Fitness

Is #fitspiration Hopeful Or Harmful?

And you’re in good company as over two billion consumers across the world now possess a touch-screen mobile phone complete with downloadable apps and an abundance of social media activity. With such a large number, it may not be surprising that, on average, we spend three and a half hours online every day, messaging, updating and tweeting. That’s three Crossfit classes! But, the good news is that we’re not letting this daily techno habit get in the way of our workout regime – in fact, we’re combining the two more than ever by sharing our progress, pitfalls and pain with an audience of like-minded fitness fanatics. But, while we emoji high-five our peers on transforming their body and achieving their goals, could we also be guilty of body shaming?

#STRONGNOTSKINNY

Hands up who’s seen that image of a bronzed, lean-bodied yogi balancing on the side of a cliff and grabbed their trainers or ditched their sameold salad for a rainbow-coloured upgrade? Us too. Chances are, it was probably Amanda Bisk (@amandabisk), a former pole vaulter turned qualified health coach who stretches her body like an elastic band, to the joy of her 366,000 Instagram followers. “If we see an exciting, vibrant, and artistic photo of a great healthy meal or exercise idea, it draws us to pay attention and take note,” Amanda tells us. “That’s a lot quicker and more effective than a blog post or book! Instagram can make you accountable for the lifestyle changes you want to make. Document your journey, find and interact with people who are on a similar journey to you. As soon as others are involved, you can’t just fall off the wagon and slip into bad habits.” But does it realistically aid individual weight loss goals? Fitness blogger Faya Nilsson (@fitnessontoast) seems to think so. “Instagram at its best, I think, is really about positive sharing – whether it’s good or bad experiences, products, struggles or motivation. You can connect with anyone in the world and exchange ideas – that’s pretty amazing if you ask me!”
One dieter that certainly agrees is Jess Semmens – an overnight sensation who lost 57kg (9st) by “Instagramming herself thin” after she was advised by doctors to lose weight. Her commitment to following that advice involved photographing every meal, posting the images on Instagram and asking for her followers’ approval. Using social media as a motivation tool has also been the subject of a report in the Journal Of The American Medical Association – the largest weight loss maintenance study to date. It discovered that a combination of personal contact and web-based support is crucial for long-term weight management. These results tally with those of PumpUp, the social fitness app whose research showed that individuals are five times more likely to stay on track with their fitness goals by sharing their journey on social media. “There is a real diverse online community who support and encourage one another,” Faya says. “I often receive lovely emails and direct messages from followers on Instagram who’ve tried and tested recipes and enjoyed them, or will email to thank me for an informative workout tip.” And she’s not the only one, as Amanda also agrees. “Everyday we see people making healthier choices that lead them to living happier and more fulfilled lives. It’s a great positive message that people want to hear, and I don’t think we can get enough of it.” Or can we?

INSTASHAM?

As we fawn over Kayla Itsines six pack abs over our morning coffee and muesli, promising ourselves we’ll HIIT that treadmill tonight, there’s speculation that we’re actually making ourselves feel worse rather than better. “We’re experiencing a movement in which underweight, unhealthy individuals are hijacking beautiful messages like #strongnotskinny and then posting pictures of their underfed bodies,” says Nathalie Schyllert, performance specialist and director of operations at Bodyism (bodyism.com ). “It’s so dangerous as there’s so many Instagrammers posting who are completely unqualified with very powerful images that people aspire to.”
At the risk of entering into the ongoing debate around editorial perfection, life coach Jacqueline Hurst (jacquelinehurst.com) says we shouldn’t always believe what we see. “We’re hitting a wave of information making us think that these images of chiselled bodies are normal and they aren’t. Spending a lot of time looking at images that are perfectly co-ordinated is fine when you understand that this is a minority and not real life. This can, in turn, create comparison, insecurity and jealousy.”
But, like everything on the vast matrix we call the internet, the beauty of it is that we can control what we’re exposed to. “It’s this lack of accountability that I find terrifying,” Nathalie tells us. “The minute you start comparing yourself to someone else’s (often untrue) highlight reel is the minute social media turns toxic. Instead, choose people that you trust and that are consistently healthy and authentic and that make you feel better not worse. Be mindful of the effect that seeing these posts has on you. If it brings you no joy or inspiration then unfollow.”
Shameful or supportive? It’s a debate that rolls on with every gym selfie snapped and healthy juice made. But with a host of #fitspo accounts provoking the conversation at your fingertips, are you for or against social media motivation?

HOW TO POST YOUR PROGRESS

FAYA “Use your own imagery that people won’t find anywhere else, combined with nice styling and plenty of colour.”
AMANDA “Keep the message you want to share clear and simple. Let your personality shine through – those that relate to you will be drawn to your honesty.”
NATHALIE “Try to help someone with a clear, inspirational image with an intelligent, articulate message.”

FITSTAGRAM INSPIRATION

@tracyandersonmethod

She’s responsible for whipping Gwyneth Paltrow into shape and now you can get a glimpse into Tracy Anderson’s method with dance class videos and the odd celeb selfie.

@kayla_itsines

Known for those abs, Kayla’s taking the internet by storm with her online guide promising to hone your physique in 12 weeks. Follow her for endless workout tips and amazing before and after images.

@bodybysimone

As trainer to Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Simone knows how to create a strong but lithe body. Her Instagram feed is full of exercise routines in wonderfully exotic locations.

@mistyonpointe

This is a woman who invented the term #strongnotskinny. Misty’s incredible imagery follows her career as a principle dancer in the American ballet.

@basebodybabes

This personal training duo know a thing or two about body sculpting. Their sisterhood attitude will make you grab your bestie and hit the gym.
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Health & Wellbeing