Opinion: Fitness influencers are ruining social media

"Thinspiration" trends are hurting people's mental health and fitness culture
There are parts of social media fitness culture that can be motivating, but influencers will always be toxic, says writer Sophie Daly.

Ever since I downloaded Instagram, 75 per cent of the posts I see are from fitness influencers. When I was younger, it was just people working out and eating clean, but as the health industry has boomed over the past few years and the use of TikTok has increased, I’ve noticed that fitness influencers have changed.

All I ever see when looking at fitness influencers is this impossible life they live. It seems like all these influencers do all day is workout and cook.

They show their workouts and what they eat to their followers, implying that if they live a life like theirs, everyone will look like them. But this life they live is so unobtainable for the average person that it’s impossible.

Most people have jobs, school, families, kids, and other important tasks they need to focus on. Implementing homemade meals every day and working out two or more hours every day is not something everyone can do.

A recent study scanned 100 of the leading fitness influencer’s profiles on Instagram and found that from the most recent 15 posts, the majority align with “thinspiration” (i.e., content that promotes excess weight loss or an unhealthy view of your body) ideals and eating disorder matters. These findings are from restricted food intake, exercise videos and obvious body checking (i.e., showing bodies at specific angles, usually done by smaller bodies).

These actions can harm people’s mental health and the way they view fitness and themselves. The fact there are no filters on social media allows whoever to view whatever they want. With the influx of fitness influencers and the different styles of influence, people are able to get on the wrong side of fitness culture very easily.

Though many aspects of fitness influencers on social media can affect how people view health, there is a part of social media that helps motivate people.

Where I am now, I see fitness influencers as a toxic part of social media, but when I started getting into fitness it helped. When I was younger, I found fitness influencers helped with workout ideas and helped me get more comfortable with going to the gym alone. Additionally, when I was a teenager and became vegan, I found fitness influencers helped me with finding vegan versions and recipes that made the transition a lot easier.

In my view, fitness influencers will always be toxic. The reason behind this is because of my history with mental health and disordered eating. I have a hard time seeing a constant flow of fitness influencers promoting a specific lifestyle. The fact I started using social media and seeing these influencers at such a young age was a large reason I had body image issues as a teenager. Seeing all these influencers online, eating and working out like them, but never getting the results they promoted made me have a bad relationship with fitness for a long time. Now as an adult, I understand almost everything on social media is fake or fabricated in some way.

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