Why the #Fitspo trend is more concerning than inspiring
American women are starving. The #FitSpo craze has gone beyond healthy living as it’s moved into eating disorder territory. Social media feeds are littered with women photographing their weekly meal plans, flat abs, and thigh gaps while touting the principals of their weight loss via hashtag: #paleo, #crossfit, #glutenfree, #sugarfree, #progress, #detox. Then there is the hashtag worth nearly 4 million posts–#BBG, which stands for Bikini Body Guides, the cultlike trend made famous by Kayla Itsines, Instagram fitness celebrity.
Itsines, 25, is a personal trainer who’s career has skyrocketed since the release of her Bikini Body Guides. As part of the guide, Itsines recommends posting before-and-after photos–something she’s never done herself. But the photos posted by her followers can be jarring, showing depictions of extreme weight loss, reminiscent of the unhealthy websites dedicated to Pro-Anorexia. Recently, Itsines acknowledged the flaw in calling her fitness program the Bikini Body Guide, which assumes that the only bikini body worth having is an incredibly thin one. She’s not the first to worry that her affair with healthy living bordered on starvation. Jordan Younger, aka the Balanced Blonde, rebranded herself with her book Breaking Vegan after her healthy diet left her tired and weak, with her hair falling out. Younger was diagnosed with orthorexia, or the fixation on righteous eating–an all too common problem we seen daily in our news feeds.
In scrolling through photos of grain bowls and weightlifting, with words of encouragement for other women beginning their #FitSpo journey, it’s worth asking where these women get their credentials.
Most are your average woman, without a medical or nutrition degree or training in fitness. They’ve simply concocted a regime based on ideas from Pinterest and fitness sites. But the posts have become extreme, in such a way that FitSpo has devolved into tips on starvation. Depriving yourself of your favorite foods, exercising and weighing yourself each day, and restricting calories to under 1,200 daily are all signs of starvation. So that photo of steamed asparagus and cod that’s inspiring you to ditch carbs and sugar altogether warrants a second glance.
So how do we stop starving and realize health is a full package of physical and mental well being not achieved through extreme diets and training? Recognizing there is a problem, like both Itsines and Younger is an important start. Knowing your triggers or realizing you may be spiraling out of control is equally as important. If following #BBG on social media means you skip the next three meals, it’s time to turn off your phone. If you follow along on Younger’s Instagram feed, you’ll find a woman whose ribs do not protrude and who indulges in the occasional froyo or chocolate chip cookie after yoga.