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Posted on Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 9:53 a.m.

'Fitspiration' - is this a healthy message?

By Melissa Gerharter MS, RD

Even if you haven’t heard the term, you’ve likely seen the image in some capacity. You may have posted about in on your own social media site — or have had a friend post about it — in an effort to motivate yourself and others to exercise and be healthy.

I question whether ‘fitspiration’ and phrases such as “strong is the new skinny” are motivation to be healthy. They suggest women look a certain way, right?

Before I ever heard of this, I liked the messages behind these images that encouraged women to lift weights, set fitness goals, not be afraid of having muscles. What bothered me was the way these women were photographed. Why did they all show chiseled six-pack abs and long, thin legs in ‘booty shorts’?

The images in these ‘fitspiration’ messages are incongruent with how I see the women dress in my gym. Women I see working out hard have on clothes that allow them to move freely, and they don’t have makeup on when they workout. They are more concerned with setting a new personal goal at the gym then whether or not their abs look good.

Striving to be perceived as strong can lead to the same issues as eating disorders, including extreme dieting, the inability to allow flexibility into their diet and social withdrawal from family and peers. Overtraining and under-eating can also set an athlete up for an increased risk of injury, cease a women’s menstrual cycle and increase the likelihood of depression.

Now, when I see some of these images I see on my friend’s Facebook pages they irritate me. Most women are still striving to ‘look’ like someone rather then focusing on their own health that hard work and exercise can bring. For all we know, the models that are in these pictures could have starved and dehydrated themselves for weeks prior to the photo shoot in an effort to have their muscle definition highlighted. That’s not real.

So, if strong is the new skinny, instead of trying to become skinny (whatever that means) women are still feeling and seeing the pressure that we must look strong now? Is this better for our self image? Our body image? Why are we still focused on how our bodies look versus what they can do for us?

The realization that we, as women, are worthy of accepting our bodies for what they are and for what they are capable of doing is powerful and strong. Let’s shift our focus on nourishing our bodies to perform to our own individual potential and personal athletic goals versus what society tells us is acceptable.

Melissa Gerharter MS, RD, CSSD is co-owner of Joust Strength and Fitness. She is also a part-time lecturer at Eastern Michigan University.


Sarah Rigg

Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 2:18 p.m.