaps myself included. No matter how positive you are about your body, there are still images filling social media about being skinny. You might not tell yourself openly that you must be skinny, but the message is disguised behind motivational phrases and the pictures of athletic bodies. These lovely creatures of the Internet are famously known as "fitspiration". As the name says, they allegedly want to inspire people to embrace a fitness lifestyle.
You might be wondering, what’s wrong with that? We all should really follow a healthier life. The thing is that these are not really promoting that, and fitness lifestyle is not the same as being fit or healthy. If you analyze these images, the majority portray the body of a skinny woman wearing sportswear. Some don’t even include her face, only her abs and her pelvic region. That alone is a way to attract the male gaze and reinforce the objectification of women, but that’s only one issue. These images and phrases still sell the idea that, unless you look like them, you’re not really worth it.
Moreover, making a change in your life to become healthier is a matter of learning to love that lifestyle so you can make it a reality. It's not something that only takes a matter of weeks. That’s the problem with diets. You see them as a sacrifice instead of learning how to eat healthily. In the same way, what fitspiration does is to continue with the idea that you need to do something painful to achieve what you want. And that’s okay for many things. But if you see exercising as a torture, I bet you you won’t really make it part of your lifestyle. So, basically, what this train of thought creates is drag you into that lifestyle filled with negativity, which ends up reinforcing beauty standards and body shaming.
Fitspiration follows the same logic of another movement that’s actually killing many: "thinspo" or "thinspiration". This movement, like fitspiration, uses images and messages promoting skinny women as the ultimate ideal of beauty. Most of the girls who follow this end up having eating disorders, since they get the idea that thinness is the only possible way to find self-worth. In that way, they recur to anything to achieve it, since the messages basically tell them so. Fitspiration is no different. The creators of these images might defend themselves by saying that they’re promoting the fitness lifestyle, but the negativity is still there. They still make people believe that only one body type is beautiful, and that only through sacrifice you’ll achieve that worth.
I'm not saying that we shouldn’t exercise or eat healthy. On the contrary, it’s something we should all try, but not on these terms. Diminishing yourself should not be the motivation, and that’s something I can tell you from my experience. We should do it because we want a healthier life. It doesn't matter if we don’t end up being super skinny and toned. That can come second. The point here is that the Internet is filled with trends and movements that can be used to promote unhealthy behaviors, like eating disorders, or body dysmorphic disorder.
Fitspiration, thinspo, and even body positivity can easily become dangerous concepts for people who blindly believe in what they see and read on social media. Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram, shouldn’t really be considered as sources of knowledge, and if you really want to make a change in your life, just go to the doctor and do it right.
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