The ‘Fitspiration’ Trend: Toxic or Motivational?

by Karishma Sharma – Follow @kaysharmaa

All graphs courtesy of SurveyMonkey.

Fitspiration, or essentially, the practice of fitness “gurus” or models posting motivational quotes and body pictures on Instagram, has become more than a trend in the recent years. Each day, I encounter over dozens of these photos on my feed, all sharing similar messaging of motivation, discipline, and how to stay on the fitness journey and the path to success. But are these photos really motivational or can they be toxic? I knew I couldn’t be the only one who posed this question and decided to conduct a survey where I received around 100 responses.

Before I share some of the most important results, I want to state that fitness Instagram personnel are extremely motivating in some cases. I commend them for their efforts and I am sure that many people out there love their posts! But for some, it just isn’t that simple.

I asked a series of questions, but a few stuck out to me most. These questions came to me as I scrolled through fitness Instagram posts. Below are the results for the question I asked:

“Do you think that the fitness space on Instagram is fake and posed, or real and raw?”

The majority of respondents, a whopping 60%, thought the space was fake and posed. I found this very interesting because I imagine that many fitness Instagrammers pride themselves on being real with their followers, but 60% of survey takers wouldn’t agree. I guess sometimes, “I ate two eggs for breakfast, protein for lunch, and no carbs for dinner” doesn’t seem real enough to the Insta community.

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The next one really stuck out to me:

“Do you think most fitness Instagrammers keep all body types in mind?”

Over 80% of respondents said no! That was a landslide. I was shocked to see that 80% of people did not feel accounted for on Instagram fitness accounts. This is extremely important. If you feel that you can’t do these workouts or eat this way, how are these posts inspiring?

The bottom line is, while these posts may motivate some, they can actually be toxic or harmful to others. There are a few reasons for this. One may compare themselves to the bodies of fitness professionals and get upset that they look the way that they naturally do. In addition, some of the meal plans and workouts may only work for certain types of bodies. Another huge issue in itself is that a lot of these fitness Instagrammers do not have any certifications or education in fitness, which creates a credibility issue.

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I am a fitness professional myself and have recently spent time on Instagram trying to challenge fitness norms (you can follow me @kaysharmaa). Want a cookie? Eat it. Don’t feel like working out? Don’t go. And while many may think my approach is flawed, I am happy to give another outlet to these survey respondents and the community of people out there, to which a typical Instagram post is harmful and toxic. Someone to tell them that it’s okay to have a cheat meal or it’s okay to skip a day. Relatability is something better than motivation and that’s okay. This doesn’t mean that you don’t care about fitness, but simply that you are human.

So next time you see a fitness Instagram post and you look at yourself in the mirror, shrug it off, and remember that YOU are beautiful and this is YOUR journey!

Karishma Sharma is a Bollywood Dance Fitness Instructor based in Minneapolis, MN. Her biggest hobby, her passion, and her dedication are all to fitness. She is also a dancer and is passionate about spreading her culture to those who may not be familiar. She aspires to keep her love of fitness alive each day in everything she does!

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