When did "Fitspo" become about sex?

Here’s a fun quiz we can play!

  1. Do you want to get fit and feel strong?

2. Do you want to sweat?


3. Do you want to sports?!

4. Do you look like this after a gym session?


5. Now, on a scale of one to ten, how do you feel about yourself right now?

A post shared by Kayla Itsines (@kayla_itsines) on

Welcome to the hell that is #fitspo on Instagram. A place of unattainable abs and thigh gaps, from women with come-hither looks, posing for full-body selfies with undies pulled down so far that they’re a bees dick away from flashing their pubic bone.

If I have to look at another ripped ab workout selfie, next to a suite of inspirational quotes telling me to ‘love myself’, I am going to scream so loud it will Lulu your lemon.

When did “fitness” become this?

When did health become so sexualised?


No doubt these women are gorgeous. Beaming with health. They’re playing straight into what Instagram is built for; selling beautiful images, and they are really good at it.  Some are successful personal trainers selling a lifestyle brand of empowerment and femininity and health.  And while I don’t want to begrudge anyone building a business (that takes serious work), I think it’s interesting to hold these images, this behaviour, this culture up to the light and say ‘why does this make me feel so bad?’

Fitness, to me, is about doing great things of strength and courage and empowerment. It’s about teamwork, sacrifice, the ugly face in the middle of a run or the strain on the eighth pushup. It’s being able to bend and jump and walk up stairs without having a heart attack.  The feel of grass under shoes and arms that stretch to shoot baskets and the hot air from in your lungs when you run.

But it’s starting to lose that feeling. Because now, an outside workout looks like this:

A post shared by Kayla Itsines (@kayla_itsines) on


Health looks like crotch fruit.

And “motivation” looks like this Instagram accountm, SkinnyGirlsMakeGraves, which actually bills itself as  female motivation.


Fun fact: In 2008, psychologists exposed college-age women to fitness-related images in magazines, and then examined their response. Instead of leaping out of their chairs and throwing on their sneakers, they found the opposite. After just 30 minutes of looking at magazine images of fitness, the women reported increased negative mood, depression, and anxiety.

An Australian study in the same year had similar results. Researchers tested women aged 18-35 on the effects of media images of self-objectification. Again, women who viewed advertisements featuring a thin-idealized woman reported self-objectification, weight-related appearance anxiety, negative mood, and body dissatisfaction.

And this was almost a decade ago. When people were still reading the occasional magazine.

Now, this magazine of impossible body ideals is in the palm of your hand. These women have millions of followers combined.  And there are over 40 million #fitspo images in Instagram just waiting for you to scroll and hover over.


It was actually Stephanie Rice that pushed me over the edge.

Not her, persay. I’m sure she’s a lovely girl. All Olympians I know are. They are women who know more than anyone the pain, sacrifice, pride, camaraderie, strength, and hurt that sport demands of you.

Steph Rice knows what a body can do, just as well as what it looks like. She powered her limbs up and down a pool her whole life to get onto the podium at the Olympics.

And even she is all about the pouty, come-hither look, right down the lens.

A post shared by STEPHANIE RICE (@itsstephrice) on

A post shared by STEPHANIE RICE (@itsstephrice) on


Sex sells. I know that. I’m just not sold on it this time.

So I’ve unfollowed.

I’ve unfollowed anyone trying to sell me fitness as sex. I’ve unfollowed anyone trying to sell me health by making me feel worse. It’s not you. You do you.  I just need to do me.

So I’m out.

And I have to say, it feels pretty good.

Mamamia Out Loud is the weekly podcast with what women are talking about. Listen to the latest ep here:

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