Fitspiration and Its Influence on Eating Disorders

August 22, 2018 Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

The fitspiration trend can influence the spread of eating disorders, so here's a guide to combat fitspiration messages with body positive affirmations.

If you have access to the Internet, then chances are, you're aware of the popular "fitspiration" trend, but have you considered—or worse, experienced—its influence on the spread of eating disorders? For several years, fitspiration has been gaining traction and momentum on social media. Self-appointed wellness experts are using the buzzword as a hashtag for their Instagram posts. Fitness-themed Pinterest boards are cluttered with images of men and women exercising their toned physiques, overlaid with mantras like, "Strong is the new skinny." Upon first glance, these phrases seem innocuous—progressive shifts toward strength over thinness. But the truth is, fitspiration can influence eating disorder behaviors, so it's important to examine the subliminal messages beneath the motivational words and snapshots.      

The Link Between Fitspiration and Eating Disorders

The problem with fitspiration is not its emphasis on physical strength. The body is designed for movement, so exertion is beneficial. However, this trend goes wrong in its proliferation of health based on appearance and aesthetics ("Media Portrayals of Eating Disorders"). The measure of being healthy does not depend on how chiseled your thighs, abdominals, or biceps are. Your fitness level is not contingent on the number of repetitions you can perform, miles you can sprint, or yoga sequences you can perfect. That is how fitspiration dangerously misses the mark—by commoditizing the human body as a machine to be sculpted, tightened, and improved rather than a living, breathing miracle to be nurtured and accepted. When this kind of bias pervades, eating disorders take root.  

What Message to Focus on Instead of Fitspiration

In my opinion, the fitspiration trend has normalized and glamorized this culture's fixation on morphing different bodies into one universal beauty standard. The definition of what beautiful means has evolved from "skinny" into "strong," but the underlying theme remains consistent. If you aren't lean, toned, and muscular in all the right areas, then your appearance is not desirable. This message is often complicated to detect because it's hidden under the guise of health and fitness, but this pressure to achieve certain benchmarks of physical strength, toughness, intensity, and endurance can propel you toward harmful extremes ("Exercise Addiction? Compulsive Exercise in Eating Disorders"). So how can you find that balance of staying active without it becoming an unhealthy obsession?       

My advice is to search inward for a sense of affirmation—you cannot obtain the self-worth you're chasing after superficial criteria like a washboard stomach and inner thigh gap. These alleged status symbols have been manufactured by a culture that believes worth is an external aesthetic, not an internal attribute. You will reach exhaustion and burnout pursuing this cultural misconception. The most intensive workout regimen or trendiest yoga practice will not lead to a restored body image. That's an inside job based on kindness, gentleness, compassion, and acceptance directed at yourself. Fitspiration can influence eating disorder tendencies, but the indication of true health and wellness is your strength of character.

Tags: fitspiration

APA Reference
Schurrer, M. (2018, August 22). Fitspiration and Its Influence on Eating Disorders, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 29 from

Author: Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

Connect with Mary-Elizabeth on Facebook, Instagram and her personal blog.

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