The Instagram Trap: #Fitspo or #GuiltTrip?

Type in “fitspo” on Instagram search and it comes up with more than 46 million photos related to that one hashtag. All seemingly supposed to be “motivational” fitness accounts.

I’m not sure what they’re advocating we aspire to be.

90% pictures of girls bums as they pose wearing a thong, boob shots, and pictures of extreme healthy meals all with related hashtags of #fitspiration and #cleaneating.

Some profiles even being border-line soft porn which worries me since pretty much all the kids I work with have access to these damaging images.

So what does the research show?

Pictures of thinner, photoshopped women are consistently viewed as more successful, happier and desirable, and leave women feeling inferior in comparison about their bodies and life satisfaction.

Not only has research shown viewing these seemingly flawless pictures damaging to self esteem and related to increase in eating disorders. For those current issues, or in recovery from an eating disorder this has the potential to be detrimental to recovery and even trigger relapses, and associated disordered behaviours.

In a sample of vulnerable young adults, who had previously had eating disorders and depression, there was a heightened dopamine response, in response to pictures of food and models, as seen using fMRI,
Dopamine is the neurotransmitter involved in reinforcement learning and pleasure response. Thus being exposed to endless pictures of ‘perfect’ bodies, and food is more likely to contribute to the disordered eating, body shaming, and obsessive exercise and dieting behaviours.

Orthorexia is an eating disorder, based on abolishing all “unclean foods”, as well as increasing behaviours such as, obsessive exercising, body checking (staring in the mirror, endless pictures, measuring and weighing) and calorie counting. These behaviour become relied upon, and if challenged cause feelings of severe anxiety and distress.

If you are recovering from an eating disorder, you must remember recovery is ultimately about achieving what you want in life without the boundaries created by your ED, the expectations of others, comparisons, and rules.

#Lies verses #Reality 

We need to be smart about who we follow, and what we are feeding our mind, as this will ultimately feed how we treat ourselves and our bodies. And a healthy you is a happy you! 

1. Unrealistic expectations.
They promote that eating what they eat will make you look that way, and that their way  is the ‘ideal’. These upward comparisons automatically make us feel inferior sending that well known wave of guilt crashing over you when you and fuelling many unhealthy, self-analytic behaviours.  

Reality: You do not need to look any other way then the way you look. It’s not about appearances (cliche I know) but how you feel in yourself.
Do what makes you happy.
Play ultimate frisbee or go dog walking if that’s your thing…and do not believe the lies that many unqualified Instagram accounts fill your feeds with. You need no ones permission to eat what you like, nor should you feel bad for having likes and dislikes of food which go against the grain of what society tell you is acceptable.

2. They are living the “right” way.
We automatically assume they are qualified to give advice, allowing their way to be the correct way and yours to be the wrong way of living.
The majority of the “fitspiration” accounts are not managed by qualified nutritionists, personal trainers or dieticians. They thus have no right to tell you what to do.
We seem to think we all function and are wired the same, when in reality what makes my body, and mind, function at it’s optimal, will not be the same for you. This trend of macronutrient counting, and publicly displaying the numbers, only fuels obsession, comparison, which leads to anxiety, stress and actually means we forget how to listen mindfully to our bodies and minds and what they want and need.
What works for one will not work for all.
We have different needs, likes/dislikes, requirements, past and present health needs.
Never let anyone rob you of the joy of eating a meal you want and love with friends and family, or for having a day where you choose to curl up with comfort food watching films.
Balance is key. 

3. Looking like they do will make you happy. 
This is the biggest lie. 
I remember when I was ill with anorexia I always moved the boundaries of how much weight I needed to lose. I was sure if I reached this magic number I’d be a more acceptable, loveable and successful person.
I  can tell you now, that number never came.
Was never low enough. 

My true bubbliness and happiness came when I decided to sit down with myself and love me, treat myself well and see my worth, talents and passions unfold!
[for more on this read Ambition: Dream Big]

You will be happiest when you are doing the things that truly bring you joy. Surround yourself with people who lift you up. Be involved in the work, studies and activities that give you meaning and purpose that make you proud and excited to get out of bed every morning. 

3 Final Tips to Check Who You’re Following and What You’re Posting. 

Make sure you’re surrounded by, and feeding others news feeds, full of good vibes!

  1. Are they, and are you making others feel good about themselves or encouraging comparisons, and dictating a superficial way of life. 

Remember, Instagram, and other social media accounts, only show what people want you to see of them – you don’t know if they ate that healthy salad or snapped the picture and went to McDonalds instead.

  1. Are you seeking validation from others. 

Your self-esteem should not be, and is not, reliant on others validation. Think about what messages you are promoting to others, and what are you reinforcing through spending time looking at, reading and liking. 

3. You are FAR more interesting than your body, workouts and food.

We are turning into such a narcissistic, self obsessed society. We shouldn’t have to be inspired and motivated by aesthetics. Looks aren’t everything. What about the amazing things your body and mind are capable of doing?!

Try following accounts that inspire you to go outside and explore new countries, see new places, and have new experiences?
It’s far more interesting to see that than what you had for lunch or how good your abs look.[unless you share an awesome recipe, that doesn’t involve 5 million ingredients I’ve never heard of]

Conclusive Message

Create a lifestyle that  makes you happy: one that’s not dictated by endless rules and routines, but is enabling you to excel in all areas of your life – not just focused on your body.

Follow accounts that inspire and challenge you in healthy ways. Check the messages you are believing and how they are leaving you feeling about yourself. Do no be afraid to challenge these messages, or live a way that goes against what others are saying you should do.


“A little consideration, a little thought for others makes all the difference.” – Eeyore, Winne the Pooh

3 Comments Add yours

  1. jlstanding says:

    I want to start off this comment by saying that my instagram is more or less a ‘fitness’ account. So your article really got my attention. You made some very interesting point I hadn’t thought of before. This obviously affects those in eating disorder recovery differently. I agree that labelling food as black and white simply GOOD or BAD isn’t healthy. I love that you’re getting back to what started you on this journey in the first place. We could all take that lesson from you. Great post.


    1. ConquerED™ says:

      Hello jlstanding 🙂 Thanks for your comment and taking the time to read my blog! I just want to say that do not get me wrong there are loads of really motivating fitness accounts, and I follow them as well! The difference is I am well enough to know not to compare my chapter 1 to someones chapter 20, whereas the vulnerability that people with an ED have would mean that this would increase feelings of guilt/shame/comparison/body dissatisfaction. I have wanted to be a health and fitness blogger for years and love posts about progress, new recipes, new workouts etc…but I was becoming aware that this was showing some girls that the only way to be happy is to have a perfect body or be constantly exercising and eating ‘clean’. ED recovery should be a breaking free from that 🙂 Best of luck wit everything!! Thanks again xx

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.