From Joonas: This week’s blog post is the very first guest post on the site. Rebecca Sharp wrote a great piece on her journey through the minefield that is fitness and how she eventually found the middle ground. I think most of us go through the same road of extremes, I know I did… Some of us are lucky enough to realize that there is other things in life than the obsessed quest for a six pack.
We’ve all seen it before…
“You can have results or excuses, not both”
“Nothing tastes as good as being skinny feels”
And my personal favourite “Sweat is just your fat crying”
So when it’s all cheesy sayings and good intentions, why is it that fitness inspiration aka FITSPO is rubbish and why do I believe it can and probably does cause more harm than good?
A few years ago after eating and drinking my way through the cold UK winters with reckless abandonment, I was messing around on social media when I came across my first FITSPO post. There she was, a wonderfully tanned and oiled woman wearing nothing but a six pack telling me that I too could look that good if only I would remember that “unless you puke, faint or die, keep going”. I looked at those well-toned arms and shining six pack and I was suddenly transported back to my teens, the days where I represented my country in my sport and back to the days where I too looked fabulous, although not that tall, in an outfit that teeny tiny.
The problem with that picture was that while it did inspire me to want to better myself and get back to the way things were, it also sent me quickly down a dangerous path of obsession, frustration and alienation. In next to no time at all my days became a routine of 5.30am fasted cardio followed by tiny portions of “good foods” during my working day with more cardio after work and a minuscule dinner of more “good foods”. No eating after 6.30pm mind you and DEFINITELY NO CARBS AT NIGHT. Friday night drinks with my mates became a huge stress in my week. If my fiancé suggested pizza for dinner I’d practically combust with pent up worry.
So, was it all worth it? Did I get my six pack back? Nope. But I got slimmer right? A little bit yes. Was I happier? Nope. Was I healthier? Definitely not! The truth is that while fitness seems to be the in thing these days, what’s also tagging along for the ride is our obsession with perfection. Social media and in particular FITSPO is the fuel feeding those perfectionist flames. You see, these perfectly styled photographs and catchy sayings aren’t telling us the full story. They’re not telling us about the sheer amount of sacrifice (I’m talking socially as well everything else) it took to achieve such results, they’re not telling us about the other 9 months of the year when the model doesn’t look like that, they’re not telling us that the before and after photos were taken on the same day, just with better lighting and a better fitting outfit and they’re certainly not telling us about the fantastic effort of the guy playing around with photoshop to get such a great shot.
Our fitness inspiration should come from things that truly make us feel great, not from random pictures made in three minutes using the latest meme app. Our motivation should be more about our long term health and wellbeing than just our aesthetics. Yes we should eat right and yes we should exercise but we shouldn’t feel the need to slave away for hours a day on next to no sustenance. Instead we should concentrate on moving in any way that brings us joy and eating good quality whole foods because they make us feel good inside and out.
Back to my story and fast forward 3 years. Now my life is full of real health and fitness inspiration and motivation but it’s not the sort you find when you do a Google image search. My fitness inspiration comes from beautiful long walks coastal walks with my fiancé, messing about on my skateboard or paddle board and lifting heavier weights than I ever thought possible. Food for me is about trying new flavours and playing around with recipe ideas and my health motivation is about being the happiest and best version of myself for decades to come and sharing that with the people I love. That’s FITSPO right there and that’s something we can all achieve if it’s what we want.
Rebecca Sharp is a Learning & Development Manager specializing in leadership development, mentoring, career coaching and team development. She likes water sports, cats, AFL, cricket and weights and is obsessed with cat videos. You can reach her at [email protected] or by commenting below.