WARNING: This post deals with the topic of eating disorders and may be triggering for some readers.
Lululemon pants with a generous wedge of air between the legs; strong stomachs flanked by visible ribs. Hair in high ponytails, with makeup-free pouts and just a bit too much collar bone visible underneath.
If you’ve spent much time on Instagram, Tumblr or Pinterest lately, you’ve probably come across #fitspo.
When it works, #fitspo (or #fitspiration) is a community of nutritionally aware, active people encouraging each other to lead their healthiest lives. But when #fitspo doesn’t work, it can be a very dark place.
The anorexia-promoting hashtag #thinspo was banned from Instagram in 2012, after similar moves from Pinterest and Tumblr. #Thinspo was a way for eating disorder sufferers to motivate and encourage each other’s pathologies. They would use it to share extreme dieting tips and images of emaciated woman as ‘inspiration’.
Now, Sheena Lyonnais, a former eating disorder sufferer is writing on XOJane that following and posting under the #fitspo hashtag had exactly the same negative consequences on her mental health as following thinspo blogs would have. She writes:
“To the susceptible, it’s a disorder in disguise of health, bad habits masquerading as good ones. It’s a massive trigger that can send you spiraling into a dark world of disarray.”
“Soon I was just like the rest: re-blogging pictures of skinny girls with their running shoes on and their bones sticking out, beside photos of avocado on toast, beside memes with mantras and rules, so many fucking rules.”
Focusing on ‘healthy’ eating and exercising habits is an incredibly tough line to walk for those who have tendencies towards disordered eating. Getting fit, just like losing weight, is something that is usually met with high social rewards in our society. Fit girls who go to the gym get lots of praise – so even when your behaviour turns from health-conscious to self-destructive, it can be hard for outsiders to tell the difference. Instead, they reinforce and encourage your now-harmful habits until it’s way too late.
Those who suffer from eating disorders have tendencies towards perfectionism and being rigid in their thinking, so even motivators that are seemingly innocuous to most people can become dangerous triggers.