I vividly remember scrolling through my iPod touch looking at thousands of posts on Pinterest that promoted a skinny lifestyle. My negative self talk began at this stage. I was constantly comparing myself to these women who were depicted with features that lined up with impossible beauty standards. The saddest part is I was only a pre-teen. Thankfully, I was able to move past this time in my life, and I filtered out these unattainable goals. However, not all girls are able to move on from the posts. The posts live in their brains for the rest of their lives. Every time you go to grab a candy bar or skip a workout, there is a little voice in the back of your head nagging you, telling you you’re not good enough.
Due to the topics hitting close to home as explained earlier, I will be examining the trends of Thinspiration and Fitspiration A.K.A Thinspo and Fitspo. Fitspiration is the lifestyle and posts that are associated with healthy eating and exercising. However, Thinspiration takes Fitspiration a step further: it the lifestyle that revolves around how skinny on can be or how to obtain a certain bodily look like a thigh gap or a visible collar bone. There are distinct differences between the two as the negative Thinspiration developed out of the intended positive Fitspiration. It all started out as a way to inspire with posts like:
(Picture By Stojkovic)
However, it soon takes a dark turn with Thinspiration, which has to do more with an obsession over the ideal body image of skinniness:
(Picture By Gnuckxderivative)
If you look at the comments on both of these Instagram posts, you will notice the usernames with the years–2005 and 2009. These are young teenagers commenting on the posts. They are already following, liking, and commenting on posts that will change their outlook on workouts and body images forever. Now, they may possibly become obsessed with the wrong ideals. Janie is on the right path with being concerned about being in shape for soccer, but that could change the more she looks at posts like this. In contrast, Claire is already too far gone. By looking at posts that support unattainable body features like a thigh gap, she is caught up in achieving it even if it is not healthy for her.
Nevertheless, over time, even the Fitspiration trend has taken a dark turn. While they may have initially been created for support and motivation, it has taken on a darker meaning. The mixed messages come as a result of how women can misread the text on the pictures. They could also put a Fitspo message on an image that depicts Thinspo ideals. Charlotte Hilton Anderson describes the subtle differences between thinspiration and fitspiration by calling fitspo “thinspo in a sports bra.”
Ever since the beginning of the twenty-first century, there has been a rise in social media. Whether it be Myspace, Facebook, or Instagram, social media has ruled the lives of Millennials (born 1980-1994) and Gen Zers (born 1995-2012). When internet use was examined it was determined that “chronic exposure to Thinspiration and/or fitspiration on social media, which may in turn negatively influence attitudes, beliefs, and cognitions about exercise.” The more exposure, the more likely to fall into the clutches of these trends. As technology becomes more accessible to everyone, it will only get worse.
Age Distribution of Social Media Posts Examined in %
In this chart, one is able to see the age distribution that fitspiration takes hold of in this particular study. As expected, the 18-24 age range is the largest chunk of the pie, but interestingly enough the 45+ age group is the second biggest chunk. This is surprising because I would have thought the younger than 18 group would be second. However, this anomaly can be attributed to the lack of variety in the sample population. I find this data compelling to show that it is not just one age group affected by the fitspiration trend: it is women of all ages. Could this point to an underlying issue from which women suffer?
Most concerning about this trend is the alarming number of eating disorders that can be attributed to or exacerbated by Fitspo and Thinspo posts. David LaPorte conducted a study in 2010 that had participants on Thinspo websites (sites like Tumblr, Pinterest, Facebook) for around 90 minutes in one sitting. They were able to determine that the next week, the participants ate on average 3000 less calories. These participants had no history of eating disorders, yet they slowly began to show signs of one developing due to the brief time they spent on these sites. LaPorte goes on to say “Now imagine you’re a 16 or a 14 year old … and you go onto these websites for hours.” This is concerning for 2010, now 10 years later, we are worse off because of how technology has developed more. Everyone has a cell phone, social media, and constant access to the internet, meaning if anything this condition has worsened. I am concerned for younger children that have never known anything different than constantly having information at their fingertips via their phones or the internet. My age group is one of the last generations to remember what it was like before the smart phone and age of the internet. It is concerning to think about what will happen to these young girls who will be able to access these sights from the minute they are born.
The concerning thing is, “women have suffered from self-esteem issues since the dawn of time. Now thanks to social media, self-loathing is just a few clicks away.” Women used to look magazines to compare themselves, which would entail buying the magazine and then reading through it once or twice before throwing it away. Then when the switch from radio to television was made, women would be able to watch the women on screen and compare them in that regard. Now, women have it at the tip of their fingers, able to access it at any time. This is more toxic to women because of the constant exposure as opposed to the occasional ones.
Although most of the sources I have been able to find are from the early 2010s, this issue is still prevalent in our society. It is concerning that this is still an issue five or ten years later. While websites like Pinterest have tried to end these trends by removing these search abilities, there are ways to get around it. On Pinterest, if you search “Thinspiration,” nothing comes up, but if you search “Fitspiration,” plenty of related posts come up. What Pinterest does not realize is how bad both searches are. Pinterest and other similar websites need to take control of their sites by blocking these posts otherwise it is still accessible by those who are can not look away from these posts.
Women need to come together in order to conquer and end the Thinspo/Fitspo trends. They are toxic to everyone and need to be shut down. Awareness is key in this situation as it is the only way to improve the situation. It is important to address the issue as it is already out of hand. We do not need another generation to fall into the same traps that we have.
After reading this, you can go take a quiz I made to test your understanding and to possibly learn something new…
**If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, please contact NEDA for help:**
Call or Text: (800) 931-2237
Works Cited (in order as they appear)
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=90069975 : Nenad Stojkovic, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=70784956 : gnuckxderivative work: Jonathunderderivative work: Dr.K., CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
https://www.today.com/health/new-pinterest-fad-may-fuel-unhealthy-fitness-obsession-6C10866502 : Melissa Dahl
https://www.careerplanner.com/Career-Articles/Generations.cfm : Michael T. Robinson
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11469-017-9834-z : Danika A. Quesnel, Brain Cook, Kellen Murray, Jessica Zamudio
https://www.jmir.org/2017/3/e95/ : Elise Rose Carrotte, Ivanka Prichard, Megan Su Cheng Lim
https://www.health.com/condition/anorexia/is-fitspo-inspirational-or-a-dangerous-obsession : Liz Neporent
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSee5-Y_Y73y49qwzXnNlxKJHrpW19AXCwNUzg82L2ZI0aleRw/viewform : quiz I made