Does FitSpo perpetuate self-hate like ThinSpo does? FitSpo “motivation” is often temporary and sometimes comes from belittling messages
No doubt by now you have bumped into FitSpo (short for fitness inspiration) while minding your own business on the internet.
FitSpo can be tricky, making you want to work out but making you feel bad about yourself all at the same time.
Blogs, Tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram, and more are chock full of “fitspirational” messages about the exercise life, often featuring hard bodies wearing dental floss and featuring snarky messages.
There are so many FitSpo images out there that it’s enough to make your head spin, and your heart sink.
One such fitspo meme by Maria Kang has come under fire recently and sparked a controversy among women.
On the surface, Maria is challenging women (moms in particular) to set aside excuses and get fit. As a personal trainer, I agree with the message…sort of.
I know that if you want something bad enough you will make the time for it.
But I also know that staying fit and eating right can be really hard, and not everyone has the same challenges in life.
I know that it’s not always about excuses or even about motivation, but its about helping people find their way through obstacles so they can feel better and enjoy life.
From a Personal Trainer’s Perspective
As a fitness professional, FitSpo memes and messages make me wonder: does the creator of the meme really understand what kind of message they are sending?
Sure, as fitness junkies we get the gist, but people who are not surrounded by the fitness lifestyle can be easily turned off by messages like the one above.
Would I call my clients lazy because they are out of shape? Nope. Listing a person’s shortcomings is the worst way to motivate (basic psychology, right?).
It may work short term, but the motivation will eventually fizzle because it’s superficial. Some (not all) FitSpo works like ThinSpo: motivation through self-hate.
It is not enough to point out that people have flaws (excuses). Where is Mrs. Kang’s solution to excuses? The image below might be a better motivator for parents:
Maria’s message could even have said “If I can do it, so can you!”.
It’s tempting to tell people that they are lazy. But it’s not always effective. I am responsible for leading people in life long health habits, not constantly pointing out their flaws.
Most people that come to me already know that they need help – that’s why they are meeting with me. People who have a passion for fitness should find ways to help others overcome obstacles.
As personal trainers and fitness enthusiasts, we can balance being straightforward with people and having empathy for different life experiences.
From a Mom’s Perspective
To be completely honest, there are times when I have no motivation to work out. I really do enjoy working out, but sometimes I am tired, stressed, not feeling well, etc (yes, I know they are “excuses”).
Even as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor, it can still be hard to muster the energy to do any exercise especially when your health goes to crap. Even fit people struggle with excuses.
A few years back I worked with a nationwide company doing wellness assessments for a local organization. During brief interviews, we would touch on the topic of making time for exercise.
Most of the people who struggled with getting more activity expressed that they had no energy to work out. They were completely drained at the end of their long work days.
I completely understand that. I personally struggle with bouts of fatigue that make exercise seem like a joke. Growing up, my Dad had a physically demanding job and he worked hard to build his own business – he still does.
If anyone had ever told my Dad that he was lazy because he didn’t exercise, I probably would have punched them in the face. It simply isn’t true.
The folly of many fitspo messages lies in the assumption that everyone is the same – that everyone who doesn’t have an amazing body is lazy, and that everyone has the same goals in life.
I’m not kidding myself – I know there are lazy people out there. But we can’t assume that everyone is lazy. It’s simple logic: doctors can’t assume that every patient has the same illness, why would we assume everyone has the same “excuse”?
I don’t believe that Maria is a fat-shaming bully, and I don’t believe people are blaming her for being overweight.
I do believe that she (any many others) should rethink their messages – they can definitely do a better job motivating people if that’s their goal.
I think the real reason people are offended by Maria’s photo and message is that it seems to come across as arrogant. Motivation like that doesn’t really stick.
Let’s offer up some real motivation:
P.S. When I stopped spending so much time looking at FitSpo, I actually started liking my body. Give it a try and go on a media fast and see if you are happier with your body and your life
Sarah Jane Parker is the founder, recipe creator, and photographer behind The Fit Cookie. She’s a food allergy mom and healthy living blogger based in Wyoming. Sarah is also an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer, ACE Certified Health Coach, Revolution Running certified running coach, and an ACE Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist