“When unnatural thinness became attractive, girls did unnatural things to become thin.”
There is no denying that we live in a society obsessed with the pursuit of beauty.
Not only are we obsessed with beauty, but our standards of beauty also change over time. For the past decade pop culture standards of female beauty has dictated “the thinner the better”. Girls worldwide took this to heart, creating & visiting Pro-Ana sites for advice on how to achieve impossible levels of thinness. They gave the serious, sometimes fatal eating disorders Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa the cute nicknames, “Ana” and “Mia”. And they created thin-inspiration, “thinspiration” (thinspo for short): Inspirational weight-loss messages superimposed over pictures of ideally thin bodies.
Now something new is going around. Fitspiration (fitness inspiration) or “Fitspo” has gained traction around the interwebs, and the catchphrase “strong is the new skinny” has come to be fashionable.
A quick search on Google Trends shows that “thinspo” has been trending since 2005, while “fitspo” is a relatively new trend that cropped up in 2011. As fitspo has gained popularity, thinspo has declined.
I’m compelled to ask: Is fitspo really an improvement over thinspo?
Or are we just repeating the harmful cycle of idolizing one body type over another?
Why Fitspo is better than Thinspo:
Mentally, idolizing a fit body is the same as idolizing a thin body. It can range from a whim to obsession. It can be a source of inspiration, or a source of depression.
The differences begin when someone begins acting on the desire to achieve a certain body type. It is the actions required to gain a fit body that ultimately make it a much healthier goal than the actions required to gain a thin body.
|Fit Habits||Thin Habits|
|Eat healthy & nutritious food
Enough calories to support a rigorous workout routine
Supplements & protein
| Eat low-calorie foods
As few calories as possible
Diet pills & appetite suppressants
When people pursue a certain “look” for their body, many do not realize of the overarching effects it will have on every other aspect of their life.
|Effects of Fitness||Effects of Thin-ness|
|Increase in lean muscle mass
Decreases risk of depression & anxiety
Improves overall mental health
Strengthens immune system
Helps prevent diabetes & heart disease
Improves concentration & memory
| Decrease in lean muscle mass
Reduces bone mass
Dizziness & chronic fatigue
Impairs function of the brain
Weakens immune system
Increases risk of infection & infectious disease
Severely impairs concentration & memory
The extreme side of Fitspo and Thinspo:
Yes, taking anything to an extreme can be unhealthy, even fitness. With the beauty rhetoric leaning towards strength & fitness, there is potential for girls to develop unhealthy obsessions with tracking their macronutrient & protein intakes, becoming addicted to exercise, and suffering from body dismorphic disorder. The same way girls suffer low self esteem from not looking like fashion models, they can also lose self-esteem from not looking like the fitness models.
However, while it is easy to overdo extreme weight loss, it is much more difficult to overdo extreme fitness. And once again, the effects of extreme weight loss tactics are ultimately much more harmful to the individual than the effects of extreme fitness.
Fitspo and Thinspo both kind of suck, but are inevitable:
Some people have beef with Fitspo and Thinspo because they focus on physical attractiveness, rather than placing emphasis on other aspects of beauty such as kindness, intelligence, or creativity.
Ideally, we would all agree that simply focusing on physical beauty is vapid and harmful to most people, and we should focus on beautiful personalities. But to be honest, that is just plain unrealistic. As long as humans have eyes and sex drives, we will continue to label certain bodies desirable, and other bodies undesirable. And in our media-soaked culture, is inevitable that people will look to these desirable bodies for inspiration.
The bottom line is this: If you are going to sit around and stare at fitspo & thinspo posters all day, they will have equally bad effects on your self esteem. However, if you’re going to pick an ideal body and actually take actions to achieve it, “fit” is, and will always be, less harmful than thin.