You open Instagram and up pops a snapshot of perfectly-posed, super-fit, ultra-lean and bronzy-tan body parts with the hashtag #fitspo.
This stands for fitness inspiration; but are you inspired? I want to know how it makes you feel when you see images of incredibly fit and lean people. Does it make you want to get out there and ride a bike and take a dance class or does it make you want to hide your body more and stay away from summer activities like putting on a bathing suit and going to the beach?
For some people, this kind of content is motivating and gets them moving to follow through on their exercise and nutrition goals. But for others, it makes them feel worse about their own bodies. Many people see #fitspo as just #thinspo in a sports bra. And #thinspo is a very disturbing hashtag that is used by young women who support each other to continue their disordered eating. Often alongside hashtags like #suicidal #depressed #anorexic.
As you likely know, I have been in the fitness industry for many years, and over 15 years ago I created the original spiritual fitness methodology that focuses more on how we feel than how we look, so that we can see ourselves as more than a body. I knew from my own intense personal experiences, that the heightened focus on my body was causing me to feel more depressed and less engaged in my life. I spent my days working out, eating and napping. That was it. I wanted to break free from that self-imposed prison and I knew for sure that there were millions of other people out there just like me.
I always say that exercise saved my life when I saw it as a form of self-expression. I loved to move my body and dance and sweat and teach; it was my medicine. But then I started to view myself as just a body to be picked apart and viewed; in my own eyes I was never thin or fit enough. I became depressed and constantly thought about what others were thinking of me.
I truly believe that exercise makes life better, not because of how it makes you look to others, but because of how it makes you feel when you have endorphins flowing in your bloodstream, increased energy and when you feel flexible and capable to do the things you love.
We are more than a body. We have a body that we are responsible for taking care of, nourishing, and to using in ways to accomplish so much more than just to be viewed or compared, liked or commented on.
If you find yourself scrolling Instagram, watching Netflix or flipping through magazines and feeling badly about your body, use that as your wake up call. Remember that #fitspo—whether it is on social media or in an advertisement, is selling something. Ask yourself What is really being sold here? If it makes you feel worse about yourself, then they are doing a good job of using fear to sell you a product.
Remember that your body is sacred and feeling good today is what is most important. Look at exercise as a means for improving physical and mental health, and notice how seeing #fitspo makes you feel. Stop following or watching media that objectifies our body and follow people who are doing more and being more. Surround yourself with people and posts that help you feel good about yourself now and inspire you to be more than just beautiful.