In modern society, it’s rare to meet someone these days who is not on one social network or another. We get updates from friends, news and more from social media. You may even be getting your fitness inspiration from others on social media.
The research seems to indicate that social networks can provide a means of accountability, and therefore motivation, yet #fitspiration alone can have unintended negative consequences.
By following #fitspiration, are you being motivated in the way you thought?
There’s this popular book—you may have heard of it—titled The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. While her book has a lot to do with physical space and cultivating an environment that brings you joy, I think a lot of what she has been said can apply to social media, especially in regards to fitness and health. Use social media when it gives you joy and brings you happiness, and remove it (or better yet, the accounts that don’t) when it doesn’t.
Feeling inspired by Kondo, I pulled out some of the quick tips from my in-depth fitspiration and well-being guide, as well as social media and motivation research, that you can walk away with and put to use TODAY.
Change Your Thinking
It’s easy to get carried away scrolling through #fitspiration images on Instagram or Pinterest. However, fitspiration isn’t always helpful because the images most often promote thin and toned women, as well as muscular (or hypermuscular) men .
Instead of thinking of #fitspiration as a tool for motivation, take it for what it is: an ongoing stream of today’s “ideals.” Sure, some of the images may vary, but the majority showcases only thin and toned women or muscular men.
When we see these images perpetuating unrealistic ideals time and time again, it can cause us to doubt ourselves. We may see these photos and think we aren’t doing enough, aren’t making progress fast enough, and so on. Comparing ourselves to these ideals can lead to disordered behaviors, as well as a decrease in mental health, body satisfaction, and overall well-being.
As Kondo puts it, “People cannot change their habits without first changing their way of thinking.”
To start, change your way of thinking about #fitspiration.More: Is Instagram Hurting Your Workouts?
Follow Accounts That Bring You Joy
One of the main points in Kondo’s book is to “keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle.”
Need another reason to consider clearing out your cluttered feed? Ask yourself if the accounts you follow bring you joy. They should. The health and fitness accounts that bring me the most joy feature healthy recipes, powerlifting tips, and men and women who are focusing on their health, not their appearance. These types of accounts are motivational to me. You may find other accounts bring you joy, such as accounts with HIIT workouts or running tips, yogis, etc.
The accounts and hashtags that bring you joy are the ones to keep. For me, those accounts are:
While Kondo suggests that “We should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of,” I think we also need to choose what social accounts we want to get rid of.
Unfollow Those That Don’t
Discarding what does not bring you joy is perhaps one of the best tips from her book that can be applied to social media. If you’re following accounts on social media that do not bring you joy, you need to discard them.
Research has shown that even the short-term exposure to fitspiration images led to increased negative mood and body dissatisfaction . If you’ve found that logging on to social media negatively impacts your mood, how you feel about your body, or even your motivation, it’s time discard the accounts and/or hashtags that lead to those feelings.
In my own experience, many of the accounts of IFBB pros and sponsored bodybuilders did not bring my joy. The videos and images posted were often of men and women wearing next to nothing, selfies with a quote, glute/ab shots, or meal prep snaps. While I applaud these men and women for what they’ve accomplished, I also realize that these accounts do not bring me joy.
Dive A Little Deeper
Kondo talks about storage and using space in her book. She also explains that, “Storage experts are hoarders.” She goes on, “I have yet to see a house that lacked sufficient storage. The real problem is that we have far more than we need or want.” We can look at social media in the same way. One thing (storage = #fitspiration) could be masking another (hoarding = disordered behaviors), we just need to get to the heart of it.
Dive a little deeper into the #fitspiration accounts you follow. Research has shown that posting fitspiration-type pictures on Instagram regularly could be an indication that somebody suffers from some form of either emotional distress due to compulsive exercise or disordered eating behaviors .
So, while the #fitspiration accounts you follow may seem healthy, they could be an indication that those posting are dealing with something else.More: We're Making Progress With Body Image—But How Much?
Create Your Own #Fitspiration
If you’re changing the way you think about fitspiration and following the accounts that bring you joy, you may be able to help redefine #fitspiration, and your experience with it, on social.
Kondo spells out, “The process of assessing how you feel about the things you own, identifying those that have fulfilled their purpose, expressing your gratitude, and bidding them farewell, is really about examining your inner self, a rite of passage to a new life.”
Create a new life for yourself on social media with accounts and images that bring you joy and help you work towards your goals in a positive way.
“The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life,” says Kondo. This holds true for fitspiration and social media as well. The accounts you follow may impact how you live your life and the ways in which you view yourself.
While social media can be beneficial in motivating you to hit the gym, eat healthy, and live healthy, you should consider proceeding with caution. Take a step back and evaluate whether or not the things you find “fitspirational” are truly helping you live a happy, healthy life.
For more on fitspiration and well-being, take a look at my guide on Grounded Strength.