There was once a time when chanting ‘Hail Mary’ was believed to absolve us of our sins.
These days, our sins (eating non-organic food, skipping BodyPump after work, etc) are amended in a more chic, social-media-friendly manner. The rosary beads have been replaced by designer fitness wrist bands and chanting positive mantras in mindfulness classes.
“I am strong. I am happy. I am enough. I am strong. I am happy. I am…”
Mantras, measuring steps, committing to 10 minutes of mindfulness daily: these actions are proven to have positive benefits on mental and physical health. It’s when the rampant desire to completely overhaul one’s life and model it on the Instagram and Snapchat model/actress/nutritionist/yoga/reiki masters takes over that danger beckons on the Body Image Horizon.
I’m not immune – as the founder of Ballet Sculpt, a barre, yoga and Body Pump instructor and daily gym or studio goer, I walk into the church of body worship and wellness warriors with both a sense of acceptance but also wariness. Under the excuse of “fitness”, there’s some dangerous imagery, ideas, language and behaviour going on. Personal trainers loudly crowing about their two days of fasting and how coffee is improved with a big chunk of butter was a recently painful conversation to overhear (from the other end of the gym).
We discuss on Mamamia Out Loud what happens when you are fat-shamed…by your gym. (Post continues after audio.)
It’s my job to teach people that fitness is not your rippling biceps but a state of being. I have to remind myself too. When Instagram tries to convince me that a Lark-filtered teenager in Nikes and a string bikini is the epitome of strength, it’s time to call time on “fitspo” and do my job: teach you – and remind myself – that true fitness inspiration isn’t dictated by a sneaker brand or a weight loss clinic but your own values, goals, and what you want to be doing at 90.
I want to be teaching yoga in my wrinkly, lululemon-ed gloriousness and proving strength is timeless. I’m my own fitspo.
While fitness-themed apps have – to the majority of studies – proven to have some positive benefit initially in encouraging very inactive people to initiate a walking routine, largely they have proven to have no sustainable benefit.
A study by University of Pennsylvania indicated that almost 50% of people stop using their wearable fitness tracker within a 12 month period. Another study by the same university found that fitness trackers were accurate in measuring steps but could be up to 22% off when indicating calories burned, distance and sleep quality. For the obsessive and competitive, and especially for those in a vulnerable state seeking to control some aspect of their lives, measuring calories, counting steps, competing on social media with friends and strangers on levels of fitness, hours of training, nutrient value is a temptation into a black hole of self-criticism, punishing regimes of dieting and exercise, and ultimately bordering on diagnosable eating disorders, anxiety or depression.