THE RISE OF FITSPO

In recent years, there has been a significant shift in the attitude towards bring thin. The pro-ana girls have developed muscles as thinspiration has been replaced by an ever expanding fitness culture. ‘Fitspiration’[1] is the new social media hashtag and young women now proclaim ‘I’d rather be fit and sexy than weak and dainty.’ While thinspiration emphasises strength in terms of the mental discipline required for weight loss: ‘be strong and get skinny’; fitspiration focusses upon building physical strength. This is indicated by its most popular slogan: ‘strong is the new skinny.’ Social media is now saturated with gym selfies, meal prep-plans, inspirational graphics and motivational mantras.

 

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Replacing the comparatively simple starvation method, the fitspiration movement encourages weight loss through ‘clean’ eating and exercise. Throughout social media, sculpted women in neon sports bras announce that it is ‘leg day’ and ‘meal 3’ was salmon with sweet potato. Twitter and Instagram feeds function as online food diaries as fitness enthusiasts post images of Tupperware-bound protein and greens, accompanied by their macronutrient values and the ubiquitous hashtag #absaremadeinthekitchen.

 

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There are many fitspirational apps., such as ‘Healthy Selfie’, that combines several aspects of fitspiration: meal preparation photographs, body fat measurements and training selfies. Launched in January 2015, Healthy Selfie became an instant success, receiving 1000 downloads in the first 24 hours of its release.[2] This app. enables users to ‘photographically track, share and ‘hashtag’ the body’s physical transformation.’[3] It urges potential members to join its ‘community of like minded individuals’[4] for ‘support, motivation, information and ideas.’[5] Personal fitness journeys are recorded through daily photographs, often posed in flattering lighting and processed through various filters to create the appearance of defined abdominals. The app. is careful, however, to distinguish itself from the dangerous underground cult of thinspiration, instead claiming to be ‘a socially acceptable platform to share your achievements!’[6]

 

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Marketed as fitspiration, the thin ideal is now socially palatable. It has moved away from the forearm cutting world of pro ana, and instead radiates health and happiness. Unlike the followers of its self-harming predecessor, advocates of fitspiration assert body confidence: ‘I work out not because I hate my body but because I love it.’ The women who refused food, or spent their days slumped over a toilet bowl are now positive and strong.

The body that is touted as fitspiration is essentially that of the Bikini Competitor. The internet is flooded with images of yoga pant clad fitness models as competition culture is offered as an alternative to ‘thin’. Dieting must now be supplemented by exercise in order to achieve the new ideal body that is not only lean, but also muscular. The concave stomach now boasts a six pack and the thigh gap has been replaced by muscular quads capable of performing the exercise of the moment: the squat. A model’s rounded glutes are frequently the subject of fitspirational images. Motivational memes portray women bent over the squat rack, wearing diminutive exercise apparel and dripping with sweat. These sculpted goddesses even claim that their ‘sweat is sexy’.

 

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The current fitness trend has subsequently led to the increased sexualisation of the female body. The muscular curves of fitspiration are far more erotic than the emaciated, pre-pubescent figures of thinspiration. Commenting on the sexual objectification within gym bunny culture, one bikini athlete remarked that competing ‘seems to be less about actual fitness and more about half-naked selfies on Facebook; and which girls have the biggest boobs and skinniest waist.’ Since curvaceous body parts provide the most visual gratification, these generate the most social media comments or ‘likes’. Positive responses in turn reinforce this exhibitionistic behaviour. ‘Gains’ or ‘progress’ selfies are therefore more likely to feature a woman’s breasts rather than their muscle, with pictures taken from an elevated angle to ensure that the attention is directed towards the subject’s cleavage.

 

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This objectification of the female figure is accentuated by the fact that many images do not include the individual’s head. A woman who seeks attention in this manner therefore reduces herself to an anonymous body.

 

 

[1] An abbreviation of fitness and inspiration

[2] http://www.look.co.uk/fashion/meet-the-only-fitspiration-app-you-need-and-it-works

[3] http://www.healthyselfieapp.com/features/

[4] http://www.healthyselfieapp.com/

[5] http://www.healthyselfieapp.com/features/

[6] http://www.healthyselfieapp.com/features/

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