In the last handful of years, fitness influencers have popped up everywhere. Women around the world are creating careers out of social media posts where they post selfies of their athletic bodies, advertise fitness products in deals with brands, and share fitness advice with followers who can’t get enough. Some of these women have a massive audience, with millions of adoring fans on social media.
Their online influence gives them the power to shape the lives of young women around the world, providing examples of what the “ideal” body type should be and how to live in order to achieve peak fitness––to be like the influencers now dominating the social media world.
This sort of inspiration does come with some benefits––primarily the encouragement of women to pursue fitness as a regular activity––but the costs far outweigh them. Influencers encourage fitness, but in a way that creates impossible and destructive standards.
The feeds of influencers are tirelessly curated, with every pose carefully planned out and every small detail edited in such a way as to produce the ideal look. They are in no way an accurate representation of what most women’s bodies really look like day to day.
The human body is not designed to look like it does in influencer social media feeds. It just doesn’t work like that. Body weight can fluctuate by multiple pounds per day and stomach bloating is a daily occurrence for many. No matter how hard you try, it’s pretty much impossible to have a toned stomach 24/7.
Even their non-curated bodies are hard to match. For many influencers, fitness is their primary job. They don’t work a standard 9-5 and have increased flexibility––and more resources––for fitness. A 2+ hour daily workout is a productive work session to an influencer, but an impossibility for the average person to fit into their schedule. Influencers often have access to top notch gyms, equipment, and personal trainers that the rest of us don’t. This creates a gap that cannot be bridged
We need to realize that most of us will never look like influencers. No matter how much time I’ve spent at the gym in the past four years, and how much stronger I’ve felt, I’ve never been able to develop defined abs or to get rid of many of my body’s fat deposits. But I’ve come to realize that that’s okay.
It’s not an easy transition to escape the pull of the influencers, but it is an important one that can have a lot of benefits for your mental health and satisfaction with your fitness routine. It took me a few years to get there, but here’s the main things I did to get out of the cycle:
For many young women, however, this isn’t obvious. The perfectly curated instagram feeds make it look like influencers always have perfect bodies, even though this isn’t true. This false perception can have damaging effects––sometimes very severe––on women’s self-perception, damaging self-confidence and increasing risk factors for disordered eating habits.
- Unfollowed all fitness-focused influencers on instagram.
- Reduced time spent on Instagram in general.
- Went to YouTube to seek out natural athletes who give real, genuine healthy exercise advice. I found the video format far superior to Instagram because it is significantly harder to curate––you can’t tense and pose perfectly in every second of a video, so the audience gets a more natural and realistic example of the day-to-day body of fit people. Plus, there’s lots of great educational content out there. As a starting point, two of my favorite channels are Meg Squats and Natacha Oceane.
- Applied that advice to my diet and training.
Since making this transition, I’ve been much happier with my own body image. I don’t look anything like an influencer, but that’s ok because I’m having fun and I feel good (and I still look a lot better than I used to) and that’s really all that matters!