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Is it just me, or has the world gone health-kick crazy? A regular Instagrammer myself, I’m fascinated and horrified by peoples current fanatical infatuation with fitness and health. It’s hard not to notice the green, clean, gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, fat-free, raw, organic protein shake concoctions and gym selfies bombarding my news feed every day.
And FYI – those green-smoothies that you feel the need to share? They look like witches-brew. Please refrain from posting them because they make me gag on my cereal in the mornings.
The scary thing is that this health and fitness craze isn’t exclusive to the pretend world that we create for ourselves on Instagram. More and more ‘real life’ conversations seem to be centred around what goes into people’s mouths and how they’re “feeling the burn from an epic workout last night”. Newsflash: details about what you ate yesterday, what you’re eating now and what you may or may not eat for dinner is so boring that I could die. The same goes for any specific details regarding your exercise curriculum – if I don’t ask, don’t tell.
Yes, people have always wanted to look good, this is nothing new. Remember the masses who swore by the Atkins Diet and the Lemon-Detox Diet? Oh, and my personal favourite, the Blood-Type Diet- finally debunked with absolutely no supporting scientific evidence. HA! I always knew this one was a bloody sham! No pun intended…
A notable difference between these fad diets and this new wave of self-induced body torture is that the word ‘diet’ is now typically disguised by words like ‘healthy’ and ‘fit’. The extreme dedication to decreasing fat and increasing muscle is still, however, the goal. But this new wave of dieters are looking to extreme and often unachievable bodies for inspiration.
Anyone with a smartphone is connected 24/7 to a never-ending pool of images and likeminded body-obsessed digital communities. Our exposure used to be limited to celebrities and models in magazines, or friends and people we happen to come into contact with in our day to day lives.
Now all you have to do is type in one of these key words or phrases from the ever-growing list of body-focused search options: #gymaddict #motivate #inspire #fatfighter #slim #tighten #tone #bodybuilding #cardio #gym #lean #train #training #active #getfit #fitfam #skinny #fitness #fit #fitnessmodel #firm #strong #workout #shrink #weightloss #diet #thinspiration #fitnessaddict #sweat #supplements #body #healthy #health #instahealth #treadmill #active #instasport #exercise #justdoit #fitspo #fitspiration #fitnessfreak #thinspo #healthychoices #cleaneating #protein #superfoods #healthyeating #healthyfood #motivation #determination #results #lifestyle #goals.
More often than not, the related images belong to people whose job description involves maintaining a specific physique – pro-athletes, bodybuilders, models, actors and personal trainers. Or they’re people who have composed an image of themselves in the most flattering light, position, clothing, camera angle – add a filter, suck in the belly and pop the booty and whaddya know #hottie!
I can’t see how working out for two hours a day in order to achieve guns and pecs like someone you’ve seen on Instagram is a healthy hobby…especially if your livelihood doesn’t depend on it. Don’t get me wrong, regular exercise is essential to being a healthy human being, but for the average Joe, such dedication and emphasis on physique seems excessive.
And what about the people who don’t understand how much time and effort actually goes into maintaining the perfect bodies saturating the world of Instagram? Sometimes, it just doesn’t matter how many squats you do and how many meals are sacrificed in favor of a salad – you’ll never look like somebody else. Genetics will always determine your fate.
Then there’s the clean n green peeps who use words like ‘good’ and ‘bad’ to describe food. Kale, acai, chia seeds, goji berries and protein shakes equal ‘good’, and everything else equals ‘bad’.
More often than not, achievements are short-lived due to the nature of such restrictive diets. Funny how forbidding your favourite food makes you want to stuff yourself silly…and so begins the cycle of yo-yo dieting.
I get that people are using these images as inspiration in order to achieve their goals. There’s nothing like a quick Instagram scroll to whip your lazy butt into action when you’re faced with the dilemma of either eating more pancakes or going for a walk.
But I just can’t see this as a viable long-term solution to maintaining what are often extreme and unrealistic goals…We are an inherently lazy species who tend to aim for the stars but reach for the biscuits. Enthusiasm tends to diminish with the realisation of the immense dedication and hard work involved in sustaining that perfect body. Over time, hitting the snooze button becomes a much more desirable option than going for an early morning run and cooking up a batch of Quinoa.
Sure, any motivation for self-improvement is better than none, and that deserves a massive pat on the back. But we need to be realistic here. Exposing ourselves to image after image of perfection tends to skew our perception of what’s normal. As Instagram is a visual medium, this exposure is inevitable. But we can control how we feel about it and react accordingly. Instead of aiming for perfection or trying to look like someone (or the fabrication of someone) on Instagram, we should simply aim to be a better version of ourselves.
Appreciate an image for what it is.
Let it inspire you.