Addressing this issue is way overdue for me. As a fitness professional I have tried to stay consistent with my messaging and focus on total wellbeing and the intrinsic benefits a consistent exercise practice offers. This focus is on the opposite end of the spectrum of the alluring, yet toxic fitness culture which has dominated social media with hundreds and thousands of accounts that have made "influencer" status because of their millions of followers. This form of content can be emotionally damaging as it values size, looks, and numbers over health and total wellbeing.
*Examples of Toxic Fitness Culture:
The promotion of fitness the sole purpose of weight loss.
The belief that fit has a look.
Fitness professionals unwilling or unable to modify exercises that support your unique body.
The belief that you’re not working hard enough if you haven’t achieved thinness.
Fitness professionals who aren’t registered dietitians giving diet advice offering meal plans and pushing supplements
Fitness professionals who don’t believe you when you need to stop and encourage you to push through pain.
The belief that beating your body up makes for a good workout.
Having a limited view of what fitness is.
Believing working out is more important than listening to what your body needs.
The belief that your body has to get smaller/toned when you engage in fitness and if it doesn’t you’re doing something wrong.
Thinking diet and exercise is the only way to take care of ourselves.
Cultivating fitness spaces that AREN’T accessible or affirming to a diverse group of bodies.
Fitness professionals making fitness overly complicated to show authority or expertise.
Any digital media images which evoke feelings of unworthiness
The use terms i.e.: "Summer Body," "Bikini Body," "Get a body (part) like _____," as a way to "motivate."
I'm sure for many the above seems normal because we are so immune to it. It's the way the billion dollar industry continues to grow. However, if you unpack this messaging you will see that it plays to and exacerbates feelings of unworthiness and lack of belonging.
There are only a handful of fitness movers and shakers that I choose to follow on social media because as a woman with a long history with severe disordered eating and body dysmorphia, most fitness and lifestyle accounts can be triggering for me. I have clients who criticize their thriving, hard-working bodies (which breaks my heart) so I'm certain these images provoke a negative "compare and despair" mentality for them as well. Fortunately, through years of recovery and reprogramming I am well equipped to combat these thoughts while having compassion for those who continue buy into the alluring, toxic diet and fitness culture. I can immediately determine which accounts fall into a toxic fitness culture category and choose not to follow and support them.
I take a very holistic approach to wellbeing and meet you where you are on your journey, which as you know, can vary day to day. My goal is to create a safe space for you to practice self-care free of any judgement. The work we do together in this space offers results which transcend aesthetics and a number. These unmeasurable, yet invaluable benefits include improved mental wellbeing, confidence, energy, reduced pain, balance, strength and allow you to add "life to your years." Feeling strong and less pain in your body provides the catalyst to thrive in other areas of your life. Your relationship to yourself and others improves exponentially. When I post anything on social media any other communication I try to stay within this messaging. This philosophy is aligned with who I am and honors my personal path of recovery. I am grateful that I can stay true to my values and not abandon myself by subjecting clients to base their worth on a number and a "look."
It's important to remember that wellbeing comes in all shapes and sizes, and we cannot judge health and wellness based on one's appearance. Just because a program works for someone else, does not mean it will have the same results for you. Every person and body is different and will react in different ways. The process of improved wellbeing is a non-linear journey and must be honored as YOUR unique path.
When looking at social media please keep in mind:
Health does not have a look and striving to achieve a certain appearance and number on a scale should not be your end goal.
Influencers do not have perfect lifestyles regardless of what image they present on social media and are not the epitome of health and fitness.
Achieving your desired body through rigorous training and meal plans will not guarantee your happiness.
Health looks different for everyone — there is no one-size-fits-all.
*source of examples of toxic fitness culture: www.decolonizingfitness.com