When I joined Pinterest about a year ago, I did it with just one intention: to motivate myself to stay on the health and fitness bandwagon. What better way to do so than by looking at boards full of fit-looking people (fitspo), accompanied by slogans such as “Strong is the new skinny”, right?
Well, I stopped being active on Pinterest roughly about two months after I signed up for my account. Partly because I wasn’t a big fan of the interface, but mostly because I’d decided that it was no longer, well, healthy, to gaze at perfect washboards abs and tight butts. Here are three reasons why fitspo pictures make me feel uncomfortable.
1. A lot of the pictures feature women wearing very little
Most of the fitness models in the pictures are wearing nothing but g-strings and tiny bikini tops and most disturbingly, the shots usually chop off her head, thus turning the attention to parts of the female anatomy. To me, this is nothing but yet another clear instance of the objectification of the female body, and I felt uncomfortable being complicit to that. The message seems to be “If I work out and get fit and toned, I will be more attractive to men.” You don’t need me to tell you how wrong that mentality is, do you? Fitspo pics merely elevate yet another unrealistic beauty ideal over others, taking us a huge step backwards in the fight for body acceptance.
2. Not all fit bodies look the same
There’s a theory that that are three body types: ectomorph, mesomorph and endomorphs. Ectomorphs are the naturally skinny types who find it hard to gain weight and muscle. Endomorphs tend to be rounder and stockier in body shape, while mesomorphs have naturally athletic figures that gain muscle and get toned very quickly. Because of the different fat percentage and muscle mass these three types of body have, the same workout will produce very different results in each of them. But just because the mesomorphs will probably be the first to see results among the three body types doesn’t mean that ectomorphs and endomorphs aren’t fit. My point: it’s not a good idea to use how a person looks as a measure of his or her fitness. And you should definitely not unnecessarily torture yourself by holding yourself to those standards. Fit bodies can take all shapes and forms and if you’re fit and active person, why beat yourself up over the fact that you don’t have a six-pack? Case in point: Sumo wrestlers. They may not look like Usain Bolt, but they are amazing athletes in their own right. This point kinda ties in with my last point, which is this …
3. Fitspo only highlight one benefit of fitness
Throughout the most part of my 20s, I tried and failed many times to maintain a consistent fitness regime. My motivation for starting again had always been: to lose a few kilos to look better. I did not enjoy running or going to the gym. So after a month or two, I simply lost the willpower and discipline to maintain my regime. But I’m happy to report that I’ve been exercising regularly for the past four years or so now. Why? Because for the first time in my life, I felt truly engaged and interested in the sports of my choice (muay thai and boxing). To say that I wasn’t at least partially motivated to look better would be a lie, but the desire to get better at what I did was definitely the bigger push factor in maintaining consistency. Because of that, I began to see improvement in other areas of my life; I could focus better at work, my self-esteem improved tremendously, I was happier knowing that I had something enjoyable to do at the end of each day, and I derived immense satisfaction from the other non-work related goal in my life.
Maintaining my fitness, in short, gave me a renewed passion for life. And that’s something no picture – rippling muscles and tight butt notwithstanding – will ever be able to convey.
About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. The only person she aspires to be is a better version of herself. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.
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