Why I’m No Longer Pro-Fitspo

Lately, I’ve noticed several articles cropping up around the web — from fellow Bloggers to the Huff Post — all focused on the same controversial issue: FITSPO.

Since this has become such a hot topic in the fitness community, I’m suddenly feeling the urge to “weigh in” and add my voice to the conversation. But, first, let’s clarify why Fitspo is even a thing and what its original intent was.

Here’s how Urban Dictionary defines the trend:

Short for “fitspiration.” Images of active, strong and fit women that promote proper exercise and diet.

So, that’s the purpose Fitspo supposedly aims to fulfill. However, now it’s teetering on the brink of soft porn.

Soft porn that makes you kinda sorta question everything about your physical worth.

(Like…does this REALLY have to be either-or?!?!)

flat stomach or sweets

image courtesy of Pinterest

How did this movement — which should have been a positive and dynamic lifestyle initiative — veer so far off-course?

Hell, that’s what I wanna know.

When I initially heard about the whole “fitspiration” concept, I wasted no time jumping on-board. I mean, here was the confidence-booster we’d been waiting for, right?!

Thinspiration’s healthier twin sister.

Social media’s gift to female psyches everywhere.

Rather than bombarding us with airbrushed propaganda of unrealistically skeletal frames, Fitspo motivated us to strive for “strong” over “skinny.”

image courtesy of Pinterest

image courtesy of Pinterest

Well, in theory anyway. Because that’s where the motivation ends. Despite these so-called good intentions, Fitspo still panders to an exclusive audience. It doesn’t celebrate the beauty of each unique physique but, instead, discriminates against body types that aren’t tucked and toned in all the right places.

Case-in-point: “strong not skinny” is actually a derogatory message. Some women are naturally thin — not eating disorder thin per se, but thin. They can’t change their builds any more than curvy women can.

Nor should they. Stick-straight, hourglass or voluptuous — the female figure is worth embracing, regardless of shape or size.

So, why have sculpted obliques and sinewy biceps become the arbitrary benchmark to gauge our “hotness” levels?

Well…umm…compliments of Fitspo.

Don’t get me wrong, if you do have sculpted obliques and sinewy biceps, take pride in those accomplishments. After all, fitness requires both effort and commitment. You know what though? Sometimes, even the most vigilant efforts won’t turn us all into Miranda Kerr doubles. And there’s no shame in that either.

Here’s the bottom line: I don’t feel inspired by body-shaming mantras disguised as “healthy” workout incentives.

I’m not gonna run a marathon because some Pinterest meme-creator thinks I’ll be spurred into action by Victoria’s Secret angels in barely-there spandex, sports bras and the uplifting text overlay — “Train Insane or Remain the Same.”

image courtesy of Pinterest

image courtesy of Pinterest

Nope. I’ll exercise for ME, thanks. Not a subliminal you-aren’t-working-hard-enough quote, or some sexually stimulating model with an unattainable bod. Those are illusions. And illusions won’t get results.

Society has begun equating fitness with the feminine ideal, but this label misses the mark. Who cares about looking like a superficial slice of eye-candy when you can strive for personal acceptance instead? Exercise isn’t about some fleeting “Dayyyum, girl!” once-over.

Exercise is about vitalitytoughnessexhilaration — both physically and mentally. Fitspo, however, won’t get you there.

So, what will?

  1. Gradual progress at your own steady pace.
  2. And self-love. Yeah, TONS of self-love.

My final advice, then? Unplug from this Fitspo trend. It’s basically just Thinspo with a sportier-sounding name.

love yourself

image courtesy of Pinterest

Decoding “Fitspeak”

When was the last time you logged onto Twitter or Instagram and didn’t see a #gymflow mirror pic? While scanning tabloid headlines, like “Kourtney Kardashian Drops Baby Weight Thanks to Edamame Detox,” do you feel a surge of confusion followed by resentment that she thought of it first? (Whatever the HELL an edamame detox even is).

Upon hearing the word “tabata,” would you picture a hibachi grill rather than an exercise regimen? Have you given up trying to decipher what Gwyneth Paltrow means by “organic avenue,” or why anyone cares?

Like…whoever came up with this stuff must take pleasure in your befuddled brain.

Would somebody just write you a damn manual already?!

Ever since pop culture and social media outlets hopped on this new “Eat Clean Train Dirty” bandwagon, our society has begun to develop a new language. I call it “Fitspeak.”

The sophisticated-sounding terminology thrown around by magazines, celebs, personal trainers, and self-proclaimed weight loss gurus. Yup, that’s Fitspeak. I’m sure you’ve heard it used. But who, among us, can call themselves fluent?

These days, the concepts of health and fitness are less about lifestyle choices and more about trendiness. And here’s my personal take on that shift: with all these fads-of-the-moment popping up every time a new “Dr. Oz” episode airs, there’s no differentiating between them. If you can sneak “clean eats” into a conversation, you might as well be a registered dietitian. But is the average person even aware of what clean eating entails? Probably not. (I had to research…just sayin’).

So, we follow the trends and adopt the lingo. But we’re missing 1 crucial link: how those fancy words can be applied to the upkeep of our bodies. We’ve lost our knowledge and, therefore, our power. But, ladies, that ends now. The more we study Fitspeak, the more we’ll understand the difference between passing fads and nutritional values. The more we’ll know about our own wellbeing.

Right. Let’s get cracking the Fitspeak code!


Nutrition:

1. Paleo Diet: Shorthand for “paleolithic,” the idea behind this dietary plan is that if our Stone Age ancestors didn’t ingest certain foods, we shouldn’t touch them either. The paleo diet consists of lean meats and protein, high-fiber-low-starch fruits and veggies, and omega-3 oils or other unsaturated fats. That means no processed foods (refined sugars or saturated fats), grains, legumes, and most carbohydrates. Basically, expect to eat like a hunter-gatherer.

2. Gluten-Free Diet: Initially used to treat celiac disease, the idea behind this dietary plan is that avoiding gluten (a protein found in some grains) will reduce inflammation of the small intestine. The gluten-free diet consists of unprocessed nuts and legumes, eggs, lean meats (without any coating), fruits and veggies, most dairy products, and non-wheat whole grains. That means nothing made with barley, rye, wheat, or triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). Basically, make GF flour your new best friend.

3. Vegan Diet: A (reduced carbon footprint) step further than vegetarianism, the idea behind this dietary plan is that any animal part or by-product should not be considered food. The vegan diet consists of fruit and veggies, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, and plant-based meat substitutes, such as tofu or tempeh. That means no processed foods, meat of any kind, eggs, honey, and dairy products. Basically, if it comes from a critter, it goes nowhere near your mouth.

4. Juice Diet: Intended for the purpose of cleansing the body from toxins, the idea behind this dietary plan is that replacing meals with organic juices for 1-2 weeks will keep your organs and blood stream in mint condition. The juice diet consists of only blended fruits and veggies. That means…well, nothing else. Except water. Literally. Basically, you better really like those leafy greens. And health professionals suggest proceeding with caution, as the benefits of juicing have yet to be proven.

Exercise:

1. Zumba Workout: Developed by a Colombian choreographer in the ’90s, this fitness program incorporates dancing and aerobics into a fast-paced cardio workout. Zumba combines movements from the following Latin dance genres: samba, salsa, soca, hip-hop, flamenco, chachacha, tango, mambo, and merengue. Some off-shoots also include lunges, squats, and martial arts. Basically, Zumba is hardcore resistance training set to lively ethnic beats.

2. Tabata Workout: Also known as HIIT (high-intensity interval training), this fitness program incorporates a series of 4 minute workout circuits that build muscle and torch excess fat. Tabata combines bursts of extreme aerobic activity and alternating recovery periods. Some regimens target strength training (e.g. push-ups, squats, or sit-ups at varying speeds), and others target cardio (e.g. hard sprints followed by a jog). Basically, welcome to the longest 4 minutes of your life.

3. Hot Yoga Workout: Widely considered the most effective method of improving flexibility, this fitness program incorporates yoga poses performed in 40% humidity. Hot Yoga combines breathing exercises, movements, and meditations, just like traditional yoga. The only difference is an added heat-factor introduced by Bikram practitioners for the purpose of sweating out toxins. Basically, you’ll want a gallon of water at the ready. Or 5 gallons, no biggie.

4. Pure Barre Workout: A fairly recent phenomenon that’s been sweeping the nation, this fitness program incorporates ballet and pilates into an hour of torture with unbelievable results. Pure Barre combines tiny isometric pulses and tucks to tone the entire body, while paying specific attention to the thighs, glutes, arms, and core. This regimen bases its effectiveness on small muscles tiring quickly and, therefore, working harder. Basically, Pure Barre will kick your ass.