Instagram is on the rise, and so are the fitness stars of the platform. The visual-driven nature of the social network makes it easy to project a certain image, creating, sharing and discussing polished, seemingly inspirational and motivational content.
But is the Instagram fitness craze really all that safe and beneficial? Turns out there is a flip side of the visual fitness-worshipping cult.
One reason making Instagram an excellent marketing tool is the lack of external control. Unless the post is outrageous and openly demonstrates extreme hate, cruelty or other offensive content, chances are it will stay up – and maybe even get promoted.
But here’s the thing: an incorrect approach to exercise and unrealistic expectations can be dangerous in a number of ways. Today, we will discuss some of the darkest secrets of the Instagram fitness culture to give you some serious food for thought.
What not to love?
At a glance, having easy access to fitness inspiration and tips is nothing short of greatness. Workouts, nutrition advice and oh-so-beautiful bodies that immediately make you want to hit the gym…motivation is a powerful thing!
As such, promoting healthy living is a great idea, and modern society definitely lacks focus and direction in the health and fitness department. If you’re overall healthy, reasonably well-versed in certain types of exercise and just want to use Instagram as that extra push – all the power to you…
… But Instagram’s fitness culture has a dark side
Recently, stories are emerging about people who got inspired by the Instagram fitness movement, but their initial enthusiasm quickly turned into a crazy obsession, fuelled by distorted expectations and disordered eating patterns.
And to be honest, we don’t find this surprising.
According to Professor Marika Tiggemann, even a brief Instagram browse can have devastating effects on one’s self-esteem. In her interview to Insider, she noted: “[I had a] hunch/worry that this was another way for women to engage in unhealthy practices regarding food, eating and body attitudes. […]In daily life these small, one-off effects [on body image] are likely to cumulate to a much bigger effect”.
It’s not difficult to pinpoint the reason, either.
Too often, there is an alarming disconnect between these images and the words that accompany them
Supposedly, it makes sense for the Instagram fitness stars to post photos of their slender bodies, washboard abs and thin waists. After all, aren’t those features the best proof of their success and expertise, and consequently – an excellent selling point?
However, oftentimes the content itself doesn’t have anything to do with the captions, which paints a whole different picture.
For example, one of the posts from an Australian trainer Kayla Itsines proudly demonstrates her tight six pack, whilst the text reads “Remember that your journey is YOUR journey and not anyone else’s. Don’t ever compare yourself to anyone else. Not the girl in the magazine, not the girl on Instagram, not your friends… not even me”.
That’s right – this exact caption accompanies the photo of a closely cropped stomach! ( I am not judging the trainer, just the fitness nature of Instagram)
It’s only natural then that the viewers are comparing themselves to such images – and feeling like they’re coming short.
Just some of the comments under the photo described above (sic):
- “Literally work out every day and nowhere near as fit looking as you.”
- “I wish I was so skinny PLZ HELP ME.”
- “I would do ANYTHING to look like you.”
And whilst some Instagram personalities are keeping it real and acknowledging the gap between the filtered selfies and raw reality, many keep building dangerously deceptive empires. In fact, to add perceived credibility to their accounts,..
Some fitness stars don’t just post images of their own bodies: They also share before-and-after photos of their own clients.
This is one of the most effective ways to gain new supporters – after all, nothing speaks quite as loud as seeing results or “normal” people following the program, as opposed to the gurus themselves.
However, the main issue with such images is that they place appearance, not overall benefits of exercise and healthy eating, under the spotlight, promoting wrong ideals and thriving on sometimes unrealistic expectations.
In addition, an image is literally a single moment, which can be easily tweaked with clever lighting, posing and thought-through camera angles, which is another reason why putting appearance first seems wrong.
So, is Instagram always harmful and bad for self-esteem?
In a nutshell, it depends on several factors, the main one being the way scrolling through the ‘gram feed makes you feel. Here’s some wisdom from health experts to help determine if you’re better off ditching your daily Instagram binge:
- Take any advice with a grain of salt. Consider the person’s credentials (or lack thereof), genetic features and any enhancements they may be using to promote themselves, from clever camera angles to plastic surgery. Inspiration is great, but not everything is going to be 100% achievable for everyone!
- If you really need that extra push, consider hiring a professional offline instead of relying on Instagram.
- Listen to your body – if something doesn’t feel right or is going to harm your health in any way, don’t do it and seek alternative arrangements.
- Instead of trying to copy someone’s life, set your own sustainable goals – however small. Any steady change is better than overdoing it for a week and falling back to square one. If you haven’t exercised in years, starting off with a full-on 60-minute high-intensity routine might be downright harmful – but cutting that cheeky cookie from your snack list and walking for 30 minutes daily might just be the right start.
- If for any reason a certain account makes you feel bad – inadequate, not pretty enough, or literally anything else – unfollow it and keep celebrating your own achievements. It’s that simple.