Beauty Redefined Blog

Why “Fitspiration” Isn’t so Inspirational



If you are on Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram, you have seen fitness inspiration images just in time for “the holidays” or “bikini season” or your “big day” to motivate you to “get fit” – we call them “fitspiration.” They are almost always images of parts of women without heads or faces. They are always very thin, surgically and/or digitally enhanced, tanned, oiled up parts of bodies with text like this:

Look good, feel good.

Unless you puke, faint, or die, keep going.

Girls who are naturally skinny are lucky. Girls who have to fight to be skinny are strong.

If you haven’t posted one of these pictures on one of your social networking sites, one of your well-intentioned friends has. I promise. Pinterest itself is a site designed to help people collect images that inspire them, for heaven’s sake. And while a slogan and image motivating you to get out and move and live and do is a beautiful thing, so many of these “fitspiration” messages floating across the web must be exposed for what they are: shame-inducing, objectifying, limiting ideals that keep women in their places as objects to be looked at above all else. 

Ever heard of a thing called “thinspo” or “thinspiration?” It’s an online world of thousands – even millions – of females who share and collect pictures of very thin women as inspiration to keep up their eating disorders. It is a saddening and terrifying world of females banding together to literally get thin at any cost, and thousands of girls and women die every year in this pursuit of thinness. But Beauty Redefined is here to reveal truth – to speak about things as they really are – and we echo Charlotte over on The Great Fitness Experiment: “Fitspo may be thinspo in a sports bra.”

It is.

So we are here to provide you with a few ways to determine if the fitness inspiration you are viewing is healthy and motivating you toward real health goals or keeping you imprisoned in a body that is to be looked at above anything else. You are capable of so much more than being looked at. And if you believe that, it puts fitness back into focus as a way to improve your physical health first and foremost.

Be very aware of any “fitspiration” that is advertising something. Nike, Lululemon, workout DVDs, etc., all profit from these “girl power!” messages that look so empowering on first glance. The problem with so many of these is what Virginia at calls “a lot of big, fancy girl power talk to sell us stretchy pants and sports bras. This is fine if you’re in the market for some new stretchy pants or a sports bra; not fine if you’re hoping their marketing materials will teach you something profound about yourself.”  

PLEASE read why this is NOT healthy or inspiring.

See this bit of fitspiration floating around online? It has effectively chopped a woman into just a part of her – without a head as is so often done in objectifying but totally normal and harmless-looking media. This part of her also happens to be sexually alluring, which is so often the case in this same objectifying but totally normal and harmless-looking media. Her hand is placed in her pants in a way that looks very reminiscent of a woman about to pull down her pants in a sexually alluring way. Her hip bones, navel, and cleavage are highlighted by the lighting of the shot, which say nothing of fitness or whatever the “it” is spoken of in the text. This text is open for interpretation so the “it” can be a well-meaning physical fitness goal, but the image would lead one to assume it is a look – a vision of oneself – that is the goal. A sexually appealing, “to be looked at” goal that leaves little room for worrying about internal indicators of health or meeting a fitness goal like hiking to the top of that peak or finishing that race or getting your heart rate up every day.

Pay attention to the advertising so often being done in these “fitness inspiration” messages and you will see what is really being sold here. Is it a message of real health and fitness or a message asking you to commodify yourself by buying sports bras, yoga pants, the latest fitness DVD, etc. to appear a certain way. Advertisers are VERY GOOD at framing their messages as an empowering “You Go Girl!” message with their fists in the air cheering you on. But pay attention to their swift move from using that pumping fist to cheer you on, to punching you in the face for not being enough. If you do not have rock hard chiseled abs, the right workout outfit, etc., you are not good enough until you do. These advertisers will make sure you know that, because their profit depends on your wallet and your beliefs about yourself. They’ll make sure you know you must work for “it” every second. Of every day. For the rest of your life. (Note: Please be aware that we go to great lengths to avoid perpetuating harmful images on this site, so we’ve purposely left out the more obviously thin-ideal-focused fitspo images. A simple Web search for fitspiration will reveal a much more representative spread of what those images look like.)

Next time you see one of these “fitspiration” messages, please ask yourself how it makes you feel. If these images and texts motivate you to respect your body as something that can do so much good, make and reach fitness goals, and maintain health that will keep you happy and able, then they are appropriate for you. If they motivate you to worry about being looked at or to improve parts of your body to meet a beauty ideal you see in media, you must be aware of this. Being self-conscious of your looks, in a state of self-objectification, stunts your health and well-being in physical and mental ways. Virginia at so concisely says, “Pay attention to how it makes you feel to be ‘inspired’ by lots of photos of a largely unattainable beauty ideal. Because that’s what rock hard abs are, after all. Yes, sure, core strength is important for your health. But pictures of bikini-clad, chiseled muscles beaded with sweat? That’s about pretty, not about health.”

If these images and messages categorized as “fitness inspiration” actually inspire body shame – you feel ashamed of the beauty ideals you cannot reach and want to hide or judge your body or covet other women’s bodies – then these messages are not inspirational at all. They trigger you to feel anxiety, hopelessness, and ask you to resort to extremes to get somewhere largely unattainable for healthy people, which does not discount that some people may be able to attain that ideal, but most cannot. This powerful quote from a woman centuries ago has everything to do with the fitness inspiration we are discussing here:

“Taught from infancy that beauty is woman’s scepter, the mind shapes itself to the body and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison” (Wollstonecraft, 1792).

This woman hundreds of years ago described what girls and women growing up today are asked to do every second of every day for the rest of their lives. We are asked to believe our power, our very identities, our worth, all lie in our bodies because we ARE our bodies. So we are asked to fix every part of our bodies – from the wrong-colored roots of our hair to the scratchy bottoms of our feet and every new flaw in between (baggy eyelids, insufficient eyelashes, saggy knees, cellulite, stretch marks, and every other sign of life). Men are not asked to fix these “flaws” because this is women’s work – a work that must last a lifetime. Of course there are exceptions to these beauty ideals being pushed on men, but for the most part, beauty and beauty under the guise of health, is women’s work. We are advertised in media to ourselves as parts of ourselves to encourage us to view ourselves as simply parts in need of constant maintenance and perfection. We are asked to believe we are our bodies and nothing more, and we are asked to adorn the prison that we must reside in every second. Of every day. For the rest of our lives.

Now look again at those “inspirational” fitness messages. Are those messages carefully crafted to appear to be health and fitness inspired, only to sell you a product, keep you fixated on parts of yourself that have nothing to do with your actual health and physical fitness, and keep you roaming around your prison? Our bodies are not prisons – they are gifts that allow us to live and breathe and act and do and be. But when we believe we are only bodies, and health is simply making those parts look presentable and beautiful to people looking at us, we are at once prisoners and the prison guards.

We borrow from the fantastic Virginia Sole-Smith again for our last very important point: “Any motivational statement that has to diss another type of body in order to make you feel good about your body? Not. Helping. Anyone.” You’ve seen those photos of Marilyn Monroe vs. Nicole Richie with the words: “When did this become hotter than this?” or some variation. Ugh. When we pit female against female, we get nowhere fast. We continue minimizing each other to our bodies EVERY TIME we judge each others’ bodies, comment on them, even compliment each other.

One thing Lindsay and I mention at every speaking engagement is this: We have been taught from a young age that girls are to be looked at. So we compliment little girls on how pretty they are and little boys on how funny/rambunctious/smart/anything else they are. When we greet another female, we so often compliment her on her appearance: “Have you lost weight?” “I love your hair!” “Is that a new outfit?” But reverse that scenario. When guys greet each other, how often do you hear them minimize each other to their bodies and appearance? I almost NEVER hear a man say “Is that a new outfit?” or “Your hair looks great today!” to another man, because they do not learn they ARE their bodies like females do. We are capable of so much more than being looked at, but when our dialogue revolves around our bodies and we judge other women’s bodies, we are not getting anywhere progressive or happy or healthy. So next time you see a “fitspiration” post that pits one woman’s body type against another, please comment on it and link to this post!

Mirror Decal

Check out our new “mirror mantra” decals here!

So where do you turn for fitness information and happy inspiration?! If you are seeking positive inspiration to get fit and healthy and respect your body as something so powerful and capable of more than being looked at, we can help. That’s why Beauty Redefined is here! Read our post on how your body is an instrument, not an ornament here. Check out our in-depth look at the Body Mass Index (BMI) that has a shocking history and completely flawed present status. Read why fat shaming and focusing on numbers on the scale won’t get us anywhere in terms of real health here.

You are capable of much more than being looked at. When you believe that, you break free from the prison walls that keep you confined to your body, pitted against every other woman/prisoner in her own individual cell, always monitored by a gaze that controls your beliefs about yourself and your actions. Need more help developing body image resilience that can help you overcome your self-consciousness and be more powerful than ever before? Learn how to recognize harmful ideals, redefine beauty and health, and resist what holds you back from happiness, health, and real empowerment with the Beauty Redefined Body Image Program for girls and women 14+. It is an online, anonymous therapeutic tool that can change your life, designed by Lexie & Lindsay Kite, with PhDs in body image and media.

Since the Huffington Post published this very piece and we got hundreds of comments and shares from it, Lindsay was interviewed by the F Word Media Collective’s radio station to talk about the post and the backlash. Listen to her interview here!


  1. Emily

    LOVE it. So well put. We are more than the sum of our parts! Thank you for saying it so well.

  2. Amanda- Hip House Girl
    Amanda- Hip House Girl05-15-2012

    I have a “Fitness” board on Pinterest. For a while, I felt a little crazy because I couldn’t quite pinpoint why I liked some Fitness Pins and others totally creeped me out. I slowly realized that I pin workouts that sound fun or different to me: things with real information that can actually help me in my quest for health and fitness. I have never once been tempted to pin a photo of someone’s jutting hipbone with a saying like “Don’t reward yourself with food. You are not a dog.” or something equally demeaning and ridiculous. Thank you for helping to point out the difference between inspiring images and shaming, counterproductive ones.

  3. Sabra

    I love the message! I know that I workout & “try” to eat healthy because I want to be the best ME! Its not about being a certain number on the scale or a Double 00 jean size! I am working towards being healthy & fit!

  4. Aly

    WOW! This gave me chills. Your message is so powerful and so strong! You have helped me find my own strength and the courage to speak up when confronted with these and similar messages that reduce us to an image of our bodies rather than what we can do and who we are. Thank you for being an inspiration to me!

  5. StoriesAndSweetPotatoes

    I could not agree more. While I am really into fitness and I can appreciate some good fitness inspiration, for me that is not in form of these popular images. As an ED survivor I don’t see them any differently than thinspo. I never looked at that stuff during my disorder but fitspo feels the same to me. All it does is trigger my ED and I think for those without an ED history it’s a pretty good way to get one. Women’s fitness is getting farther and farther away from HEALTH which is what fitness is supposed to be about. If we are sacrificing health for the sake of fitness goals, something is wrong with our goals. Thank you for posting on this topic. Fitspo is getting so popular and I worry it’s going to have an effect on the younger generation in the same way that thinspo was so big a decade ago.

  6. Kon

    I will say upfront that I am not a woman, however, although I agree that people should not fall for advertisement and that no advertisement should be insulting to anyone, the authors take on motivational posters could not be more wrong. Given the obesity epidemic in this country, I am happy and excited to see more and more people getting into the latest cross fit craze. The author mentions that these images “inspire body shame”, and maybe they do, but if that is something that gets people motivated to loose the weight than it has accomplished its goal. As far as girls dying from being too skinny, I guarantee you that there are a lot more people in the US who died from being too fat than from too skinny. Not to mention the burden that is put on the healthcare system from treating obesity related illnesses, but that is a whole different topic.

    Claiming that something is unattainable, are words of someone who has not tried, is too lazy to try, or is doing it wrong. I see a ton of videos on the internet of people, both able/disabled, doing things that blow my mind. Nonetheless, seeing those video makes me astounded by what a human body coupled with the right mental attitude is capable off, and it turn makes me realize that the sky is the limit.

    The whole objectifying women thing, sure, there are some ads that do, but for the most part that statement is nothing more than a feminist remark!

    • J

      Hi Kon,

      In response to your statement “The whole objectifying women thing, sure, there are some ads that do, but for the most part that statement is nothing more than a feminist remark!” I disagree. A quick sweep of any advertising currently out there would prove your statement to be a bit naive. The advertising industry itself admits that ‘sex sells’ and what it’s appears to mean by ‘sex sells’ is; ‘a woman broken down into body parts to sell a product sells’, and not just advertising targeting women. I have seen body wash adverts for men (selling a male product) use a woman’s body, minus her head and anything below her knees (the most sexually appealing part I guess), on the advertising poster. I have seen condom adverts for ‘extra large’ sized condoms use a woman’s face (minus the eyes and rest of her head), with the corners of the mouth taped with surgical tape, as if what went before was simply too big and tore the corners. I have seen adverts for jeans using one woman surrounded by a group of men, in a position and circumstance extremely suggestive of a gang and sexually related crime.

      You’ll have to forgive me for thinking you a little naive, and agreeing with the “feminist remark”.

      Also, to all:
      Since when did being a feminist become a bad thing? Used as a derogatory way of describing someone or something? It seems that women, especially in my age group, are terrified of being labelled as a feminist for fear of being though of as a man hating, bra burning woman. There are extremists in every group in life but that does not mean everybody is. I don’t hate men, yet every day I have to tolerate misogynistic men and more than likely get called a ‘feminist’ as an insult. The balance doesn’t seem quite right somehow….

      • Raela

        I look forward to the day the BR girls can accept criticism and just move forward! Insulting a debater and calling him naive is no more helpful than he “insulting” you by calling you a feminist. There will ALWAYS be opposers.

        Keep fighting!

      • Beauty Redefined
        Beauty Redefined05-16-2012

        Raela – I think you’re confused on who the above comment was from. It’s from “J” — she’s not “the BR girls,” but we do echo what she said. There’s a difference between accepting criticism and accepting misunderstandings/misinterpretations and skewed beliefs about health and body image. We can accept criticism all day, but we’ll never stop fighting misconceptions about health and body image. Anyone, including you and “J” are welcome to argue and debate here about their own perspectives! We’re moving forward regardless of criticism.

    • carla


      • carla

        Amen to Kon

    • JessR

      Wow. Yes, obesity is a huge problem in this country. But did you know that 10 million girls and women each year die from complications related to Anorexia and Bulimia? Girls as young as five years old are starving themselves to reach some misguided perception of perfection- and believe me, these little girls are nowhere near obese or even hefty! You think it’s ok to inspire “body-shame” if it gets people off their butts and exercising? I’m going to assume you are not a father of little girls, because it’s those little girls that some of these ads target. Who more vulnerable than a 10-year old CHILD reaching puberty and getting nervous about her changing body?? These ads are not directed at people who need to lose weight for health reasons, these ads are very clearly directed at the most vulnerable, self-loathing part of the population… women with body image issues. 10 MILLION WOMEN AND GIRLS EVERY YEAR- too skinny, too dead. Tell me again about how it’s ok to inspire “body shame” to get someone to exercise.

      • Lee

        10 MILLION? Try 600-800. Worldwide.

      • Scarlett

        JessR, 10 million women may die from Anorexia/Bulimia, but over 3 times that die from complications from obesity. Are you saying that people should be proud to be obese, or that we should glorify being overweight? I’m not saying being overly skinny is a good thing, but neither is being overweight, and neither should be glorified, with either unhealthy thinspiration, or “Real Women Have Curves.”

      • Me

        where’d you get your statistics from? Obesity is a far bigger problem, not just in the US, but everywhere. I live in an Asian country, and I recall the very first time I visited the US was in 1996, my family and I were amazed at the amount of fat and obese people around. We were also so fascinated with the super sized portions of food and drinks. Fast forward today, 2/5 people in my country are either overweight or obese. The number of mcdonalds popping up around my country is scary. I agree we shouldn’t body shame, I gained 40lbs while studying for my bachelors, I know how much it hurts to be called fat. I was never stick thin in school either, and most of my friends were far skinnier (asian, so yes, I get you, but to not do something about the obesity problem is indeed a problem. We must encourage each other, and our kids, and friends, and family members to live healthier lifestyles. When I came back home last year from uni, my parents were shocked at how much weight I gained, they told me I should start working out again, and it hurt, but they didn’t mean any malice, and I’m so thankful they told me that. I’ve developed a healthier lifestyle now, lost weight, my blood pressure is normal again and I am no longer addicted to food. So while it may seem right to bash fitspiration images, I think we should think of the positive impact as well. Fitspirational images (Especially on tumblr) has helped me a lot.

        P.S. not been to a mcdonalds in over a year

    • Tori

      The author mentions that these images “inspire body shame”, and maybe they do, but if that is something that gets people motivated to loose the weight than it has accomplished its goal.

      A couple of things:

      First, shame is a terrible motivator. It’s really hard to hate oneself healthy, you know?

      Additionally, it’s important not to assume a one-to-one correlation between improving health/fitness and weight loss. Not everyone who engages in fitness activities — my obese self included — is looking to lose weight. Similarly, a lot of people who improve their health and fitness via exercise will not lose a significant amount of weight in the long term.

      “Fitspo” that mistakenly assumes that fitness equals weight loss and then shames people for not looking like the fitspo images is both inaccurate and dangerous.

      • Jame

        Here, here.

        Some people will eat right, exercise often and not lose a pound. But they are improving their health. Health isn’t a size or a shape or a look. It is a collection of habits, applied consistently.

        Better fitspo? People of all shapes, sizes and ages finishing up a race, or a tough workout, or bout with the pool or polishing off a plate of veggies.

      • katrick

        You have missed the point of the article. Shame does not motivate healthy changes, it only serves to further damage self esteem. The point of the article is that we can love ourselves without having to be perfect or maintain certain unrealistic standard that society has deemed normal. Shame and low self esteem do not serve to motivate anyone. When people live in a society that is loving and accepting they are far more likely to engage in life and healthier activities. When one is shamed they are more likely to isolate and disengage from society. For example, some people do not engage in activities such as going to the gym or beach as they feel self conscious and judged because there body doesn’t meet these unrealistic standards. The message in the article is self acceptance. We need to reject these messages because they are not healthy. Obesity is a health risk as are many other things, however, shame only perpetuates the problem and it is not your business to manage other peoples health issues. Women do not need to keep fixing themselves. We should be allowed to mature, grow curves in adolescents and age with dignity without having to police our bodies or be the subject of a never ending makeover.

    • sunny barbacoa
      sunny barbacoa08-22-2012

      My god, not a FEMINIST remark!!!! The horror!! I may have to lie down. I seem to have come down with a case of the vapors.

    • Renee

      “Nothing more than a feminist remark”? So…a feminist perspective is not really all that valid, and should be dismissed for being…feminist?

    • cyni

      These advertising campaigns are not aimed at obese women, they are aimed at normal weight women. And yes, they are unattainable for most women. They are modified with photoshop and the women who model for them are very young and spend a great deal of time each day working out. Most women don’t have time to work out that much because they have jobs and families.

      You use the word “feminist” like it is a bad thing.

    • Kim

      Kon, you are missing the point. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be healthier, but this article is pointing out that the fitspiration is not focusing on health as much as it is on sexual desirability. Fitness is about what you can do, not what you look like. Hardly any of these body shaming pieces do anything to even address what you can do with your body.

  7. Becca

    I pinned this to Pinterest (with the BR billboard pic) and I just wanted you to know that there were 22 repins and 8 likes within the first hour.

  8. Ashley Pariseau
    Ashley Pariseau05-16-2012

    I think there is often a fine line between messages that are empowering and messages that are harmful. I don’t know how the rest of the world is, but I think it would be neglectful to deny that much of America’s fitness level is in poor condition. Every day we become evolved into a world that is more about convenience. If I really wanted to, I wouldn’t ever have to leave my house for anything. I can even get groceries delivered if I want,and a lot of able bodied people take advantage of this. We are coming into a world that is lazy and afraid to sweat so they avoid any strenuous physical activity. So I do think we need to so something about that, BUT promoting the idea that unless you puke, faint, or die that you must keep going is downright ridiculous. You don’t have to push yourself that hard, and I think a lot of these messages are in fact, as you suggested, more about being a certain look than healthy and fit.

    Thank you for this well written and thought out article. Love the new site design, by the way.

  9. carla

    I say, if it’s gonna inspire you to eat healthy, excersice and get in shape I say go for it. There’s way to many people that need to chage their life style for a healthier one and i am one of those I actually have one of those fitness board on Pinterest and I love one that says “the price of excellence is discipline” and this not only apply to fitness.

    • JessR

      “The price of excellence is discipline.” I’m sorry, I understand what you’re saying about people needing some form of motivation to live a healthy lifestyle. But the wrong form of motivation is being placed into the wrong hands- almost exactly a year ago, a friend of mine was so “disciplined for excellence” that, at 20 years old, her parents had to bury her withered, starved body in the ground after it gave out from all the discipline. Just a thought. Ads inspiring Americans to eat healthy and get their heart rate up each day are fine, in fact they may be necessary, but the images and slogans that are attached to many of these ads are not fine and can actually prove to be more harmful than anything else.

      • carla

        I said eat healthy.

      • Rachel

        And exercise. there’s nothing wrong with leading a healthy lifestyle.

  10. Kris @Krazy_Kris
    Kris @Krazy_Kris05-16-2012

    Yes. Yes. Yes.

  11. SinnerElla

    1. Yes, women are objectified and demeaned on a daily basis. What of the ads that do the same to men? While it’s not as in your face and recurring with men in the advertisements, it IS a 2 way street.
    2. No one should allow a friggin advertisement to make them feel ashamed of themselves. If that’s the case, take a look at yourself inside and really figure out what it is that’s making you feel ashamed. I guarantee you that the root isn’t the ad.
    3. Sex does sell, but it sells because we allow it to as consumers. I stopped purchasing some brands simply due to their skewed sense of consumer marketing. I won’t buy from Victoria’s Secret because of the way they seem to impress upon my 9 year old daughter that being almost naked and having giant boobs is what makes you whole. I also stopped buying from others for demeaning advertisements such as Reebok’s ad telling you it’s better to cheat on your significant other than on your workout. That’s awesome, let’s destroy more morals because our youth isn’t already lazy and corrupt enough with their new idea of “role models’ in this generation. And I’m a fairly liberal young parent with kids in middle and high school, so it’s not an issue of political or religious view. This is my view as a consumer and a parent.
    To a certain extent. I think that we often over analyze things are tend to become a bit oversensitive to some situations. For example, the Nike ad referred to and pictured, the “it” I feel is left open to interpretation for a reason. Everyone’s “it” is different. For some, it’s running, for others it’s getting to a healthier weight, and still for other’s it’s graduating to their next level of life/school/work/what have you.
    I don’t see every one of these ads or messages as a sexual objectification of women. I see quite a few of them and they remind me of how far I’ve come, no matter how far I have to go to reach MY definition of “it” no matter the body or photo shown. If you’ve seen my photos from a year ago and you see me now, I look like a different person. I feel like a different person, and while I have the same morals and personality base, I AM a different person. I’m different because I pushed myself hard and allowed myself to fail and push harder. I’ve taken the goals that I’ve achieved and I’ve modified them into the next stage. Yeah, many of the photos I see of these tiny women with gigantor boobage showing is a bit redundant and irritating, but to me they serve as reminders that we all have different body styles and shapes and every one of them is beauty in it’s own way. Some also serve to remind me of what I DON’T want in the end because I know it’s not how my body is built and definitely not what I feel is beautiful and it would in no way make me happy or a better person.

    • Caitlin

      Re: #2 – the entire point of advertising is to exploit the psychological weaknesses of people so they will be more likely to buy a specific product. Advertisers have armies of artists and psychologists and sociologists whose job is to help them identify those weaknesses. I think it’s a little disingenuous of you to act like individuals are the ones at fault when they fail to resist a billion-dollar industry.

      Personally, I deal with it by avoiding as much mass media as possible, because even though I’m a strong woman who is intelligent and aware of a lot of things, even I have those weaknesses that can be exploited, and so it’s easier for me to keep it all away from me. I am just lucky enough to be aware of it.

    • Max Xavier
      Max Xavier10-03-2012

      Sinner is spot on.

      Caitlin, people have to take personal responsibility for themselves, the way they feel about themselves and the way they choose to act. You can blame the advert companies all you like, but the fact remains that you choose to think about yourself the way you choose to think about yourself based on your own personal experiences in life. If an advertisment makes you feel bad about yourself, get some counseling, you obviously suffer from poor self esteem.

      As for the pictures, Im a photographer, and I’ve done some of these pictures. Let me explain a few things. 1. the hand against the hip creates a very poetic line of the body. The thumb under the waist band? Very likely hiding a very wrinkly thumb joint. Women’s kniuckles do not photograph well. Look at the picture as a whole- not just as a sex object. This woman is beautiful. Look at the graceful lines of her neck- the midline of her stomach. Look how the light plays with the shadows , emphasizing all that is symmetrical and lovely. You need to remember that as beholders of art, you throw your own definitions into the piece. I see grace, strength and beauty – you see a sexualized object.

      The problem does not lie with these memes, pictures and advertisments. The problem lies in not instilling self worth in our children, and then blaming someone else for the effect it has on our kids. You can’t keep blaming other people for not educating your kid.

      • J

        All it took for you to make a mistake in your reply was to type the words, “this woman is beautiful”. That in itself is enough. By saying that, you are setting an ideal of what you believe beauty is or is supposed to look like. Sorry, but we don’t all have the same body type, regardless of what we may do. We aren’t supposed to. Believe me, Im a huge art fan, but it’s always funny to me how the entire woman is not featured. Give me a break. And art is art.. motivation needs to come from something you personally find attainable. Lots of women may look at that and compare themselves, then insist they aren’t “beautiful” as you stated. Beauty and health are not words that are interchangeable. And we are not our bodies.

      • Liza

        I’m not sure how him saying that this particular woman is beautiful can be translated to him saying that only women who look like her are beautiful – you seemed to come to this conclusion on your own.

  12. Andy

    I’ve noticed a similar problem with pinterest and these “fitness” pins. Living in Las Vegas, I’m bombarded with images designed to entice and arouse me. I can’t get away from the objectification of women in the community where I live. It’s a pain. Some people have compared the arousal a guy gets from seeing sexually provocative images to the sort of high a person can get from drugs.

    What I find fascinating and frustrating at the same time is the fact that I get the same sort of “hit” when I see these fitness images on pinterest as I do the night club and “ultra pool” billboards. My body and mind react to the overtly sexualized images in the same way as it does to the “fitness” images women on pinterest are posting to inspire themselves. I think this is vitally significant. The hormone driven part of my brain can’t tell the difference between the two.

    I’m hoping mentioning this helps, ’cause it was a big revelation to me when I finally figured out why those pictures annoyed me so much.

    • Heather

      Andy – I love your awareness. I, too, am so fascinated, yet equally disgusted by the modes in which we become socialized to such images and unconciously react emotinoally to them out of years of exposure. I live in South Florida so I can relate to the inundation of images that encourage a comparative mindset.

  13. Christine

    Well written ladies.

    I think many here aren’t seeing the forest for the trees. Yes, many are unhealthy and over weight. Yes, most Americans need to exercise more and eat less and/or better. That’s not the point. Just because you’re not a size 2 doesn’t mean you are healthy or just because you are a size 14 doesn’t mean you are unhealthy. The focus should not be on what your body looks like but, what it can do. Goals shouldn’t be about dress size or numbers but about real accomplishments.

    I struggle with these issues myself. When I work out because I want to be thinner, look better it doesn’t work. i get discouraged by the scale and end up picking up unhealthy habits. I sabotage myself.

    BUT, when my priorities are in check and I work out because I want to be healthy, I work harder, eat better and ultimately feel better.

    That’s the point. Why are you working out. Because you feel bad about yourself or because you like yourself enough to take care of you. It should never be about shame.

  14. kate

    As long it is inspiring people to get off their lazy butts and start working out I see nothing wrong with those Fitsperation photos and messages. Obesity is continuing to increase and I am not saying we shouldn’t all love our bodies, but we shouldn’t promote self acceptance when a change needs to be made to get healthy.

    • Kristin

      Kate, I disagree. “I am not saying we shouldn’t all love our bodies, but we shouldn’t promote self acceptance when a change needs to be made to get healthy” – I don’t know how you can love your body WITHOUT self-acceptance! I think accepting our bodies is just about the most motivating thing there is. It makes working out about health and happiness instead of about punishment and discontentment. I think the people who tend to go to extremes (obesity, hyper-dieting, etc.) usually do so because they still don’t know how to love and care for their wonderful, wonderful bodies! BR also makes a great point that these images make the goal “being hot” (for someone else to look at, presumably), when really, fitness is being healthy, whatever that looks like.

    • Caitlin

      Please. If this was all it took to get people to embrace healthy lifestyles, we’d have a nation of athletes instead of a nation of couch potatoes. Try again.

      • Mary


        We can all argue here in the comments until we are blue in the face trying to prove what is and isn’t true about fitspo but the fact remains that it’s proliferation doesn’t seem to be adding to the numbers of “healthy” (whether you call healthy physically fit or just in shape ) Americans.

      • Scarlett

        Mary, but is it’s proliferation adding to the numbers of uhealthy Americans?

      • Renee

        Well said, Caitlin!

      • Liza

        It may not be all it takes for you, but for others these messages *are* inspirational and *do* work.

  15. Kon

    To J and JessR,

    Although I cannot find the exact number of deaths that are related to obesity, I want you to consider this: Obesity has a direct correlation to Diabetes, Hypertension, Metabolic syndrome, Cancer, Sleep apnea (which shortens life on average 7-10 years), Childhood obesity from mother, childhood diabetes (again from obese mother), and more. All in all, I guarantee you that if you add all these obesity complications up, it far exceeds the 10 million mark.

    In response to me being me being naive, maybe, but at least I know when to look at advertisements for what they are and not fall for their deception. It your job as a consumer to filter advertisements and take in the positive and not let the negative effect you. Not to mention, we are talking about inspirational posters here and not ads for magnum condoms or jeans, so keep to the topic at hand.

    Moving on to me calling the article feminist, it was a matter of fact statement, you cannot deny that. Also, I never said that feminism is a bad thing (that is precisely why I love the inspirational posters, they are meant to inspire and empower women to realize that you are just as capable of pushing yourselves to the limit, which often exceeds those of men). The fact that you assumed I meant it in a negative way just further showcases your own insecurities in your own womanhood.

    J, no I am not a father of little girls or at all for that matter. However, if you have little girls, or if you are a parent in general, it is your responsibility as a parent to make an effort to get involved in your child’s life and educate them. That way they will have the mental capacity to decide what is good for them (fitness), and what is not (pushing yourself so hard that you vomit or die). This applies not only to ads and motivational posters, but to life choices in general.

    To conclude my rant here, I will juts say that population, especially the American population, has grown soft (pun intended). When did everyone get so sensitive and touchy about everything. I am extremely tired of having to say things that are PC all the time. Suck it up, stop wining, get off your ass and just DO SOMETHING. No one says you have to run marathons, or become a body builder, just turn off the TV, stop treating your mouth and stomach as a garbage disposal, and change your life. There is no excuses, there is not magic bullet, there is no five minute abs or abs while you sleep. You only get results when you do the work yourself, and not with some “AS SEEN ON TV” junk. The better it sounds on TV, the less likely it is to get the promised results. Those infomercials are only successful because we the consumers buy that crap. They seller banks on the fact that most people who buy their junk will either never use it and therefore will never know that their claims are BS, or be so LAZY that they wont even get off their ass to return it. Be smart, and set REALISTIC goals, that is the only requirement for success in fitness or anything else.

    • Andy


      As near as I can see, the authors made no comment about motivation to be healthy. They’re talking here about the overt objectification and subjugation of the female form. These ads aren’t about being fit, they’re about promoting the unrealistic ideal female form.

      Yes, our nation is pretty out of shape. No, promoting unrealistic and overtly objectifying images of women is not the way to fix the problem.

      • Kristin

        Well said!

    • J

      Hi Kon,

      I referenced other advertising, (clothes, body wash etc), because your statement was “The whole objectifying women thing, sure, there are some ads that do, but for the most part that statement is nothing more than a feminist remark!”. I was merely pointing out that it’s not just “some ads”, it is in fact many ads, and from a varied and wide selection of products. Hence my examples.

      Secondly, I do indeed “look at adverts for what they are and do not fall for their deception”. However, I do not appreciate the sheer volume of adverts like this which is why I feel entitled to complain about them.

      Thirdly I’m not entirely sure why you’ve directed your comments about having daughters at me, I did not at any point mention any of this.

      Finally, I agree with you to a degree about the health of the general population, globally. I also agree with your argument about health being a long term goal, and not achieved via ‘quick fixes’. In the same way these quick fixes fail to help, so do these ‘motivational’ posters, these fitspiration images. Motivation is key, however I don’t think they motivate, I think they objectify the female form and induce feelings of guilt and lower self esteem. Inducing feelings of guilt rarely achieve the desired outcome, an argument that has been thoroughly studied in psychological research and has shown inducing guilt to often have the complete opposite, and undesired effect, especially with regards to body image and health behaviours.

      Also, please note, for yourself, that I am entirely secure within my womanhood (thanks for your concern), I just live in a society and a world which tries to chip away at that security every day, so you’ll forgive me for being a bit defensive.

  16. Kon

    That is precisely my argument here. I agree that ads put up sexually appealing images, but when it comes to these fitness posters, on many of these posters I don’t see any logos. They are not selling close (with few exceptions granted), but motivating active lifestyles.

    But the biggest mistake most people make, is saying that such a body form is unattainable, or is an “unrealistic ideal” of a female form. I have personally witnessed such transformation, and not from women who were already skinny, but it took a lot of hard work and dedication. There are different body types, I get that, but what I am talking about is fit, and fit is universal! There are women who tend to have a more curvy body type, some are skinny, some are more muscular, but ultimately when you see a fit women walk down the street you recognize that she is fit, regardless of what body morphology she has.

    By suggesting that the women you see in those posters are unrealistic, you are suggesting that they are photoshoped, and thus they are not real. I can tell you that they are real, because some people that I work out with look just like that. You are only doing yourself an injustice by thinking that such results are unattainable without trying. You just have to go about it in a right, healthy way. You don’t get like that overnight, and you certainly don’t get like that by starving yourself. These women, eat more than I do, and trust me I eat a lot.

    From what I can see, the problem is in the lack of education. Parents need to get involved in educating their kids about other aspects of social pressures, that includes talking to their kids about TV commercials, TV shows, peer pressure, etc. But it is a lot easier to place blame elsewhere than it is to take make a change within yourself. Just as it is easier to call these posters unrealistic, than it is to make life change.

    • Beauty Redefined
      Beauty Redefined05-16-2012

      Kon, this post was never about these ads being “unrealistic.” A quick re-reading of it will remind you this post is about revealing the danger in much of the “fitspiration” for women out there. The flaw in your argument is your definition of “fit.” We are talking about physical fitness, which is something gauged by internal indicators of health – NOT outward appearance. When you say “when you see a fit woman walking down the street you recognize that she is fit,” that is just not a true statement. She may be suffering from disordered eating or she may be in great physical condition. She may have never worked out a day in her life or she may be in the gym every day. You cannot tell someone’s level of fitness by looking at them. So this post is about the very thing you claim to be the real problem – lack of education. Beauty Redefined is dedicated to media literacy for people of all ages so we can critically analyze why we see and hear the media messages we do, who profits from those messages, and how we can attain real health and happiness in a world that distorts what those mean.

      • Kon

        This is the last thing I will say I promise. Much of internal health is reflected on the external shell. When I say “when you see a fit woman walking down the street you recognize that she is fit” I am talking about FIT, not SKINNY, and yes there is a huge difference. I agree with you 100% that there are ads that are offensive and misleading, and you would be correct in attacking those. However, what you have done here is put a negative connotation on something that is supposed to be motivating. People who allow themselves to be manipulated by advertisements, will keep on being manipulated regardless of what you, me, or anyone says. To change this, you need to attack beauty magazines, ads, TV programming, etc. However, what your article has done in this case is attack a thing that is meant to motivate, and now the public will have a negative feeling about these posters whenever they see one, which will mitigate the intended positive effect . You have successfully done an “inception” (lame joke, but it’s true). Furthermore, the women on those posters worked hard to get the body that you see in the picture, by criticizing these posters you are downplaying their accomplishments. Your attack, in my opinion, is misdirected. If you want to make an impact, raise awareness by talking about things that actually cause the impressionable to inflict self harm (i.e. “Next Top Model” and other shows of that sort). These posters are the wrong place start your campaign. Like in medicine, you have to weight the risk-benefit of a particular modality, and the benefit of “fitsperational posters”, at this point in time, far outweighs the risk!

      • Anonymous


        I would like to retort to this. I am a 20-year-old girl who developed an eating disorder PURELY from fitspo blogs.

        I was never worried about losing weight in high school, and I study journalism/public relations and know plenty about mass media so I understand subliminal/ psychological targeting and feel fairly impervious to it.

        My family have brought me up well – I played sports all through school and was never overweight, my dad is a doctor and reiterated the importance of health (not necesarilly thinness), my mother cooked healthy meals, and both my parents have always supported me.

        When I started losing weight, I felt as you say – empowered, motivated, and excited about getting fit. But as soon as I wasn’t seeing the results I expected, I felt ashamed. I was embarrassed. Soon, my I became obsessed and was relentlessly pursuing my goals even if I was constantly exhausted, hungry, and depressed. I kept pretending I was fitspo even though I was probably more thinspo, because I knew people would judge me more as a thinspo.

        Thankfully, I got a wake up call and recognised the dangers of what I was doing. I am by no means better a year and a half on from then, in fact I still don’t have great body image and feel depressed a lot. I’m just glad I got out of dangerous habits before developing more serious health problems.

        I resent the fact you talk about the health complications surrounding obesity as if there are none surrounding eating disorders. One article isn’t going to stop people liking fitspo posters in the same way one bad wrap about McDonald’s isnt going to halt Big Mac sales to a still.

        For the record, I still exercise several times per week and eat a balanced, largely healthy diet. People would look at me walking down the street and say I look fit and healthy. So if I am then, Kon, why don’t I feel that way?

      • Liza

        I believe you can to an extent. You say “She may have never worked out a day in her life or she may be in the gym every day”, yet it doesn’t matter how often she works out – if she is overweight or underweight (as can be at least partially gauged simply from her appearance), she is not fit. It doesn’t matter if she hasn’t worked out a day in her life – if her genetics and eating habits keep her in a healthy weight range and with a sufficient amount of muscle mass, she is healthy/fit. Fitness is not mental – I can go to the gym for 2 hours a day and still be fat.

    • Targeting Teens
      Targeting Teens05-17-2012

      First, you don’t get “fat” people to be “unfat” by shaming them. If that were the case, no one would be overweight, because believe me, there is more shame out there than most people realize.
      Second, just because you have “seen it in a video,” and “some people at your gym look like that,” that doesn’t mean that it’s a body type achievable by everyone. Recognizing that there are “unrealistic ideals” is not a mistake. That’s part of the problem – in media and marketing, we usually see only ONE body type, so everyone believes that with enough hard work, EVERYONE could look like that. Biologically, that is simply not true.
      Add that to the fact that usually, “ideals” are about appearance, NOT fitness. And “ideals” are created outside of the self. Imposed on us by someone else. How empowering is that? Not very. Yes, everyone can be fit, but that’s not what this is about. It’s about “perfection.” And that perfection, when it is sexualized, is about looking a certain way for OTHERS, not for your own health.
      I agree with you that part of the problem is lack of education. Which is why groups like BR are here. Many adults don’t fully grasp the complexity of these issues and how important they are themselves, let alone have the ability to teach their children about them. And even those that do are competing with outside forces all the time. Messages like these are an example.
      I don’t know what you mean when you say “easier to place blame elsewhere.” I don’t consider recognizing harmful messages for what they are and teaching people to be critical thinkers is placing blame elsewhere.
      And your “feminist” comment was a dig, no matter how you try to reframe it.

  17. Lee

    This is not an actual Nike ad.

    I would have thought the use of Arial Narrow would have given it away, but a little bit of research definitely would have.

    • Beauty Redefined
      Beauty Redefined05-17-2012

      Thanks for pointing that out. It’s been changed. People all over Pinterest are calling it a Nike ad, but you’re right, it’s not!

  18. Karen Schachter
    Karen Schachter05-17-2012

    This is an amazing amazing amazing article. Thank you for speaking the truth and sharing it. There are so many girls and women suffering in the name of “getting fit.” I am sharing this and will check back frequently for updates.

  19. Sarah

    This was very interesting. The past little while I have been thinking about fitspo and the varying types of comments you see on Pinterest (‘man I would KILL for those legs’ vs ‘ew, thigh gap’). It makes me very sad how many women are not accepting of their body, and feel like they are always attempting to measure up to this ‘ideal’ set by society, which is usually impossible due to genetics (I am a VERY petite person – no amount of sit ups is going to make me look like a runway model). I especially liked the comparison between males and females about commenting on appearance. I would love to read more on that.

    There is definitely a huge lack of body respect/love. Which makes me so sad. You should love your body – don’t compare it to ANYONE else.

    I will say though, a HEALTHY dose of fitspo can be really inspiring. I found a picture on a fitspo site that led me to a blog that has been hugely inspirational. Yes, it was initially her before/after picture that attracted me, but reading about her and her workouts and commitment to take her fitness to the next level was very inspiring and helped get me exercising again. So healthy inspiration.

  20. Kelly O'Sullivan (HILWD)
    Kelly O'Sullivan (HILWD)05-17-2012

    “You are capable of much more than being looked at.” Love this!

    Do you mind if I put a link to this post on my blog?

  21. Caitlin

    This is an excellent post (and you get props for citing Virginia Sole-Smith’s excellent work). I particularly like the way you analyzed this kind of fitspo to find out exactly what the images and the words are meant to do and what they convey. I really tire of people who complain about “overanalyzing” (which is really just an exaggerated way of complaining about critical thinking) because it’s the fact that most of us accept these images WITHOUT analyzing them that gives them their power.

    I’m a fitness enthusiast, a runner and a multisport athlete, and I love to look for inspiration for my fitness pursuits. However, I’m often let down by what I find. I particularly find the focus on abs to be one of the most troubling things. Visible abs are pretty much a cosmetic thing that can only be attained through a very strict diet-and-exercise regiment, and yet it has become the standard by which we measure fitness. Yes, I find that very troublesome indeed.

    • Beauty Redefined
      Beauty Redefined05-17-2012

      Thanks, Caitlin! You’re wonderful. We do get criticized a lot for “over-analyzing” or “being offended by ANYTHING,” but that’s exactly what we’re here for! We’re helping destabilize harmful things that appear so normal to too many people. Thanks so much for your support and for your excellent work with Fit and Feminist!

  22. Katie

    Interesting article; I agree with a lot of your points. I do have one comment unrelated to the content though- why do you use the word “females” all the time rather than “women”? I guess you wanted to include girls in the term without typing out “women and girls” every time, but to me, “females” gives off a weirdly detached tone. I think it’s because most of the time I see people using that word rather than “women,” its coming from a creepy PUA site.

    I definitely know you don’t use the word in a derogatory way! I just noticed this in a lot of your blog posts and wanted to comment.

    Like always, thanks for posting :)

    • Beauty Redefined
      Beauty Redefined05-17-2012

      Yep, that’s exactly why we use “female.” We can either say “girls and women” a thousand times or just stick with the one-word version. If there was a better option, we’d be all over it! Thanks for your support!

  23. marie

    i love that you point out we should pay attention to how the images/messages affect us. if i see the pic and feel shame because i don’t look that way, then it’s not inspiring, but if i can read a message and it inspires me to feel good and push myself to meet health goals, then it’s good! the message with the athlete’s mid-section and talking about “it” bothered me, but the quote, “no matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch” i find inspires me to get moving, because it’s not perfection i’m after– just progressing towards a healthier and happier me, and that starts with just getting up and moving no matter my obstacles. not all “fitspiration” is bad, but we should be aware of who’s putting it out there. are they trying to sell me something? or does it simply encourage healthy attitudes and behaviors?

  24. Marsha

    Such a thought-provoking post and equally thought-provoking commentary! But I don’t think I saw one issue addressed – in the picture, where “her hand is placed in her pants in a way that looks very reminiscent of a woman about to pull down her pants in a sexually alluring way,” there is an implication that if you (a woman) look like this, such an opportunity will present itself, and if you don’t, it won’t. In short, the photo contains a vague threat evoking a woman’s fear that she will not attract the attention of men if she doesn’t look like this, and therefore won’t have a chance of a sexual/romantic relationship. This is a tremendously large part of the whole beauty myth, and I often wonder if it says more about women’s amazing willingness to feel insecure and thus buy into such manipulation, or if it says more about women’s inability to believe that men can be attracted to a variety of bodies, or if it says more about men actually not being able to be attracted to a variety of bodies. (Notice, this has nothing whatsoever to do with health – a whole other issue.) I’d appreciate the thoughts of others.

  25. DK

    Great post! I made sure to pin it in my fitness inspiration board and it has been repinned many times by others. As a runner and triathlete, I am deeply disturbed by fitspiration boards and the sexualization of “fitness”. As a woman who has always been very small and judged for it, I am deeply disturbed by the toxic messages of the diet industry and misunderstanding of health. I don’t expect everyone to find inspiration in the same way I do (I’m inspired by Prefontaine and barefoot Kenyans), but we need to look deeply into the images who aspire to.

  26. Sacha Coburn
    Sacha Coburn05-19-2012

    Your post inspired some reflection. I am actively involved in the fitness industry as a speaker, educator, and consultant. I have always been concerned by the emphasis on how our bodies look rather than how well they serve us to do what we need them to do.

    I’ve come up with my own, post-mastectomy fitspiration rip-off, and some of your readers might be interested to reflect on how those of us with other body image challenges put the pressure to be perfect into perspective.

    I hope my inclusion of your image will direct more people to the great work you both are doing.


    Sacha (from New Zealand).

  27. Heather

    Y’know what fitspo does for me?

    It motivates me. It makes me push myself to my limits because it lets me know that I can. It’s got me into running which has, in turn, stopped me from self harming. It’s meant I’ve met some amazing, supportive people.

    I know damn well I won’t look like the people in the pictures because I’m NOT the people in the pictures.

    It’s taught me to love my body no matter how it is because I am me and I am beautiful. It’s taught me never ever ever to body shame. It’s taught me I am worth looking after and that I don’t deserve the crap I give myself.

    Sure, there’s some “bad fitspo” out there. But there’s bad versions of everything out there. But it’s helped me and I can tell you that 99% of the fitness blogs out there aren’t posting it to make people feel bad and they aren’t doing it with the intention of sexualizing fitness. They are doing it because they want to honor and respect their bodies and they want to help people learn to love them selves no matter what shape they are.

    “Aim for progress, not perfection.”

  28. Fractured.Girl

    I appreciate the recognition you are bringing to this, because here’s the honest truth of what all these images, fitspo and thinspo do for me.
    They only serve to trigger my bulimia.
    Now some would think, “OH, well then at least your thin, so that proves it works!” NO, it does not work, because I am not thin. Quite the oppposite I have gained more weight with bulimia than I had originally.
    These images are an addiction.
    The addicted will fight to keep them. Even I want to keep them on a level, but on another level I realize I need to get away from them.
    People look at me and assume I am lazy, that I never exercise. I exercise often. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll ever exercise enough to offset the binging, just like I can’t purge enough to make up for the kind of crap I do binge. The problem there is that once I’ve blown through my food I start mindlessly consuming everyone else’s food even if it is junk food. I know I need treatment. I’m not stupid or in denial, it’s just easier said than done and it’s going to take small steps. I’ve finally worked bast the denial stage after six years, and this past year has been waffling about, and I’m hoping before an 8th year passes I manage to actually find affordable help. I want to be truly healthy, and for me it’s not about weight loss, but about overcoming an eating disorder.

    Your site is in my faves now. I’m going to be reading it regularly, because I think it will also help me with my issues.

  29. Marcia MacInnis
    Marcia MacInnis05-23-2012

    If it’s true that obesity causes illnesses and premature death, then why don’t insurance companies cover every type of weight reduction procedure? For example, lipo and gastric bypass.

    I think the wealthy people who are behind the fitness craze, including Michelle Obama, have a deep sense of guilt from their own over-consumption (a birthday trip to Spain perhaps?) They project that guilt onto people who they ASSUME over-consume food. I don’t think the fitness nuts really give a rat’s patoot for the health of the nation; just their own smug self-satisfaction.

    As to the ad: the person looks like a piece of meat, to be man-handled and consumed, not a human being.

    • Me

      are you for real? hilarious. The reason why insurance companies don’t cover such procedures is because they’re in it for money. 2. If they were to start covering for weight loss procedures, they’d lose money primarily because everyone, thin or fat, wants to look like the “woman on the billboard” (It’s sad, I know), and let’s be realistic: Obesity kills, don’t be in denial. So does being starved and malnourished, but it seems to me that pointing out how being overweight and obesity is unhealthy nowadays is seen as harsh and insensitive. I don’t get it,

      by the way, “As to the ad: the person looks like a piece of meat, to be man-handled and consumed, not a human being.” – harsh. You don’t know the girl behind the body, if she’s proud of her body, let her be. You’re body shaming, and yet you sit on your high horse as if it’s alright to point out how skinny/toned someone is just because mass media is partial to skinny/toned women? People like you are biased and are probably making up for your own limitations by putting others down.

      by the way:

      Raised BMI is a major risk factor for noncommunicable diseases such as:

      cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart disease and stroke), which were the leading cause of death in 2008;
      musculoskeletal disorders (especially osteoarthritis – a highly disabling degenerative disease of the joints);
      some cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon).

      what was that again about proving obesity causes health implications?

      and yes, it’s not always due to over consumption, but obesity caused by, say, congenital leptin deficiency is so rare, the prevalence stands at 1 out of a million! and let’s talk about autoimmune hypothyroidism, which people say causes obesity, no one denies the correlation between it and weight gain, but studies have shown that OBESE AND OVERWEIGHT patients are prone to autoimmune hypothyroidism resulting in more weight gain (You may google if you wish, you can also read ‘Thyroid and obesity: not a one way interaction by Rotondi et al) and based on a paper by Bernadette Biondi, thyroid function observed in obese subjects is reversible by losing weight. Therefore making it plausible that obesity is the cause of a thyroid problem instead of obesity being a consequence.

      wow. Interesting isn’t it. WHO KNEW obesity could be so deadly.

      I can’t speak for the obamas, or the elites in society, but there are many of us out there who care a lot for those who are obese, myself included. I know how it feels to be overweight and unhealthy and miserable. People like you should stop body shaming the thin and the fit and start encouraging those who aren’t healthy to improve their health. I care for the obese and overweight because people i love have fallen sick from being overweight, and I sure as hell am not gonna hush up and sweep this problem under the carpet

  30. Saphy

    I love the words but not the picture on that poster. The picture ruins it because 1) ‘beheading’ the woman is creepy and 2) there are WAY more exciting things to aim for than ab definition. But I love the words, they apply to so many things fitness and non-fitness things, my dad is often told he is ‘lucky’ because he won a lot of medals in his sport – it wasn’t luck, it was the fact that he was willing to get up at 4am to go to training sessions, eat healthily, go out running even when it was raining and he couldn’t be bothered. I am told I’m lucky for getting into med school – it wasn’t luck, it was skipping parties and the drinking sessions, spending time in the house studying even when I’d rather be out enjoying the sun, not getting to do all the extra-curriculars I wanted to.

    Sport or otherwise, it’s about getting off your ass and working for it, even when it’s hard or boring oryou just don’t feel like it, just like the poster says. Such a pity they didn’t use an appropriate picture. If anyone wants to see TRUE fitness inspiration, watch this:

    I watch this on days when I’m berating my insignificant ‘imperfections’ and it gives me the kick in the ass to appreaciate my strong healthy body and see what amazing things I can do with it.

  31. RW

    Sigh, there is so much flawed with this article I dont know where to begin, I wish I could write a good comment explaining what you are missing but i am on my cell phone so I will just do points and i hope it helps;
    – light on the women’s bodies and oil is often also highlighting the muscle they have, that body was not easy to achieve
    -why is it so wrong for a women to be in a sports bra showing off her arms an abs? Or for sexual appeal? We are the fair races, and super beautiful to look at, espeacially when we work hard for nice bodies. A women in a sports bra greased up is no differnt then a man shirtless greased up. Both are sexy!
    -images are usually cropped off at the face for copyright issues, or to hide identity
    – true that fitspo is most likely advertising clothes or what not but if your looking at fitspo for the clothes to buy then I think you are missing the point. Also what are we supposed to work out in then? Our knickers?
    -you made it sound like annorexia and other eating disorders are a choice to loose weight, but really it is a mental illness. It’s not about being thin, underneth it all its truly about being in control.
    -there are many different meanings to thinspo, not just the annorexia tag.
    -I think the author forgets she is talking about FITspo here, fit is a British term Meanie somebody with a lean nice body. Fitspo is focused on building and shaping the body and achieve results. HEALTHspo is more focused on being healthy rather then building muscle and getting toned up.
    -if you can’t realize that some images that the girl is super oiled up with perfect lighting, is enhanced to sell and that picture was taken to look good, then your kinda dumb.
    -if you wanna be more then looked at then by all means achieve your wildest intellectual dreams, but who said we cant look good while doing it?

    Sorry if that is hard to read or any typos again im on my phone.

  32. Rae

    Some fitspiration quotes and images do bother me. Because not everyone can have a particular body type.

    Some fitspiration quotes sound like “Real Women Have Curves” another one which I hate.

  33. Sima

    I didn’t like the article at all. It doesn’t pose solutions, just criticisms to something that’s popular. I find most of this blog to be like that. It reminds me of a Yoga Journal criticism of the naked girl sporting toe sox in an ad. Ads sell things. That’s their job. For me all the Fitspo ads seem to say work hard, look hot preferably in our clothes and there’s nothing wrong with that. I LIKE wearing tight short dresses and turning heads. If that means a few more salads and more laps in the pool so be it.

    Give me a break! Guys often tell other guys they look good, especially if they’ve been hitting the gym and have lost significant weight. Compliments are how we support each other and appearance is the first thing we notice. I feel great when people come up to me and say, “You so rock that dress!” So yeah I’ll turn around and say, “I love your hair color.” Yes, people are more than their appearances, but sending positive comments in their direction might open up a conversation.

    To be healthy, at some point we all have to take personal responsibility. My self love/self hate issues exist, because I’ve been great at avoiding dealing with them, not because of Fitspo ads. As another person said in the comments wanting to be thin is a mental illness, which requires professional help. As a therapist and an avid student of yoga philosophy I tell clients everything is their fault, which means it’s completely within their power to change how they feel about anything in their lives including weight, health and self image. It’s daunting to take these steps alone which is why I’m always in therapy more than most of my clients.

    For fun I pole dance and within the community we have girls (and guys) all shapes and sizes. Contrary to popular belief the skinny girls aren’t always the happiest. In fact they get a lot of heckling for being thin probably as much as the overweight girls do for looking like “whales” on the pole. People will always have something to say. The most important thing is for you to be happy with you and if you’re not, go for a walk and figure out why. If you need help get it, but don’t start blaming models for your problems. They are people too with their share. It’s all part of the human experience. If you sincerely want things to change it starts with you taking responsibility of your issues first and then lending a helping hand to others, so that at the end of the day we all end up better people.


    • Sima

      Guess I should clarify the wanting to be thin. I mean bulimia and anorexia specifically.

    • Beauty Redefined
      Beauty Redefined06-26-2012

      I find it incredibly problematic for a therapist to refer to “overweight girls” as “looking like ‘whales.'” If you’ll notice, no one blamed any models for their problems, as you claimed. This article illustrated ways to determine if the fitspiration you’re viewing is motivating you toward health and fitness or toward shame, which leads to a sedentary lifestyle or other extremes in diet and exercise.

  34. Kelley

    What you said about guys not defining themselves with ther bodies is why during adolescence, I hung out with guys and not girls since I wanted to have a real conversation and not hear about “fat bashing”.

  35. Jenna

    AMEN!!! I wrote a post on my blog about this very issue today, and one of my readers sent me here. You echoed my feelings exactly. It’s time to END this new craze of marketing unattainable body ideals as “healthy.” It’s not!

  36. Hannah

    Thank you so much for your article! I am five feet tall, {naturally} about 95lb, and consider myself to be reasonably fit, and I look nothing like these “fitsperational” pictures (nor will I ever, because, frankly- I have a life).
    I have a very short torso- literally two inches between ribcage and hips, and so, no matter how skinny I make myself or how much I work out, I would never look like the svelte models so often shown. And that’s what they are- models. Their job is to be skinny and ripped. My job is to love and care for my husband and son, and to be an encouraging daughter, niece, neighbor and friend.

  37. cole

    A lot of the inspiration I see aren’t photos that sell products, though. A lot of the stuff on Pinterest at least appears to of real people, so there’s that sort of “she did it, why can’t you?” accusation.

  38. Roo

    So I guess keeping healthy is dangerous too? At least fitspo inspires people to improve their health unlike some people who never work out and eat crap all day. People need a push into health and fitspo can help you.

  39. Mari

    I’m afraid that I must disagree with the notion that fitspo = thinspo. Fitspo promotes the healthy ways of losing weight, thinspo promotes anorexia and bulimia. True, people shouldn’t be getting thin just to be sexually appealing but why does their reason for losing weight really matter? Wanting to look good is not a bad reason to lose weight at all; if it motivates people and gets them up and active, then it is working.

    • Christine

      I totally agree with you. All of the fitspiration quotes and pictures promotes healthy eating and getting up to exercise. It encourages people to be more healthy and the body will just follow. Making small changes instead of no change at all. Those hard rock abs and lean muscles are attainable if you eat healthy and exercise. There is no magic pill and that is what the fitspiration quotes and pictures are trying to teach people.

  40. schocofeeable

    Fitspiration isn´t a type of thinspiration. Really. I am a fitspo girl. Whats so bad by eating healthy and do sports? No fitspo ever want you to starve!
    I had never starved or hurt myself and I have one of this bodies they show in fitspiration blogs. Thats the reason why the pictures have no heads, that are normal girls who don´t wanna be recognized by known people looking at this pictures.

    I think people who associate thinspiration with fitspiration aren´t fit people at himself. I think it´s an excuse for don´t doing stuff they want you to do in this blogs for getting fit.
    On my opinion fit people would never alert others of those blogs.

  41. Amanda

    This woman is my inspiration. No matter how far gone you are you can always get better.

  42. Christine Mooney
    Christine Mooney12-05-2012

    I LOVE this post. I knew I wasn’t a fan of the fit- or thinspiration images but couldn’t quite put my finger on it. You’ve expressed my own thoughts perfectly…and gave me plenty to think about as well!

    I had to share this as I recently put up a blog post on my site about how these images are very similar to the ancient fertility figurines, which only depicted the “important” parts of a woman. In the post, I link back to this article. Too awesome NOT to share.

    The post (and a link back to your site) can be found here:

    Again, great job! Love this!

  43. notalazyperson

    you are a f***ing human being, being fat is gross. being sexually attractive is how we get mates, thats a fact. fat people like you that try and rationalize it realize that you are so disgusting but instead of changing yourself you want to change other people. fat activists are selfish, lazy individuals prove me wrong. btw men talk about other shit because we have other shit going on in our lives; women have nothing going on in their lives besides whoever they are dating which is based on their looks and personality thats why you only ever compliment eachother on your looks. “oh boo hoo im not respected even though im fat and all i do is work a minumum wage job and do feminist things on the internet all day, why cant i get a real man to take care of me!’ maybe because you have nothing of value to offer, especially when you go to college and get a degree in women and gender studies you f***ing stupid cows. you think that people are judged on more than just looks? they are, but you also have nothing going on in your lives so you cant use that as an excuse.

    • Beauty Redefined
      Beauty Redefined12-06-2012

      You should probably see a therapist. This is not a healthy level of rage to be expressing over a research-backed blog post written by someone you’ve never met.

    • Shelley greenaway
      Shelley greenaway02-02-2014

      you know, some people don’t care about arrogant twits who suffer from what i call “stone age primate syndrome” no.really. if you seem to think that we are primates and you act like a sex crazed one at least, perhaps you could spend some time with gorillas, or better just releive your “primitive urges” whilst watching films of catwalk shows featuring women you think are sexually attractive and lay fat bashing – you don’t know if they have a thyroid problem so just take your pills and just sleep in a darkened room, ok?

  44. Bro

    Stay mad fatties.

  45. Wow

    So let me get this straight. You can’t work out to look more attractive. You can’t want to be attractive. You can’t want to be sexually desirable. You can’t even compliment another women because that minimizes her to only her body. Really? If I compliment another woman on her piano playing skills am I reducing her to a set of fingers? All this is is trying to make people feel bad for wanting to be attractive.

    • Beauty Redefined
      Beauty Redefined02-05-2013

      Your statements have nothing to do with what was said in this post. If I said “you can’t want to be attractive/sexually desirable/etc.” or that “you cannot compliment another woman on her looks” that’d be insane. We’re talking about expanding the conversation! We are capable of MORE than being looked at. In other words, look and be looked at, but know you are capable of much more than the halting place of focusing solely on that!

  46. Dude

    People are different and everybody gets motivated in different ways. If you don’t like these posters, move on.

  47. Bronwyn

    There is nothing beautiful about rolls of fat. But it also goes the other way, there is nothing beautiful about a sack of bones. If you are obese, work to be healthy, not “thin.” This article made me feel bad about myself for working hard to feel good about my body.

    • k

      The whole point of the article is that there is so much more to women than how they LOOK.. These messages are DANGEROUS because 1. they reinforce the notion that is is okay for society to judge people’s worth based on their appearance 2. they target a demographic of young women who are vulnerable to the development of eating disorders 3. they often contain messages that tell people not to listen to their body cues of fatigue and pain 4. they use shame, promote dissatisfaction with imperfection 5. they are hateful towards obese people and normalize hate messaging and intolerance for anybody who does not conform to these rigid body types . There are many posts here that show this type of brainwashing is in fact working in our society and that if we don’t agree or conform we will be labelled with such terms as lazy, fat, stupid…..One example, “There is nothing beautiful about rolls of fat”. The writer states this as if she is the judge and jury on this… There is a beautiful person there that you will never be able to see with this attitude. This is discrimination and it is becoming wide spread all in the name of HEALTH.

  48. Carolina

    I think people are missing the point. BR is not here to tell you not to work out because being obese is okay. They are not here to tell you that you shouldn’t follow a healthier diet because you should accept your unhealthy habits and move on. They are here to help you understand that people (women AND men alike) can do so much more than live their lives to try and “look good”.
    I work out four days of the week. I do CrossFit, which is a super intense type of workout, and I was not offended by this post. I work hard to be strong, to feel good, to stay healthy to see my kid grow up. I am NOT going to sit on my butt and “let myself go” because that is not my personality, but to be honest, the more I work out, the more I weigh, and after growing up with a serious case of Anorexia Nervosa, I am okay with that number now, and I don’t obsess over it, because I understand what fitness is all about now.
    There is a super fine line between inspiration and body shaming, and it is very sad and extremely dangerous that people think this is okay. My gym for example has a saying that “strong is the new sexy” and a lot of women use that as their motivation. I think that is unhealthy, but that is why I go in, do my workout FOR ME, not because I feel others will be looking, and I ignore the t-shirts and the tanktops with that saying. That is all.

    • Michelle


      Performance based (get faster, get stronger, run farther)? Yes!

      Health based (eat better, feel better)? Yes!

      Looks based? No. Stahp. Just stahp.

  49. Marley

    I don’t find any ad that encourages us to lose weight quickly inspiring nor do I find it helpful. Basically it sounds like no one cares if you had an eating disorder and all of a sudden you died.

    Starvation is a very painful thing to go through because you know what comes to my mind? There are countries that don’t have enough to eat and yet we are in the western world with plenty of food to eat and the ads telling girls and women to starve to death in order to achieve the thin body? This is preposterous! It’s cruel to send a message that starvation gets you in shape. What they’re doing is wrong because they don’t care about healthy ways to lose weight. They just do it for money.

    So forget fitspiration. Don’t lose weight for the sake of pleasing the advertisers and people who criticize your lifestyle. Do it for your own health.

  50. Michelle


    Couldn’t help but jump in.

    I’m 24, a former collegiate athlete (cheerleader), competitive soccer player, and now an elite runner.

    Most of the “fitspo” and “fitness” oriented images and workouts are a joke. They lead women to believe that:
    A) the indicators of health are washboard abs, bubble butts, thigh gaps, 3% body fat, all barely covered in tiny gym clothes.
    B) you can get all these things simply by doing a quick 15 minute ab/pilates/yoga/arm workout everyday.

    Excuse me? I’m all about encouraging people to live more active and healthy lifestyles (I actually did research on the impact of a nutritional education program on elementary school children’s attitudes and behaviours toward healthy food). But as many have stated, that’s not the goal of these “workouts” nor is it the mentality behind the “fitspo” imagery bombarding women across social media platforms. These are designed to “fix” you, they’re designed to make you feel bad about an area of your body. They’re not there to make you faster or to jump higher or to be happier. These ridiculous “workouts” often attached to these images give women who do NOT know much about fitness and health unrealistic expectations. The photos are designed to make the reader believe the women in the photos achieved those abs just by doing that 15 minute workout, conveniently omitting that it was a mix of great genes, intense cardio and weight training, and the strict diet regiment that led to those abs.

    Nobody should EVER be made to feel ashamed of their body, regardless of how healthy or unhealthy they are. These images exploit insecurities and are misleading. It’s easy to blame the viewer, “well, you shouldn’t let that image make you feel that way” or “you should know better” but it’s also on us as a society to recognise these fitspo images for the crap that they are and to not re-pin it or share it, therefore perpetuating its influence.

    I will never have a natural thigh gap, I will never have long legs, and I will probably never have washboard abs. But I have enough trophies and medals in my case to be okay with that. I have wonderful friends and family who remind me how funny, kind, smart, and thoughtful I am. To the women who do not have this, you’re the reason why I don’t share negative “fitspo”. I re-pin healthspo. Be active, be happy, appreciate your body for everything it can do and love it every step of the way.

  51. talfonso

    Amen to that! The fitpsiration I can tolerate is the one that promotes exercise as being fun and that assures me that food is not a villain. In terms of food, I believe moderation is the key. You REALLY don’t have to eat 100% clean to be healthy!

    And I decided to tackle the subcategory of negative fitspiration that I REALLY HATE so much: SQUATS. I have nothing against squats – they strengthen my core and lower body and makes me flexible in those areas. It’s how the bloggers and pinners manipulate such a functional exercise into propaganda for having one’s hiney fit beauty standards.

    One example of the squatspiration images is the one with the words “women: take notice” (, The image on the right is a bikini-clad woman with a flat butt with the above caption “no squats.” Another is a woman in lingerie with boyshort undies with her behind exposed with the caption “squats.”

    That image makes me angry. Why do some people who live and breathe fitspo have to make stereotypical, misguided assumptions that people with flat butts don’t squat.

    I lampooned the image in the same vein, but with a more body-positive air ( I covered a woman’s sand-covered hiney with the words, “this is not sexier than,” and a trombone-playing cherub’s (it’s from an 18th-century painting) “cheeks” with the word, “this.” That’s my more positive response to the original picture of the squats/no squats comparison.

    I’m glad to agree with you on this!

  52. Naomi

    Wow, what a bunch of bullcrap.

    Fitspiration makes you feel bad about being fat.

    Maybe you SHOULD FEEL BAD about being fat. Instead of sitting around, eating ho-ho’s complaining about how much better the world would be if every little thing didn’t offend you, why not read some books on nutrition and start going to the gym.

    This article is disgusting.

    • talfonso

      Naomi, you are missing the whole point of the article.

      Look, I eat mostly clean, do strength training at least 2-3 times a week, do high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and some moderate walking. And I work at a job where I stand virtually ALL day. I bring green smoothies to work just because even with the employee discounts on menu items, I save money. I also do a bit of Pilates and I do Oxycise!.

      With all that said about my lifestyle, I look a bit chunky and have bingo arms, a muffin top, and thunder thighs. I’m OK with that, and yet you’re saying that I should feel bad about myself for my shape? How would you feel if you had a friend the same size as me with the same amount of fat and said it to her? What you just commented won’t motivate her to eat clean and do vigorous exercise – both regularly – so that she’ll lose the weight and keep it off.

      Let me clarify that further. I don’t mostly eat clean because “abs are made in the kitchen;” I do it ONLY because it makes me feel good AND because I feel great each time I make a healthy meal. It’s called honoring my nutrition – I’m honoring my health and my tastebuds with what I put in my mouth because it BOTH makes me feel good and is good for me, not because I have that, again, “abs are made in the kitchen” mindset.

      Same with exercising – I do this because I have to have stamina for life’s events, from hiking to climbing up a lot of steps. I went on a Mediterranean cruise and I was fit enough to take on mountainous terrain and the 178 steps of the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Protection in Marseille, France.

      I’m one of the people who can prove to ignorant ones like you who can do vigorous exercise, eat right, and NOT look like the ones in the memes. Healthy isn’t six-packs, Teletubby butts (from allegedly doing weighted squats), and even thigh gaps. You can be fat and eat clean, just as you can be svelte and eat a lot of processed food. You can also be fat and be in the 99% percentile of the 1-mile walk test of the President’s Challenge Adult Fitness Test (that was me nearly 2 weeks ago), just as you can be slim and sedentary.

      If you religiously follow fitspo, fine – just keep your fitspo boards and fitblrs private so that unexpecting eyes of a certain someone who is just recovering from an eating disorder won’t be triggered by your images you’ve repinned or reblogged. But remember the old saying you forgot to keep in mind before you assume someone is unfit based on his or her looks: never, ever, EVER judge a book by its cover.

      Grow a flutin’ backbone.

  53. talfonso

    Spot on! Oh and Beauty Redefined, that reminds me of a quote I’ve just elaborated: abs are made in the kitchen, at the gym, and through digital photo editing. That why healthy eating and exercise isn’t ANDY shouldn’t be about weight loss or fixing a body part. You cant tell who’s regularly eating clean and doing vigorous exercise by looking at someone’s appearance. Fitspiration is violating the rule we have been taught in school: never, ever, EVER judge a book by its cover. With society’s beauty standards the way they are, isn’t it time we relearn this old saying?

  54. ask

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about thinspiration. Regards

  55. Aquarius Moon
    Aquarius Moon10-14-2015

    Fitspo motivates me when I’m feeling a tad lazy and don’t want to exercise. It’s a reminder of how good one feels after breaking into a sweat and the amazing clean sensation a hot shower after working out brings. Not once have I wanted to achieve the kinds of bodies in fitspo photos. After all, I’m not a professional athlete or fitness model.

    The photos are going to be there, like it or not. The bodies may change depending on what seems trendy at the moment. But who cares? Those images will only disturb you if you let it. I don’t aspire to be like them; but I do like being active and knowing that I can do it.

  56. JM

    I would like to “defend” a few of these quotes… The first is one you have mentioned in the article, how even by going slow one beats others sitting on the couch.
    Around my 2nd son’s 1st birthday, I really wasn’t in such a good shape. I really missed being able to run for 50-60 minutes and not giving up after 10 min.s… I started jogging again, and around the 3-4th time, when I was wheezing from a slight incline, probably going with the speed of a sedentary snail, whooosh, a girl runs past me. She had a perfect bottom and nice legs and she had nice workout clothes… I looked at myself and almost stopped. I felt so ridiculous, and crushed… and 2 days later I found the above mentioned quote on Pinterest, along with: don’t judge your beginning by someone else’s middle; also: don’t compare yourself to others, but to the person you were yesterday.
    These three quotes fused together helped me a lot. It doesn’t matter howslow I am today. I am doing something, and yesterday I wasn’t. I will get faster, I will be able to do a handstand that my boys find awesome : ) (I learned doing a bridge for them) I will get more flexible, and I will be proud of myself for bettering myself compared to what I was…
    Nonetheless, I agree that some of these inspirations are truly thinspo like, just not all of them.

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