Several years ago, social media was saturated with “thinspiration.” If you frequented Pinterest, Twitter, or Instagram, you probably saw collarbones. And thigh gaps. Visible ribs, jutting hips, and waiflike bodies.
Around the same time the movement began, supermodel Kate Moss uttered that “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” which became the motto of the moment. The highest goal, for way too many, was obtaining the marks of a skinny girl—no matter your size, no matter your frame.
Thankfully, today, the thinspiration trend seems to be dying to the mainstream. Now, as a society, we’re much more focused on getting fit instead of getting thin. Fitspiration photos are the stuff of Kardashian instagrams and fit blogs, and we’re constantly bombarded with post-workout photos of celebrities like Demi Lovato, Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Taylor Swift.
While it’s awesome that we’re attempting to promote strong bodies instead of sickly ones, I still have to wonder if we’re there yet in terms of our body-image ideals.
The bodies of fitspiration stars are still tough to obtain, the result of just the right diet and just the right workout regimen followed very consistently over time. Is it too much that we’re cheering washboard abs, biceps with just the right muscle tone, and an endless stream of workout Instagrams?
If it’s affecting your mood and how you view your own body, yes.
Most of us don’t have access to the same resources of celebrities and fit bloggers to maintain those tight, toned bodies. We probably don’t have access to a personal trainer like the Kardashians, a mindlessly healthy diet like Beyonce’s vegan meal service—or a schedule that allows us to get enough beauty sleep, get in a great workout, and then get to work on time.
This sets the table for a cycle of obsession and guilt: obsessing about superfoods, workout goals, and body ideals, and guilt every single day you fall short of your ideal. We can see this trend in the rise of conditions like orthorexia, obsessing about eating very specific “healthy” foods, and exercise disorders.
Social media gives us just a peek at the whole story. Ultimately, it’s a behind-the-scenes look at someone’s health habits—but it’s just a glimpse. What looks healthy on the surface might not be what it seems. I’m not saying every person, celebrity or otherwise, has disordered eating or a fit obsession. But I am saying that it can exist under the surface, and you’d never know who it affects. I’ve talked to enough former workout stars and Instagram-famous health gurus to know it is an unspoken undercurrent of that culture.
Now, it’s not our job to determine who’s healthy and who’s not on social media. But here’s what I hope we all remember about what we see: what looks healthy for someone else might not be the best type of healthy for you.
We all have different calorie and nutrient needs. Different workouts will make us feel our best and reach a body type that’s sustainable. Maybe you don’t have cutting-board abs. Maybe you splurge on the occasional topping-laden fro-yo on the way home from work. Maybe you don’t track every bite of food on an app. Maybe your Instagram couldn’t pass for a fit blogger’s paradise. That’s okay. All of it. As long as your highest goal is maintaining personal health, without the burdens of guilt and shame when you don’t meet narrow goals.
Personally, I struggled for a long time to figure out what healthy looks like, but I finally know that it’s not working out six days a week for an hour, fitting a specific dress size, or eliminating all carbs or sugar from my diet. It’s living my life without obsessing about numbers, making mostly healthy dietary decisions, working out as much as possible (without killing myself), getting enough sleep, surrounding myself with good people—and keeping a positive attitude about my body.
If you follow that formula, your body is probably going to morph into the one you were intended to have all along—whether it be fit, thin, curvy, strong, soft, or whatever word you choose to assign to it.
Healthy is beautiful. I hope you seek and find your version of it.