Beware the FITspiration: The new and dangerous era for female body image

I’m fairly candid about my struggles with body image and the fact that I’ve spent a majority of my life living with an eating disorder. Because of my past, I’m hypersensitive to any images and messages in advertisements, pop culture and the media that would have been (and sometimes still are) triggers for me to feel some sort shame for my body.

Everyday I’m sifting  through my thoughts. I’ll look at images in magazines, on blogs and social media, and even at the women around me and break down my knee-jerk negative thoughts from what I rationally believe to be true.

Example: 

Me: Oh look, the new issue of Cosmo.

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Initial reaction:

F*ck you, Megan Fox.

I’ll never be that thin or beautiful. Ugh. No wonder everyone thinks she’s beautiful. Look at her! You know who didn’t think I was beautiful? Billy, Timmy, Robbie and Sammy. I bet if I looked like Megan Fox they would have liked me.

Eff you, Cosmo. Eff you in the face.

(Proceeds to buy magazine)

Revision 1: Yes, Megan Fox is beautiful, but this image has probably been photoshopped and  there’s a whole glam team of professionals working on her hair and make-up, telling her which way to pose.

Revision 2: I’m sure Megan Fox has her own insecurities, just like I’m sure if I  had a team of people working on me I’d be unrecognizable and photoshopped on the cover of a magazine, too.

Usually this process goes on for the next hour, until I’ve talked myself out of hating Megan Fox for her genetics and Cosmo for feeding me an oversexed Hollywood version of beauty.

I end up accepting that all of what I’ve seen is unattainable because none of it is actually real; it was all smoke and mirrors.

Confession time

Years ago when I was in the middle of my eating disorder I used to visit  websites for ‘thinspiration’ or ‘thinspo’ as it was called on Tumblr. Whenever I felt hungry or ugly (and that was all the time) I’d visit these sites for motivation to keep losing weight. I was hooked. I would look at thigh gaps, ab muscles, visible rib cages. It was very twisted and unhealthy of me, but these sites and pages dedicated to thinspo were everywhere.

Cut to 2014 and I’ve got a brand new problem without any way to filter my negative thoughts.

It’s been years since I’ve looked at thinspo and I’m at a point in my life where I’m eating healthfully, but the fitness component just isn’t there. Weight wise, I’m average and healthy, but I’m not working out or moving my body as much as I should considering I sit at a desk for 8 hours a day.

I started moving more, eating new foods and I even turned to Instagram and tried following some pages dedicated to fitness, exercise and healthy eating hoping to get some tips and motivation.

After a few weeks (yes weeks, I’ve got better shit to do) of ‘Fitspiration’ or ‘fitspo’  (fitness inspiration) I was noticing a disturbing trend:

Fitspo and Thinspo are the exact same thing.

I Googled “Thinspo”

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I Googled “Fitspo”

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Poor girl left her flat iron plugged in while she was at the gym.

Thigh gaps – check

Ab muscles – check

Visible rib-cage – check

My brain was scrambling. “Fit” for me, used to mean athletic and healthy regardless of body shape. Fit today basically means “I’m skinny but I work out to be this skinny .”

I scrolled through some pages, looking for different body types aside from the super slim, toned and tanned physique of fitspo/thinspo and I found it in the form of the super jacked, body building, bulky muscle woman ( totally cool, but not my cup of tea).

There were accounts from women all over the world who work out, have jobs, supposedly eat cookies, post untouched photos where they’re wearing ‘no make-up’ and quite frankly they were so beautiful they were making Katy Perry look like day old hamburger meat. Everyday there was a new photo or post of perfect bodies, working out, telling me what they’ve eaten, telling me how ‘motivated’ they are and I was feeling worse, and worse about myself.  I tried to reason with myself and sift through my thoughts like I always do with commercial images and advertisements but I was failing against the insecure part of me that felt like an ashamed chunkamunk.

There were no make-up teams and glam squads. These were real people.

True, I COULD dedicate all that time to exercise and completely makeover my body. But even if I did, what if I never looked as thin as these people online who were apparently my fitsperation?  Would I feel like a failure?

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When did fit become the new skinny? Is the fitness craze just  an acceptable way to promote the ultra-thin body type that used to be achievable by consuming nothing but coffee and cigarettes?

Why is it that no matter what we do or how many times we preach to each other about body acceptance and body diversity , the super thin and now apparently fit body type remain the most coveted?  You may be someone who loves curves and doesn’t subscribe to this one form of fit/healthy, but the reality is that a majority people still consider this image to be desirable not only for themselves, but for a partner.

After all my years of dealing with my body issues I feel like we’ve entered a new and dangerous era for women and the female form in western society. No longer are we meant to strive for the unattainable, we’re meant to believe everything and anything is attainable, if  only we work hard enough.

This means we work out more, we eat less, we spend more on gym memberships and activewear, we buy extensions for fuller hair, we glue crap on our eye lashes, we try make-up tips that we saw online, we can paint on our eyebrows and cheat fuller lips. We can look like the unattainable image we’ve been shown on magazines and billboards, but we’ll be even happier because we did it ourselves, no photoshop needed!

This is my dilemma and I hope I’m not alone in feeling this simultaneous hopelessness and anger about how these ridiculous  expectations for women and beauty continue to exist despite all of the strides we’ve made in the past 50 years.

Are you someone who looks at Fitpiration?

Tell me your thoughts about how we can combat this unhealthy fitspo and what you do to silence your insecurity monster when you know she’s spouting bullshit!

 

 

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*I’m sure Megan Fox is a lovely person

*I know the solution for me would be to ‘buck up’ or ‘shrug it off’ but as a person with a tendency to take things to heart, this is an issue that deeply worries me. All of these, if seen through someone’s eyes who’s vulnerable, insecure and sensitive, are triggers for unhealthy behaviours that can lead to years of body hate and unhealthy eating habits. Despite me being over my own issues (for the most part) I worry that we haven’t done enough to protect the next generation and even our current generation of females from this one dimensional portrayal of beauty.

* Rant over

* Naturally skinny women, you know I love you. Don’t feel excluded or targeted. I’m just talking about cheating genetics.

* Ok, I’m done for real.

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5 comments

  1. I know what you mean, it’s really disturbing when you look at all these images circulating, it’s almost a form of harassment. It’s like, it’s wrong for you to love your body the way it is, because then you would be Kanye, all full of yourself. The only way I guess one could get over is telling yourself that you are wonderful the way you are and surrounding yourself with people that support you as well. You have to remind yourself that you are a woman with other interests and things to do, not an 18yr old who’s profession is to be worse than a size zero. For the pics and motivation you are looking for, check out Blogilates on YouTube, her fitness following is pretty positive and she’s always reminding people to chill out with unnec models of beauty 🙂

    Like

  2. Seriously I feel like you have been hacking my brain:) I soo agree with everything you say. I overcame struggles with disordered eating and body shaming too. It was a difficult process but I learned to focus on nourishing my body, to really take care of it instead of abusing it like I used to. I became vegetarian, then vegan(-ish, cause hello cheese and ben & jerry’s) and now I really love green smoothies in the morning. They make me happy and healthy and they balance out the heaps of sugar I still consume. Even more so, it made me not care about the size of my trousers because I feel healthy, and since that’s the most important thing, I can indulge in everything I used to deny myself.

    But now like you say since maybe a year, two years, there’s this fit-craze going on and all of a sudden we’re all fit-shaming each other instead of fat-shaming. Where’s the improvement in that? I can’t even explain how PISSED OFF that makes me, that I feel like society has stolen my health-safe-haven and transformed it, like it always does, in some extreme unattainable ideal that you should have that green smoothy each morning (seriously who has the time) and you should never, ever again eat white bread (only people who have never tasted freshly baked french baguettes can suggest such a ludicrous thing) and so on..

    I try to ignore it for the most part but it gets on my nerves too, I can’t help it. I always try to remember that I’d rather be unique (aka not follow the mainstream idea of the perfect woman) and happy than perfect and utterly miserable but that’s easier said than done. Some great ‘health’ blogs inspire me too, like http://www.ohsheglows.com for example, written by a woman who struggled with an eating disorder too and found her peace in vegan food (that’s delicious, and easy to make, and she never fit- or health-shames :)). Makes me remember that it’s all about being at peace with yourself, not so much the foods you eat 🙂

    Long story (okay, rant too) short, loved the post 🙂

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    1. Thanks lady. Glad to know I’m not the only one out there who sees these things and thinks “WTF is going on here?!” It’s madness!! It’s so unhealthy and sexualized.

      I’ll definitely check out this blog. I’m not quite ready for vegan living, I’m still trying to conquer vegetarianism! Chicken is my last meat to go. It’s also the hardest to give up!

      Never apologize for your rants/posts. I love reading what you have to say!!

      Like

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