Is “Fitspiration” Really Any Better Than “Thinspiration”?

by Charlotte on February 26, 2012 · 181 comments

I’m not against ALL “fitspo” pictures. Like this one. Nothing motivates me more to workout hard than the thought of getting dropped into a gladiator arena with a bunch of teenagers on a reality show. 

The other day as I sat happily pinning away on Pinterest, a taut, perfectly chiseled six-pack caught my eye. No I wasn’t admiring the latest David Beckham ad for H&M. It was a fabulously fit woman, one whom I would love to look like. But when I clicked to enlarge the picture I saw that the text written across her stomach was not inspirational words but a recipe for purging. The site the picture came from? Ana4Ever. It was thinspo.

For those of you unitiated in the world of eating disorders, “thinspo” (short for thinspiration) are images of very skinny models/actresses/cartoons that one then uses to self-flagellate with the hope that all the shame will make you stop eating and thereby help you lose weight. Because if we’ve learned nothing from The Scarlet Letter it’s that shame is clearly the best motivator to do anything. If I sound jaded, it’s because I am. I had a serious thinspo addiction when I was at the height of my anorexia. After going through a lot of therapy I can finally see the images for the damage they do and now when I look at thinspo I only see sadness. I only feel the self-hatred that permeated my every waking moment then.

I’ve managed to mostly put it out of my mind until this past week when a couple of events brought it right back. First, Tumblr, safe haven to thinspo blogs, announced a policy change banning any site that advocates self harming behaviors in general and eating disorder in particular. While I am under no delusions this will shut down the thinspo sites, I am very happy to see an actual policy acknowledging the damage they do. The other issue was that I got an assignment to write about the problems with thinspo and then show examples of healthy “fitspo.”

Another one I LOVE!

Obviously the first part came easy (maybe a little too easy, by about 200 words too long… oops) but while I thought the second part would be easy, it ended up being a juggernaut that has consumed my whole weekend. The first thing I did was go to Pinterest and start clicking on all my friends’ boards who posted inspirational fitness stuff. But as I got into it I found myself getting more and more obsessive with the images, then comparing myself to them and consequently feeling really awful about myself. Just like I used to do with thinspo.

Looking at rock-hard body after rock-hard body it occurred to me that fitspo may be thinspo in a sports bra. After all, the problem with thinspo is that the images represent a mostly unattainable ideal that requires great sacrifices (both physical and mental) to achieve and I daresay that most of those “perfect” female bodies, albeit muscular instead of bony, are equally as problematic. Many people will say that while it’s rare to be born with skinny genes but that muscle can be built with hard work in the gym. And I agree. But in most of these pictures, we’re not looking at your average woman who does Bodypump twice a week and can now lift her children with ease. We’re looking at a very exclusive set of dedicated athletes that train very hard and eat a very particular diet to maintain extremely lean figures. A second argument would be that super skinny is unhealthy while exercise is very healthy. Again I agree. Except that for the majority of women to look like the girls in these fitspo pictures they’d have to be young, probably not have had kids and quite possibly have an unhealthy devotion to exercise and eating. And let’s remember that women need body fat not only for spawning but also for our own health. I’m not saying every fitness model has an eating disorder. I promise! I am saying though that compulsive over exercise can be just as deadly as other eating disorders and yet it so socially sanctioned that it’s often promoted as inspiring.

This one totally made me grin.

The last point – one that I would never argue with – is that some women seem to find fitspo genuinely fit-spirational. Seeing those pics does make them want to work harder, eat cleaner and live better. I’ll freely admit that I may be more sensitive than most to this type of influence. Which is why I’m now asking you guys (because that’s my strategy – to ask normal people what they would do and then try and blend in!):

Do you find “fitspo” to be inspiring or frustrating? Does it matter to you if a beautiful bod comes from elite genes versus elite training?

P.S. While I’ve given you some examples of stuff I find truly inspiring, I feel like I need to give at least one example of the kind that bothers me so much. But I’ve put it way down here at the bottom in case it bothers you too – feel free to not scroll!

LOVE this sentiment! But everytime I look at this one I get depressed all over again. Because honestly? I will never, ever look like this. No matter how many weights I lift or sprints I run. 

{ 153 comments… read them below or add one }

M. Lindsay February 26, 2012 at 10:54 pm

The Hunger Games is so awesome. That is all.


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 4:44 pm



bjbella5 February 26, 2012 at 11:27 pm

I agree with you. First three are inspiring, the last one crosses that line into fitspo, as well as turning functional fitness into over-the-top-sexy-fitness.


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 7:44 am

Good point about the Maxim-level sexiness too… blargh.


Rebecca February 27, 2012 at 5:05 pm

I agree that the last one is posed poorly. It does seem to emphasize the sex over the fit. However, her arms are amazing, and that’s via work, not genes. I don’t know if I will ever be able to achieve her abs, though. I have a natural “baby bump” that really seems to stay around no matter what I do.


Lauren February 28, 2012 at 8:10 am

And yet her bra is ill-fitting. Right after I mentally cleaned her up and made her stand up straight and square, that’s the first thing I noticed. So much of what is presented as sexy is actually sexy-like – it’s like food and imitation food-like products: all tease and no delivery – and when we can strip that away and see what that person looks like IRL, it gives a whole new standard for aspiration.
This is not to attack the model at all. That woman has clearly worked for what she has. However, so have a lighting technician, a makeup artist with a spray bottle, and a fitness photographer. I only want to point out that this is STAGED to emphasize something specific, and we can’t keep comparing our director’s cut to someone else’s highlight reel and expect to remain balanced. It’s also a bit dehumanizing that they’ve cut her face off, like they do in the background photo of news stories on obesity, as if the body and person could be separated.
From personal experience I can say that that chiselled boy-like waist means that women’s jeans bite at the waist and gape at the hips, while men’s jeans have too deep a rise. So be careful what you wish for. I do wish I could have her thighs (or, in this case, non-thighs) but I am reassured by the notion that hip and thigh fat is the body’s reserve of O3s for child-bearing and hippier women have cranially-advantaged kids.


Alyssa (Azusmom) February 26, 2012 at 11:39 pm

I find fitspo almost as depressing as thinspo. Most of us with jobs and kids and lives will never look like that. These women are fitness models and/or competitors, and it IS their job to look like that. There’s also a genetic predisposition towards 6-pack abs that most women don’t possess.
I would REALLY like to see health and fitness represented in a variety of shapes & sizes. But I won’t hold my breath.

P.S., I would totally fail at Hunger Games. I’d be eaten.


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 7:45 am

No way – you and I would be on the same team. We’d survive! Or go down together! And so true that fitness desperately needs model diversity just like the fashion world does!


heather February 27, 2012 at 10:43 am

I agree with you! With three kids, one being a five-month-old nursing baby, I find fitspo depressing as well! I


Cathie November 14, 2013 at 12:24 pm

heather it’s not that hard. Look at what you eat and portions everyday. Processed “foods”/pasta full of hydrogenated oils? Or lots of fruits and vegetables and lean meat like chicken/fish? Once you realize that you mostly eat crap and start buying wholesome organic foods, you’ll see the weight come off. Oh and NO SUGAR or worse Artificial sweetener! Stop making excuses and do it.


heather November 14, 2013 at 9:41 pm

Thanks Cathie. I will stop making excuses now and then I will look like the models in fitspo!Maybe you are one of them so I should definitley take your advice. Thats what its all about anyway, right? Having the perfect body?


Calvin December 16, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Hi Cathie. It’s often a matter of balancing what you want the most. My mom actually PREFERS foods fruit and vegetables and lean meats. I do too, much of the time.

But my mom has a toddler to watch, and cooking “real foods” means she has to put more effort and time into the prep, WHILE also watching/disciplining/entertaining a toddler, AND keeping an eye on our dogs to make sure they don’t steal the food (which they WILL do, if we don’t stop them). I help when I’m at home, but I’m at college. And while my mom and I think veggie stirfry makes a perfect dinner, my father and older sister disagree. And they are the stubborn ones. So either my mom makes 2 separate dinners, or she makes foods that aren’t as healthy as she and I would like.

That’s not even getting into the fact that healthy, organic, all natural foods are expensive.

For my mother (and most people), the cost of eating that perfect diet you suggest is higher grocery bills, longer cooking time, higher stress, and likely at least one fight with a spouse, over food that you might not even think tastes good.

Despite this, she DOES mostly eat wholesome organic food: the lunches we make together are delicious and very, very healthy. And when we eat “heavy” meals, like when my mom makes sheperds pie for my dad’s birthday, she eats small portions. She’s obese anyway.

I honestly believe we live in a society where the unprocessed, organic foods you suggest everyone eat are a privilege. Most people don’t have the time or money for them. And even when they do, good health is not guaranteed. There is SO much that goes into how much we weigh: what we eat, yes. But also genetics, hormones, and life stressors.

I’m not saying it can’t be done. But for many people, it IS “that hard”.


Katie February 26, 2012 at 11:40 pm

I like to think that Katniss Everdeen would look more like that Nike ad woman, but since she comes from District 12 and they are pretty much starved there, I doubt she does. But I realize that’s not your point.

I agree with you. I think fitspo (which is a funny word I’d never heard before) is just as damaging as thinspo, at least mentally if not physically. But again, it boils down to personal responsibility and knowing when to look and when to look away.


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 7:46 am

True, personal responsibility is a huge factor. As long as I blame someone else for my negative thoughts I’m not working on changing them;)


Rina February 26, 2012 at 11:46 pm

Actually, that was my reason to stop with – I am all into fitness buyou’re sensitive when you’ve got a history with ED. And it’s just wrong they promote curves when all the women on their site have a body fat % that is far below fertile, no matter how “fit” they are, they’re not from nature’s point of view. Great post!


Jessica February 27, 2012 at 4:52 am

I love that: “No matter how”fit” they are, they’re not from nature’s point of view”. That is such a good thing to remember.


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 7:47 am

Oh I totally agree here! When the Gym Buddies and I bodyrock (which has been like once since Zuzana left), we read the description and purposes don’t look at the vids or pictures. Which is easier to do I think since we’re usually looking at it on someone’s iphone at the gym.


Julie February 29, 2012 at 8:42 am

I agree! I did watch the videos when Zuzana did them, because I could just ignore the over-the-top sexiness, but now the videos have gotten even more extreme and I can’t watch them. I go back and do old workouts with Zuzana in them. She was fit, but you couldn’t see every single muscle and tendon, and while she did wear revealing clothing to look sexy, I fell like now the hosts wear revealing clothing to show off how thin and ripped they are and it isn’t even sexy. They did a Q+A with the new female host recently, and one of the questions was about her weight. Seeing as she looks like a body builder in the cut phase, this is probably not a good thing for people to focus on. I give her credit for her answers, and for skipping the answer to how much she weighed, but in the comments it became clear that everyone was more focused on her weight than her fitness. Almost every comment was guessing at her weight, or comparing her weight to their own. I haven’t gone back since. I love the workouts, but I just can’t watch the videos or look at the pictures anymore.


Helene February 29, 2012 at 4:34 pm

I totally agree with you point on fitspo. I myself suffered froman eating disorder. And sometimes, I have to look away from pinterest, or I would end up beating myself up.
I wanted to mentionned as well, I recently found, but quickly switched to Zuzana’s new channel: zuskalight on youtube


Cranky Old Batt April 29, 2012 at 6:49 pm

I had never heard of this and just went to the website. The video (I guess) is on a still looking down a woman’s sports bra and she has very obvious breast implants.

Clicked right back off. That is not inspirational, but revolting (body image issue trigger of mine).


janetha @ meals & moves February 26, 2012 at 11:49 pm

Oooh, you bring up a great point. I am motivated and inspired by the fitspo images, but I definitely see how it could be problematic and lead to a comparison trap. Great post, Charlotte!


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 7:47 am

Yes there are def. women who aren’t bothered by these at all. So glad that they inspire you!


Terri February 26, 2012 at 11:56 pm

I think what bothers me most about the last one is there is no face, the woman has been reduced to a body with no identity other than her torso. I love the butt one !

I find most “fitspo” pictures pretty much as unrealistic as the “thinspro” ones. I know they’re advertising (a lot of the time) but surely they can take a leaf out of the Dove adverts from a couple of years back and realise that not everyone is in their early 20′s with hours to spend at the gym every day. How about some that are of people who are fit and toned, with a healthy body fat percentage ? I think you and the gym buddies should create a series of “fitspro” pictures and show them how it should be done :) Real people, real. bodies, achievable goals !


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 7:49 am

Hahah I LOVE it! Maybe we will do that.


AndreaClaire February 27, 2012 at 12:12 am

“Nothing motivates me more to workout hard than the thought of getting dropped into a gladiator arena with a bunch of teenagers on a reality show.”

For me, it’s the thought of the zombie apocalypse that motivates me. What ever works, I guess. But I’m with you on some of the “fitspo” being too much. While much of it is inspiring in a healthy way for many people, some of it feels like it’s just masquerading as slightly-healthier looking thinspo. I’ve been very careful that when I do pick a fitspo quote/picture, that the picture is something I’m capable (and willing) to work for. No point choosing a chest-less model when the last time I was smaller than a C-cup, Kriss-Kross was making us all jump-jump.


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 7:51 am

Funny you should mention Kriss-Kross – my 5-year-old is at this very moment wearing all his clothes backwards. He just asked me to “snap my butt” because he can’t button his pants that way. See? They’re totally making a comeback. And so true about the zombies!


Kay in India February 27, 2012 at 12:26 am

As someone who has ‘recovered’ from an ED, I definitely think all these pictures and sentiments would cause me distress. But I also think this reaction is very personal and there may be others who may not be affected by the pictures at all.

When it comes to body image / eating issues, I think it’s very important to analyze whether something [and this includes physical fitness goals] is affecting your daily life in a negative manner. Both ‘thinspo’ and ‘fitspo’ pictures would affect me in such a way that I would feel negatively about my body–so I tend to stay away from both.


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 7:51 am

Yes, there is a lot of personal responsibility involved – I think you’re right: it comes down to knowing your personal boundaries and taking care of yourself.


TS February 27, 2012 at 1:06 am

I’ve read on another blog that all those people who were kicked off tumblr are on pinterist now. I can totally see it. Sometimes I feel like I’m looking at Maxim when I check out the fitness section. I wanted it to be something like, ooOOoo, fun new workout, but after seeing all the thinspo interspersed with the fitspo, I can’t even visit that section anymore. I still go for food (love the salad in a jar idea that gets kicked round there), humor, and cleaning stuff (yea…just because you pin it doesn’t mean my house is any thinner, but I can pretend like I care), but I’m done with the fitness section. (Obviously not crafty, like *ahem* everyone else on there…two left hands and a brown thumb…hehe, I made a punny….since parents are Indian…blah).

I think I lost 3 lbs since joining pinterest because I’ve been not eating…pinterest is addicting, but all those images just get to you. I’d like to think I’m above all that, but I admit, I’m susceptible to adverts. (I also drank an extra 3 glasses of water everytime the Crystal Geyser commercials came on…)

To end on a happy note, some of my fav ones:
You probably just scrolled through pages and pages of people you wish you looked like. Snap out of it and realize that *you’re beautiful too* (I’d link, but the original has music on the blog) (Exercise, some motivation required) <–totally me [My whole routine lasts 1.5 hours, 15 min cardio, 15 min weight, and an hour talking myself into it]


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 7:52 am

Hahah – those are great!! And I’m highly suggestible like you too, lol. Thus far I have not got into cleaning stuff on Pinterest but now that you mention it I’m super curious!


Anna February 27, 2012 at 3:22 am

I find most fitspo pictures to show women who are happy, healthy and in charge of their lives. That’s what I like about them. Fashion magazines often promote thinness that is unhealthy. For me, I’ve found that it’s great to be able to find healthier alternatives online.

If one looks as fitspo with the frame of mind: “I must become like that, I must workout more, I must eat healthier”, then yes, that kind of behaviour is destructive. But I sort of see myself as one of those fitspo women, with those pictures defending my right to be healthy and feminine in my own way, rather than in the way of mainstream beauty, that is unachievable to me.


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 7:59 am

I like this: ” I sort of see myself as one of those fitspo women, with those pictures defending my right to be healthy and feminine in my own way, rather than in the way of mainstream beauty, that is unachievable to me.” I think my own ED’d mentality prevents me from seeing it in such a positive way but I’m glad that you can!


Melissa February 27, 2012 at 3:49 am

I agree that these images can be damaging. The last time I made an inspiration board I used pictures of athletes in action (Hannah Kearney doing moguls, Keri Walsh diving for a ball). But truthfully I’ve never had any of them be helpful. It’s hard to put up a visual for not out of breath walking uphill.


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 8:01 am

“It’s hard to put up a visual for not out of breath walking uphill.” True. But I love your athletes-in-action idea!


Juliane @ C'est moi à Paris February 27, 2012 at 4:08 am

I love the nike ad! I think that is inspiring, embracing your body type while being fit.
I mostly feel compelled by the other images because for me (background of eating disorder and over-exercising) they show unhealthy behaviour. I don’t want to be one of them eating 20 eggwhites a day while working out for 20 hours a week. No thank you, I have a life to live.
I am vegan, very health-consicious and work-out six times a week but if that is not enough for achieving my dream body then so be it.


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 8:30 am

“I am vegan, very health-consicious and work-out six times a week but if that is not enough for achieving my dream body then so be it.” YES. Totally agree!


Tracy February 27, 2012 at 4:24 am

Kudos to you for posting this during Eating Disorders Awareness Week!! This does remind me of the morning of my 16th birthday when I looked in the mirror and did NOT see Christy Brinkley looking back at me – the miracle I was so certain would occur. :) Still struggling to embrace what God gave me, love it, and TAKE GOOD CARE OF IT!


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 8:31 am

Ooh yes, it’s NEDA week! I did actually know that although I forgot to mention it in my post. Lol, making it all about me… as usual;)


Queenie20 February 27, 2012 at 4:40 am

I can not agree more with your blog.. I really think that being healthy is more important than being slim.. I am not really aware of my figure but I am more aware of foods that can give me what I really need than what I really want.. Thanks for sharing your ideas with us! Keep it up!


Nina February 27, 2012 at 4:44 am

My favorite pic is the first one – it shows not just a sexy, ripped body but a woman actually working out hard and sweating and giving it everything. Those are pics I find inspiring – not so much the second one that focuses on just one body part. The last pic is too much on the sexy, sweaty side for me and that she doesn’t have a head also bothers me. She is being reduced to her body and the statement seems ad odds with the pic.

While I do agree that being constantly surrounded by pics of women with the type of body I’d like to have (in my case fitter, then thinner) can be troubling, for me exercise is about more then just how I look and trying to improve my look. With fitspo pics I know those women had to train hard to get that look and I applaud them for it – with thinspo pics I mostly see undernourished women who probably have to suffer for being that thin and who are not healthy (yes, there are a few women who are naturally that thin, but most of them are starving themselves) and I am not jealous of their bodies.

But yes, it would be nice to see some more diversity when it comes to women’s (or mens, for that matter) bodies – but let’s not forget: most of those images are trying to sell us something and advertisement don’t make money with telling you that you should be happy just the way you are.


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 8:32 am

” let’s not forget: most of those images are trying to sell us something and advertisement don’t make money with telling you that you should be happy just the way you are.” SO TRUE! And I did, actually, forget that. So thank you for the reminder:)


Claire February 27, 2012 at 4:50 am

I think it depends so much on who’s viewing it and their headspace. Personally I find most of them encouraging, I even have a couple of beautiful sunset pilates/yoga fitspo shots on my fridge to remind me of how I want to feel/eat… right next to the keep calm & eat healthy sign and the photo of an array of fresh fruit and veg with I’m NOT ON A DIET written on it.
I’ve veered onto the disordered side and I understand where you’re coming from with the compare & despair approach to thin/fitspo but if you can look at it with your head on straight and think, yes you know what I do want to get to the gym/ go for a run/ want to have that bunch of greens with my dinner then is it such a bad thing?
I feel for those who are looking at it and crumbling under the pressure they put on themselves to look identical but if you can see it for what it is and use it in a positive way then why not?
I think the issue is where to draw the line, what is damaging to some may not be for others and how to enforce such a policy would require that distinction- do you know how they’re judging it?
Basically I think if you can’t look at it without feeling bad- don’t look at it! Keep yourself safe and happy.
All the best xxx


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 8:33 am

Yes, it really is about deciding what your personal limit with it is and respecting it. And those lines will be different for each person!


Cort The Sport February 27, 2012 at 6:30 am

The only “picture” that really inspires me is my own image in the mirror, just to be the best me I can be. The rest is like comparing apples and oranges because everyone’s genetics are so vastly different and let’s face it, we could all eat and work out the same and we’d still all look very different!

The pictures are also just ONE moment in time. I’d guess most people can’t hold that look for very long and that they were leaning out in the weeks leading up to the photo, using some last minute tricks with carbs and hydration then to fill out. Who knows what airbrushing was added?

I might admire the beauty of those images for a moment, but I don’t take them very seriously either. I wouldn’t trade the balance of my life for whatever they had to do to get there.


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 4:45 pm

I need this to be a bumpersticker! That I wear on my forehead!! “The only “picture” that really inspires me is my own image in the mirror, just to be the best me I can be.”


Caitlin February 27, 2012 at 6:54 am

Sometimes fitspo works really well and inspires me to go work harder and lift heavier the next time I go to the gym, but other times I find it more problematic than anything. For me, the difference between fitspo that actually does what it’s supposed to and fitspo that is just pro-ana imagery but with muscles is that effective fitspo shows women who are actually DOING things. I don’t like photos of women showing off glistening six-packs or bending over so you can see their glutes. It’s way too porn-y for me. I like photos of women deadlifting or running or doing pull-ups and in general being active subjects as opposed to passive objects.

I do agree that the ideal of femininity put forth in both kinds of photos is equally unattainable for most women. I have a big problem with the glorification of six-pack abs, for instance, and I think fitspo really plays into that by equating “visible abs” with “fitness.”


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 4:39 pm

” I think fitspo really plays into that by equating “visible abs” with “fitness.”” Excellent point!


Sally February 27, 2012 at 7:35 am

My problem with fitspo pictures is that they’re still mostly about what the woman looks like. I have been focusing on goals that are more about achievements than appearance. Images that are supposed to be inspiring because the woman looks strong work against that. I prefer pictures of women doing pullups or lifting strong weights, regardless of what their bodies are like. My ideal fitspo images would be a woman who looks just like me, but is doing something I can’t do. That is what will motivate me to work harder to become strong and fit instead of making excuses for myself because I will never look like the woman in the picture.


Joshua February 27, 2012 at 8:07 am

I just wonder what Nike’s impetus was behind (pun intended) using the alternate spelling of ambassador in that ad?


Emma February 27, 2012 at 8:44 am

I noticed that too (being a spelling pedant). I don’t believe that’s actually an official Nike poster, probably something someone photoshopped together.


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Actually it’s legit:

But yeah the spelling confused me too. It has to be intentional – I mean a corp as big as Nike has got to have stellar copyeditors, no??


Di February 27, 2012 at 5:35 pm

If you read, the ad copy is real but the one pictured with the girl is photoshopped, hence the different spelling. the original ad can be found here along with similar ads for thighs etc


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Haha – you’re right!! That’s what I get for skimming… Thanks for clearing this up!

Shelly February 27, 2012 at 8:42 am

I was never into thinspo when I had problems with my eating (and when I see thinspo now, I just have a vague feeling of disgust), but I do notice that both fitspo and fashion magazines in general make me feel horrible about myself. They both present ideals that are completely unattainable for me but I can’t help but see them as attractive. Body type wise, if I aimed for fitspo, I’d end up looking like thinspo b/c I can’t grow a big or defined muscle to save my life and I feel like in some cases, fitspo images are more unattainable than thinspo ones. (For me at least. Also, I don’t have an desire to resemble thinspo so this may color my opinion.)
Bottom line is that I avoid them b/c they make me feel awful and when I see them on facebook and pinterest I get annoyed. Well, with the exception of the “what I really look like when I run” image. That one cracks me up.


Shelly February 27, 2012 at 8:46 am

I will say that a friend showed me a video of a girl who was obviously a serious weight lifter getting pumped up to go the gym with her boyfriend (by listening to loud music in the car, etc…) and then going and lifting. Even though she was lifting big heavy weights and had a fitspo type body, I did find that inspiring. I think I enjoyed seeing her as a person and not just an image of her stomach or something and watching someone get psyched to go work out made me want to hit the gym as well.


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Very interesting – I wonder if I’d prefer a video as well. Something to think about…


Dr. J February 27, 2012 at 8:52 am

I’m just doing the best i can. Over time I’ve learned to be quite proud of that!


geosomin February 27, 2012 at 9:16 am

It’s a fine line for me. While I can be inspired by photos of fit women pushing themselves and exercising, a lot of fitspo stuff is of women at a body fat% I cannot get to without being really self destructive. It makes me feel bad for how far I would need to go to look like that instead of feeling strong and glad about how far I’ve come. I try and find pictures that inspire the second thing. I like pictures of strong women doing things though. It inspires me to move.


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Yes, this: ” It makes me feel bad for how far I would need to go to look like that instead of feeling strong and glad about how far I’ve come.” is exactly how I feel too.


Amber February 27, 2012 at 9:33 am

I’ve been thinking a lot about why we seem to need practically unattainable goals to feel inspired. When so much of America is fat and sedentary, why isn’t it enough to see a woman who exercises almost daily and eats healthfully 85% of the time? Why does it need to be someone impossibly thin or ripped to be inspiring? And what demographic finds these extremes most inspiring? Is it mostly young people? Are there women 40+ pinning images of half naked sweaty women?
I like the middle two. The ones I like the most don’t even really need pictures, it’s the words that are inspiring.


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 4:50 pm

I think the key word in your q is “impossibly”. And good point about the real power being in the words!


etejoie February 27, 2012 at 9:35 am

I was on pintrest looking for a realistic goal of what I want my stomach to look like. It was hard to find one that was not a six pack, just relatively flat, and not all sweaty and sexed up. I wanted a pic that would just give me a reason not to snack on chocolate or stand in front of open fridge grazing just because I’m bored and not even hungry. I’ve never had an ED problem, I just like to eat and cook too much. I also pinned a quote that comparison is the thief of joy, which I love. I’ve learned I’ll genetically never have a 6 pack and I’m OK with that.


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 4:52 pm

I’ll never have a 6-pack either so you’re in good company;) And I love this: “I also pinned a quote that comparison is the thief of joy, which I love.”


Bobbi Quincy February 27, 2012 at 9:58 am

Being thin is not necessarily being, at the same time being a muscle bound woman is also ugly. the answer is findingyour ideal weight and maintaining it, but you got to include exercise othewise whe you get old you will lose your muscle tone and become flabby . . Sagging under arm and protruding stomach are not beautiful.


EC February 27, 2012 at 10:06 am

The “fitspiration” posts on Facebook bother me too, but in a different way. I wrote a blog post about it recently too:

As a fitness person with lots of fitness friends, my News Feed is littered with these images every day, and it just makes me feel sorry for humanity that we’re so image obsessed – whether it be thinspiration, fitspiration or anything in between. For me, I kind of lump it in with “body shaming,” but that could just be my old ED talking…


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 4:54 pm

” makes me feel sorry for humanity that we’re so image obsessed – whether it be thinspiration, fitspiration or anything in between.” Totally agree. And also, your FB stream sounds like my FB stream… are we friends yet, lol??


Bess @ Bess Be Fit February 27, 2012 at 10:20 am

I think this is a great post. I do Fitspiration Friday posts every week and aim to put out images of strong, fit women and not the skinny/unhealthy pictures you see a lot of. I get a lot of comments from readers asking for different types of bodies so I do try to put up various types of healthy bodies so my readers will get to see their type of inspiration for being fit. But that is what I promote…FITNESS! Not thinspo and I do agree with you that there is a line that can be crossed to where Fitspo isn’t healthy. I also just hope my posts inspire people to get to the gym and live healthy lifestyles. The theme of my last Fitspiration Post was to “be the best YOU that you can be” and really that is my main goal in any of the posts!


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 4:58 pm

You sound like you are already really aware of the issue so I’m sure your posts are great! There are lots of truly inspiring images out there and I’m glad you are collecting them!


Carly D. @ CarlyBananas February 27, 2012 at 10:22 am

I think it really depends on the person. I can definitely look at that last picture and see incentive to lift weights (be stronger, be healthier) without the expectation of looking like the woman in the picture. I don’t seem to build muscle easily and I think I’d have to drastically alter my diet to get arm muscles like that – which is not something I want to do.
I do get stressed when I pin something as fitness inspiration and then it gets repinned as thinspo. It makes me feel terrible and it’s actually made me more hesitant to put that kind of stuff out on Pinterest.


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 5:01 pm

” It makes me feel terrible and it’s actually made me more hesitant to put that kind of stuff out on Pinterest.” I hadn’t thought of it from this perspective! I’m not super active on Pinterest so I haven’t had the issue of having people repin my stuff in a way I don’t like… interesting!


Chad Hopkins February 27, 2012 at 10:29 am

If anyone is looking for great training plans that cover how to set goals, proper running form, determining your pace, nutrition, injury prevention and race day strategy you should really check these plans out.


Allison February 27, 2012 at 10:59 am

I just don’t find those pictures inspirational. Those women (Nike picture excluded) work SO HARD to get that physic for the photo shoot and then loose it the next day. I have been following the blog of a woman who has spent the past 8 weeks getting ready for a photo shoot. She has paid a trainer to work out with her 5 days a week. She is really restricting the last week to get that final look. And I know that in general, the day of the shoot, they are totally dehydrated. They don’t look like that day to day and I don’t want my goal to be something that is unattainable to me in my day to day life. That is depressing not inspirational. The women in those pictures are in a condition that is just unattainable for the average person just trying to fit in some exercise in their otherwise crazy busy lives.


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 5:04 pm

I’d forgotten about all the crazy prep work that leads up to a fitness photo shoot! But yes, this is a very salient point. Yet another reason why I’ll never look like that…


heather February 27, 2012 at 11:15 am

Thank you for this post. I am struggling with my pregnancy weight gain (baby is five months old and I am ten lbs heavier than I’d like to be). I find the fitspo images more depressing than inspring at this point in my life. Thanks for the reminder that most of the women are younger, never had kids, and not to mention, aren’t breastfeeding a five month old while trying to raise a family and work two part time jobs! I do find many of the sayings motivational like “no matter how slow you are going, you’re still faster than everyone on the couch”. It’s the ones with the perfect bodies that are depressing. Like the Body Rock chick, I couldn’t look like her if I ate nothing but chicken breast and lifted all day long. Our genes are completely different. Right now I am just trying to eat right and work out when I can. When I see the perfectly toned athletic bodies it really just makes me eat worse b/c I think I’ll never look like that.


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 5:07 pm

Oooh congrats on a squishy little 5-month old! I love that age:) And I don’t know if this is your first but for me, as long as I was breastfeeding my body kept an extra 10 pounds of “reserves” on hand. It sounds like you are doing awesome!


Laura February 27, 2012 at 11:36 am

THANK YOU!!!!!! I’ve been really frustrated lately with all the half naked muscle pictures. Show me someone doing something hard. I’ve also noticed that people are naming workouts using the same slogans that are used in thinspo (example – till my thighs don’t touch) and its really bothering me. Fitness is about being able to do more, not fitting into smaller pants.

I swear, every time I see that Kate Moss Nothing Tastes as Good as Skinny Feels pic I want to vomit. And not to purge… just because it makes me sick.


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 5:13 pm

” I’ve also noticed that people are naming workouts using the same slogans that are used in thinspo (example – till my thighs don’t touch) and its really bothering me.” I’ve noticed this too and the overlap IS really disturbing.


Heather @ Bake, Run, Live February 27, 2012 at 11:52 am

I usually get more enjoyment out of those few pages in a fitness magazine that show “real-life” transformations. That is more attainable then the hard-bodies on the cover. While I can appreciate all the hard work that went into it, with all the air-brushing and editing of pictures, I still don’t know what is real.
Also, Nina makes a really good point. Regardless of fitspo or thinspo, businesses make a lot of money off of telling us we aren’t good enough. What would happen if we were all happy with ourselves? Oh the horror :)


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 5:15 pm

I love the true-life stories too! Although I wish they wouldn’t publish their heights and weights. Isn’t it enough to say how healthy they are now and show the pics?? I know, picky picky;)


skeptigirl February 27, 2012 at 12:32 pm

I can’t say I find those images inspirational. They make me feel bad. I am speaking as a person who has never had an eating disorder or really been on a diet. I live healthy and don’t let images like this effect my behaviour.

Just because I do not alter my behaviour based on stuff like this does not mean it does not make me feel bad. I must say I don’t look at pictures like this. I will never attain any of those bodies, including bootilicious firm buttox girl. I have many good features that I am happy with in my body but I am not one of those models, they are gorgeus and I am a 29, soon 30 year old woman who cannot attain that anymore with the amoungt of work I am willing to put into exercise. Why look at them when I will just feel like crap? I don’t like comparing myself to others, even in physical tasks like running, because I am not that good or talented physically, I try and A for effort is all I get.


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 5:18 pm

Ok, so it makes me feel a little better that normal people feel bad after seeing these images too. Misery loves company? I don’t like comparing myself either – it’s a bad habit I’m trying really hard to break!


StoriesAndSweetPotatoes February 27, 2012 at 1:16 pm

I loathe the term “fitspiration”. I do think it’s mostly thinspo in different clothing and I don’t think deriving inspiration from looking at another person’s body can ever be truly healthy. I want my fitness inspiration to come from within me and my personal health goals. The physical comparison game is 100% ED and people who think it’s not are kidding themselves and might find out the hard way. That being said, I do like those images you posted. They do contain some positive elements but I don’t want to see someone’s airbrushed midriff along with it. Thanks for posting about this because I think people really do need to stop and consider whether continually viewing these images might be harmful to them. It’s going to be different for everyone but all I know is “fitspiration” is not for me.


Karen February 27, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Hm… honestly, while I find “thinspirational” imagery EXTREMELY depressing (and not because I want to look like the women in those pictures… more because I find the cultural insistance that excessively thin = the only kind of beauty depressing), I don’t really feel very much of anything when I look at those “fitspirational” images. I’m neither depressed nor inspired by them. I mean, I guess it’s nice to see images of women being active and athletic – rather than, you know, lying like a dead body on a beach with a strange facial expression on – but nah, I don’t really feel inspired. And I DO wish the women in these images were more… dressed, because I can’t shake the feeling that even though they’re aimed at women, they’re made with the male gaze in mind, and I find that annoying.


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 5:22 pm

“And I DO wish the women in these images were more… dressed, because I can’t shake the feeling that even though they’re aimed at women, they’re made with the male gaze in mind, and I find that annoying.” YES. Totally agree too. I always find it a little spurious when women tell me they are wearing their spangly booty shorts because they’re just so comfy. Would you be wearing that working out in your basement? Or in an all-girl gym?? Not that it’s bad to flirt or whatever – just own it.


Carrie February 27, 2012 at 1:58 pm

The one thing I enjoy about fitspo images is that it shows that some women do indeed have muscles. And that it can be just as sexy as the skin covered bones of the thinspo pictures. Many women with muscles beat themselves up that they are not the petite, muscle-less women that are portrayed as the ideal image of feminine beauty. After that though, it becomes one more thing to hate myself for. Thinspo makes me think : “If only I could control my piggish eating enough I could be that thin”. Fitspo ADDS to that : “and if I would push myself to 120% each workout and not be a slug I could be that fit”.


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 5:25 pm

“Fitspo ADDS to that : “and if I would push myself to 120% each workout and not be a slug I could be that fit”.” EXACTLY. I love you for saying this.


Miz February 27, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Oh how I love you.
I struggle with this one and thought I felt this way (think I feel this way?) because Im not a visual person at all.
CAINT STAND THE PINTEREST (there. I said it. my WOMAN card shall be revoked…or so Im told :)) for this reason.
buff beyond belief.
none of this triggers me in any sense from wanting to do MORE exercise, LESS exercise, selflove, selfloathing etc.
Im a words person.
Oh but did I say how I loathe quotes?
there’s that too…


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Interesting! Out of curiousity – what kind of quotes bother you? And I love that images don’t bother you. You are still one of the most grounded people I know!


Sagan February 27, 2012 at 5:05 pm

A little bit of column A, a little bit of column B :)

It kinda depends on the mood I’m in as to whether I’ll respond positively or negatively to these kinds of things. And that’s just it, isn’t it? It’s about our REACTION to them… and our culture helps to shape our reaction to them.


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 5:28 pm

Indeed. And I think some of us are more susceptible to culture’s manipulations than others. It’s def. a tradeoff.


Kate February 27, 2012 at 5:17 pm

As much as I’d like not to believe this, it’s not really any better to be wasting energy comparing and wishing for a muscular body than a thin one. I really want to be able to wish for a body that’s capable of menstruation & childbirth because I surely can’t be healthy without that & I’m well aware of the risk of osteoporosis which is associated with absent periods. Personally, I don’t have the body of the fitness models – I’m looking at the bodyrock women (very unfairly, they may be perfectly healthy but represent a lot of others for me) and their bodies are far more ripped than mine & have less body fat yet I have no periods. Can they really be a healthy role model?


Charlotte February 27, 2012 at 5:31 pm

I have asked this exact q so many times myself! I lose my periods at about 14% body fat (and my body prefers to be much higher!) and yet so many female athletes live their daily lives far below that. I’ve def. had those “it’s not fair!” moments. And I’ve questioned their healthy role model status too…


Cameo February 27, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Great post. I think it can go both ways and it’s up to the viewer to chose to let it be inspiring. If it depresses you or makes you feel bad then back away. Delete.


redhead February 27, 2012 at 6:01 pm

Eh. I don’t know about you, but I don’t typically work out in a regular, non-sports bra, sexy crop top and underwear/swimsuit bottom. I usually look more like the Nike/new sexy face one. And THAT is the difference, to me, between inspirational fitness images (even if they are selling Nike clothes) and Maxim/Victoria’s Secret/Thinspo.


Lydia February 27, 2012 at 7:46 pm

you hit the nail on the head, again! while they can be motivational, the photos featuring those amazing abs, arms, legs? I constantly DO compare myself to them, and that is not healthy. so they are a blessing and a curse.


Almost Athletic Ali February 27, 2012 at 7:58 pm

Self confessed fitspo addict right here, but I can definitely appreciate that it’s not a healthy habit.

It promotes certain goals which are unattainable to the general population – no matter how many sit-ups I do, I’m never going to gain the three cup sizes needed to have simultaneously perfect abs and large boobs. And yes, some of the fitspo women look beyond amazing, but many have the support systems in place to do it safely. Objectively, I don’t think it is as different to thinspiration as people (including me) would like to believe.


Jody - Fit at 54 February 27, 2012 at 8:01 pm

I love fit pics – muscles like the last pic but I agree – it is very very tough to get that lean & ya have to work super hard & eat super clean. I like the muscles though so I just wish the pic itself was less sexy & more focusing on the strong. My biggest issue although I pin a lot of pics like that last one for the motivational saying but I just want the focus on the strong & muscles & less on the sexiness that so many women struggle with…


Colleen February 27, 2012 at 8:04 pm

I have been finding the fitness area of Pintrest inspirational, even found a reasonable weight routine for Feb on it. When I find I’ve been at the computer too longg, I click over & get my dose of pretty people to kick my butt off to the gym. I know I don’t have the discipline to have 15% body fat, just a couple of years ago I was just under 20, and now I’m pushing 25 and I’m not liking it


Rachel Dell February 27, 2012 at 9:45 pm

honestly, from a random persons perspective, i find fitspo and thinspo incredibly disheartening. i look at those pictures and just see what i can’t achieve. it makes me want to grab the Ben and Jerry’s way more than my running shoes, and i’m a pretty healthy person. But then again i’m prone to comparison and feeling inadequate. i unfollow all my friends fit boards on pinterest, as well as hair and nails but that’s just a whole other topic. And i’ve never had kids, i have a thyroid problem, am a runner and am 26 and am 5’9″ and 140 lbs and i think i’m fat, so there’s your demographic on that one.


rach February 27, 2012 at 9:47 pm

I find the fitspiration pix just as bad as the thinspiration pix. All they serve to do is make me feel bad about myself, never mind that I’m 40 now. Since I’ve never had kids, I assume that no matter my age, I should be able to look like that. Ridiculous? Of course, but we want what we want, don’t we.


Nicole February 27, 2012 at 10:08 pm

The thing I use to inspire myself isn’t pictures of women- it is the STORIES behind them. whether it is a story of a Olympic/professional athlete, or a Mom with 4 kids, my inspiration comes from wanting to do the same things they do- not from wanting to LOOK like them. The pictures often have slogans related to doing, but the fact of putting them with a picture really makes them about image. Get rid of the image, and you get down to the inspiration itself, and not the body image


Sam February 27, 2012 at 10:15 pm

Some people look at these images and see them as aspirational–’you ought to look like this.’ I don’t think that’s how they’re meant.

I think they’re meant to inspire a sentiment, not a comparison; that is, they’re symbolizing a feeling, not a goal.

When I see a picture of someone with muscles tensed, dripping sweat, I often think, ‘Wow, I’d love to FEEL like that.’ Not ‘I’d love to LOOK like that.’

The images that trouble me more are those that seem more like ‘pinup pose’ than ‘active pose.’


Joanna Aislinn February 28, 2012 at 5:30 am

Great post, Charlotte, important topic and excellent points raised. (Loved the Nike ad/photo about the backside–that is me! :) And, like you, I know what my body will never look like, but I’m also at peace with where I am in my fitness. I’m off to exercise while I wake kids, lol. For anyone interested, here is a post I wrote about a very similar issue of my own:

Thanks for your candidness!


Sandy February 28, 2012 at 6:16 am

It is inspiring for me to see fit women, but I do NOT like the last one. I don’t find the body builder type pretty. I recently saw a runner on the beach who had the body I want – feminine, runner, yoga body. I work out, do Physique 57, walk, Jazzercise and yoga but I am never going to have the runner, yoga body and my 57 year old body can’t look like that. That doesn’t mean that I want to stop doing any of the things I do to try to achieve it, its just reality.


Charity Froggenhall February 28, 2012 at 7:48 am

Let’s remember that these fitness models probably don’t even walk around looking like this all the time! They know when they’re going to have a shoot, so they pare down their diet, they work out extra long and hard, they don’t eat carbs. I’ve read the diet for figure competition athletes and a sane person could not LIVE like that for more than a few weeks.


Abby February 28, 2012 at 9:45 am

Just the other day I was bitching to my fiance about socially acceptable purging (ie: over-exercise) after I had to listen to the girl behind me at Zumba tell her friend all about how she was going to go run for an hour after the class since she was going out to dinner that weekend. It makes me want to scream. Imagine me telling someone I went and threw up my dinner last night to not gain weight. (Not that I did! Just an example.) And “fitspo” is no different, in my mind. Admittedly I’m very susceptible to this kind of thing but come on. I think looking at pictures and comparing them to yourself or lusting after the body-type in a picture is disordered.


jenny February 28, 2012 at 7:22 pm

A few fitspo pictures here and there doesn’t bother me and can even be inspirational to me. But I choose more realistic women to put on my inspiration board because that is what I look at everyday.


Kat February 29, 2012 at 8:35 am

I sometimes wonder if those pictures harm the chances of people developing a healthy relationship with exercise… My last “real” job my supervisor was a marathon runner – one that actually PLACED/MEDALED… and it was part of what fueled my unhealthy exercise habits.

The truth is… not everyone has the potential to look like that due to genetics… no matter how hard they work out.

and I also wonder if it deters some people from the gym — worried that they won’t match up.


Jenn (GH) February 29, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Im not bothered by fitspo images and at one point I was motivated by them. That has worn off too. :-/


Jenn (GH) February 29, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Im not bothered by fitspo images and at one point I was motivated by them. I am not motivated by them so much any more.


Fourkindsofpeople December 16, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Im inspired by fitspo and I’m a mother of three. It’s pretty simple actually- if you think you can or if you think you can’t do something – you’re right.


Kali Whipple March 1, 2012 at 5:09 pm

I love your post. You brought up some very important points. Something that many of us should spend time thinking about! Thanks for your insights!


kiri March 2, 2012 at 12:11 am

I’ve had some fitspiration on my fridge for the last 3 months ( some perfect ab’s that I found by googling “perfect abs”…. now that was an interesting search).. and I have to say – it has not stopped me from opening the fridge to search for chocolate and wine (as was the intention when I stuck the pic on the door of the fridge!). I’m sure my husband has had more benefit from the “perfect abs”pic being on the door of the fridge than I have!


Abby Anderson March 7, 2012 at 11:32 am

Ha haha I say the same thing, my hubbs benefits more from the fitpics on the fridge than I do lol!


kiri March 2, 2012 at 12:13 am

One thing though – my youngest child (aged 2 and a bit) did ask me why I had put up a picture of my tummy on the fridge!!! He got extra pudding that night ;)


Lisa March 4, 2012 at 9:31 am

It is interesting to me that I am reading this right after seeing a picture of a very thin woman with the caption, “skinny is not sexy, health is”, but seeing her picture started self loathing in me because I am a slave to the sugar which has given me more belly pudge than I have had in quite a long time. So, yeah, I get you.

Also, I love the reference to The Hunger Games! My girls and I are big fans and can’t wait til the movie comes out!


Jess March 16, 2012 at 7:39 pm

One thing I’ve noticed with some of these fitspo pics – it’s just a small thing, and doesn’t apply to all of them – the photos are taken very precisely. I was looking at a few after my workout this morning, and started feeling all down on myself because, even though I work out pretty hard, I don’t have that smooth, powerful, all over muscle tone. My beads of sweat never look sexy, either, by the way. It just looks like I’m crying. Out of my forehead.

But then I realized that a lot of these photos were posed, or edited/shot so that the lighting was more dramatic or the colors were changed to be more or less subtle, which can affect the way a picture is interpreted. By, for instance, upping the contrast in a photo or by darkening the shadows in Photoshop, or just by taking the picture in the right lighting, it can really highlight muscle tone, which we then might exaggerate in our mind as we stare at our own stomachs in the mirror. Which totally freaked my friend’s boyfriend out the first time he caught her doing that. “Are you PREGNANT?”

I agree with everything you wrote – there is a fine line between using a picture to pump yourself up for a workout and using it as a weapon against your self esteem. But it’s also somehow helpful to know that if you pose in dramatic lighting in your room in front of your mirror, flexing, you will suddenly see muscle tone where you didn’t when you were looking at the bikini pic your friend Megan took of you while you weren’t looking on that camping trip to the lake last summer.





Charlotte March 16, 2012 at 11:18 pm

Everything about this comment is AWESOME. I laughed out loud like 10 times in 20 seconds. Please be my best friend.


Elea September 15, 2013 at 5:09 pm

I love your comment, you write hilariously!

This is a very good article by the way, thank you Charlotte for bringing up very important points! Recovering from an ED myself, I find fitspiration equally difficult and triggering as thinspiration.


maddy March 25, 2012 at 11:16 pm

I look at fitspo blogs and use my tumblr to reblog and pot up my favourite videos. I personally don’t find them damaging. I think as as long as you look at it realistically, like the fact that the women in these photos are athletes and models whose job is to work out and look good and that photoshop is 99% involved, then it’s not so bad.

I use these photos as a motivation to work out and eat right, but I know that I’m probably never going to look exactly like them since I don’t have the same lifestyle but they do. But it does help me on the path to working out and eating healthier. Ever since I’ve started, I have more energy because I eat more healthy and no have a lot less terrible back pain (I have scoliosis) from working out.

Some bloggers post their before and after shots, usually just mirror shots, no fancy cameras and photoshop; I find them very inspiring. But again, I don’t compare myself to them, I just feel proud of them and hopefully I will be at that level. Look at these photos for inspiration but don’t take it personally, do your research so you eat and work out properly and go at your own pace :)


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Cranky Old Batt April 29, 2012 at 6:38 pm

Just a guess, but 95% of fitspo is 16 – 24 year old Caucasians. So not only does the very specific body type alienate a large segment of the female populace, so does the age and race. It’s like if you aren’t some version of Barbie, you’re shit out of luck.

Now to be fair, some of the women do look fit in a healthy way, and I even found a post about an African American body builder who is in her 70′s on some blog, but far more of the women look surgically enhanced, way too thin, or like they are auditioning for soft porn. Add the shots that are obviously Photoshopped into superficial ridiculousness. Not inspirational at all.

The last picture is too cut for my taste. I am working toward a more feminine lean.


Lucy March 26, 2014 at 1:57 pm

Feminine is not a synonym for fat. Saying someone is less feminine because they are ‘too cut’ is false – it’s your opinion. I am an athlete; a boxer. I am lean and muscular because my body shows what I do. This doesn’t make me any less feminine than you are. So please, think about what you say – athletes are still women, just different looking women!


Jessica May 16, 2012 at 3:28 am

Interesting post with a point of view I hadn’t considered before! “…fitspo may be thinspo in a sports bra.” To which I say: no, I don’t think it is, because the focus of fitspo is to do what thinspo does – lose weight – but HEALTHILY. And that makes all the difference, in my opinion!

Again, though, “thinspo” is such a broad term, and “fitspo” is too. I think it depends on a) the attitude of the viewer and b) the images that the viewer sees. I’m looking to lose weight the healthy way (i.e. exercising, eating clean) – I don’t think that looking at a pro ana tumblr will be very dangerous to my mental health at all because the mindset I have now sort of makes me draw away from those images with repulsion. Fitspo promotes the EXACT opposite of thinspo – it was born, I would say, to COUNTERACT thinspo.

I haven’t read all these comments (there are a lot heheh) so I’m sure what I’ve said has already been covered! But, to summarise, I think they are essentially worlds apart.

:) Thanks for the food for thought!
Jess xo


Alicia @ Treble Tart May 16, 2012 at 8:38 am

This is a very interesting post. I hadn’t considered fitspo to be something so similar to thinspo, but I see your point, for sure. However, I think fitspo is a much more positive variety of inspiration than (obviously) thinspo, which advocates for a completely unhealthy lifestyle. I used to look at fitness pictures and feel depressed too, because I “knew” I would never look like that, but then I started motivating myself to work out, and I’ve lost 60 pounds already! Now that I’m starting to see results in myself, I can honestly look at the same fit pictures and think “You know what? I CAN look like that.” We can all look like that, and we don’t have to work out 24/7 to do so. What it comes down to is consistency, even if that’s only 30 minutes a day. I don’t know… I might be rambling, but I think fitspo is a very positive form of motivation to improve your health and I think it’s only “depressing” if you let it affect you that way. It’s all about perspective.


Gena May 18, 2012 at 6:48 am

Charlotte, as always, thanks for being an advocate of seeing beyond shape, and evaluating one’s self worth without focus on the body and its outward appearance. I am very uneasy with “fitspiration,” which I understand can be inspiring, but I think it’s also laden with pressure to conform to a physical ideal. And in some ways, it’s more dangerous than thinspiration, because it seems innocuous. I posted on it a few weeks ago, if you are curious!


Megan @ Weddings and Workouts June 11, 2012 at 11:04 pm

GREAT post!!! I can relate to so much of this. Your post, and Beauty Redefined, inspired me to put my thoughts into a post. Looking forward to reading your archives!


Charlotte June 13, 2012 at 9:47 pm

Aw thanks! You made my day!


Wanderingwildchild August 2, 2012 at 9:03 pm

I just gotta say, so many unhealthy girls who had binge-eating problems and didn’t exercise at all, have been inspired by Fitspo to change. It’s the truth. Many who own Fitspo blogs offer exercise advice, strength exercises and healthy meal plans. Several say not to even count calories, just make sure you’re nourishing yourself and exercising for at least 50 minutes a day. It’s fantastic. If you were to look up before and after pictures of Fitspo, you’d even find previously anorexic girls GAINING weight and muscle and eating properly due to the influence of kind girls promoting the best lifestyle. Though some do look at Fitspo unhealthily, that’s more due to their personality than what a picture of a fit person says. When I see it I go, hell yes, that is an awesome bod and it’s totally attainable. It doesn’t take insane training, just some cardio and strength training a few days a week, and feeding your body what it needs more often than what it craves (though, as a matter of fact plenty of Fitspo blogs also say not to deprive yourself, ‘Moderation is key’ is one of the things I have read time and time again). I’ve read questions from girls who exercised too much being answered with: you need to give your body time to rest and heal, or whatever else. Yes there are some that are close to destructive thinspo, but fitspo really is fantastic. It’s wave in the green movement going on. Human beings are very visual creatures and sometimes it’s hard to believe you could possibly ever attain your dream body. Fitspo shows you women who have, with legit advice on how to do so as well. It also encourages you to not exercise to punish yourself, but rather to reward yourself with the health it provides. Honestly, so many fitspo sites promote these things and I think it is just fantastic. Some people just miss the point, due to past experiences or triggers or whatever else, and perhaps for them it would be wiser to steer clear, for their own well-being. And I swear, that is not meant as an insult. I by no means intend to argue or cause offence, I just don’t want such a helpful and good thing condemned because of a few destructive and wrong versions of it. Personally, I used to be into thinspo, I used to have anorexia and almost died from it. I ate a single caramel a day and slept most of the time due to utter lack of energy. For a few years in fact. Eventually I became bulimic and gained a lot back, tried to lose it with starvation but snapped. I found fitspo, started exercising and eating right and here I am with my healthy, fit body and self-confidence to boot. It’s not pictures of chicks to cause shame, it’s pictures to encourage you on, to give you strength on weak days or to let you know it’s okay to take a break once in a while. To take care of yourself because you love yourself. It’s also encouraging phrases, pictures of fruit and healthy recipes and advice and listening ears. It’s a beautiful community and I never knew I could love anything online so much. Also look at before and afters, healthy fitspo style, and you’ll see proof of hundreds of other girls like me, saved from ourselves and shown a new, happy way to live. :)


Wanderingwildchild August 2, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Also… I agree with the moms feeling depressed thing… but moms can get fit too. It just depends on whether it’s a priority or not, and if it isn’t that’s totally fine. I guess it’s mainly beneficial to younger generations. I dunno, man. You definitely have a point. I guess I just figure, if you don’t want to see it, don’t look it up, if it pops up, leave the page. Everyone’s responsible for their own actions and reactions. It can either be destructive or helpful. If it’s helpful to you, enjoy it. If not, avoid it, and you have every right to speak up against it. I apologize for my hasty post.


jennifer September 24, 2012 at 11:30 pm

i go too the gym too not be your friend but your worst enemy bye i don’t make friend’s’ at the gym i make enemies the least i can do is frenemies bye


Whitney January 2, 2013 at 2:46 pm

The top three gave me inspiration and the last made m laugh. I have suffered from anorexia since I was 12 and its hurt me bad, when I had my first child however , i couldnt seem to gain any weight. Now I went from a size 0 to a 12 in one pregnancy. I am happy with my big body and flabby tummy. I love it! I have never been to a rehab but have had intense counseling and therapy to recover from my distorted idea of body image. Fitspo encourages me to work out and though i know for a FACT i will never be a size 0 and be healthy i am happy! I work out for my well being and fitspo is inspiration for me to keep trying to better myself. My body is beautiful but I need to eat right and treat it right. It takes a lot of *balls* to be this confident but its achievable. Fitspo IMHO isnt anything like thinspo. I know I’ll never be like the last picture and frankly I dont want to be. I just want to feel good on the inside and be healthy. For fitspo you have to be realistic with yourself and in a way its only a matter of time before you reach your goals.


Josie February 13, 2013 at 8:51 am

You take issue with that last picture because unlike the previous, she is an object. There is no face, she’s posed in a sexual manner. The last image is inspirational copy on top of an image that reinforces objectification. The last image says “you’re not worthwhile unless you can achieve this”, while the ones that you enjoy say “be proud of what you have, but don’t give up the hard work yet”


Ashley February 14, 2013 at 9:17 am

Formerly diagnosed with anorexia and compulsive exercise disorder in high school, I am now a collegiate cross-country runner. Right when I was able to embrace recovery, I am confronted with a list of ideals that I am supposed to fit as a female runner. Seeing those photos on Pinterest and pics of my friends who have lost weight on Facebook strikes the competitive side of my nature in a totally negative way. Personally, I feel depressed and ashamed that I (despite running track for 8 years now) might never reach the ideals presented to me. AND ABOUT THOSE FITSPO PHOTOS: where the h## have you ever seen a fast runner with double d boobs? Track meets are usually owned by A’s and B’s people. Just sayin’.


Byn February 14, 2013 at 3:35 pm

For me, a naturally muscular, ‘rectangle’ shaped woman, the “fitspiration” is awesome to me. For most of my life the “only” sexy/attractive women were “thin” or “curvy”… and no matter what I did, I wasn’t going to be either. When I am fit and in shape and healthy, I have very little in the way of “curves”, I’m just solid. I always hated that (especially growing up in the 70s with all of the tall thin model looks with no butts ~ and the only curves I ever had was a bubble butt:)… so for me, seeing the muscular women finally makes me feel like there are other people like me out there.

I realize that a lot of them are beyond attainable for the majority of women, but still, I find it encouraging that there is something out there besides tall and willowy or curvacious for me to look at. I find it encouraging, and I definitely think there is a difference between just being THIN and being fit, and its going to look different depending on your body type.

Just another perspective.


Liz March 1, 2013 at 10:13 pm

I can definitely agree with many of you on here that fitspo can be just as emotionally daunting and make you feel worse, like thinspo, but I want to correct a few misconceptions here. For one, most of those fitspo models are actually 23-34, and even older in some cases. Fitness models come from two backgrounds: former collegiate athletes and ex fashion/glamour models who could no longer keep their weight off naturally like they could in their teens and early 20s, so many become interested in fitness. The top fitness models and competitors out there tend to peak in their late 20s/early 30s. I can tell you from experience, young women in their late teens and early 20s make up the majority thinspos pics, but hardly ever weight lift or take interest in fitness other than cardio.

It seems many of you on here assume once you hit 25, your body goes to hell and you’ll never look good again, which is an unfortunate mindset. It is bad enough ageist men think this way, but to see women conceding as well is so disheartening. As a 27-year-old woman, I still consider myself young, and while my metabolism slowed down a little, I am just as strong, fit and powerful as I was in my late teens — actually I am much stronger now since I adopted weight lifting into my regiment at 24. I don’t worry that I don’t look like my 20-year-old self anymore (I’ve practically looked the same since my teens, so maybe this is why it has never been an insecurity of mine). At 20, I had no more propensity to gain muscle than I do now — it has never been in my genes to do so.

Regardless of your age or race, I think we can all agree that genetics and the amount of time and effort are the reason these women look the way they do. Do they often partake in extreme, unhealthy means to get there? Sure, many do. Do many also have years, even decades, of conditioning that make it easier for them to maintain their bodies than someone else with less experience? Absolutely. As others have mentioned, real-life transformation stories can often be the most inspiring fitspo because it shows tangible efforts with tangible results, regardless of age.


jennifer April 5, 2013 at 9:11 am

true beauty lies with in no one can tell you your not beautiful were all beautiful this remind”s me of the men at my gym they alway’s say to the heavier girls that we’ll never get date’s when all they do is lust after the fit girl’s who could honestly care less what i’m trying to say is this stop comparing yourself to them and live your life it’s to damn short and if men don’t want a happy fit chubby girl then fuck them they ain’t worth it


Megan April 5, 2013 at 4:24 pm

When I was anorexic I was deeply obsessed with thinspo. I looked at it for hours on end and it made me feel awful and fueled my eating disorder – I met many girls in treatment who did the same. Fitspo brings out the exact same response in me. All of the pictures you put up give me a sense of shame and guilt (except the hunger games one). The others though, I believe, are all damage to the mental health of young women. Presenting one body type to people is unhealthy. If this was about health then we wouldn’t need pictures of people to look up to. This is supposedly about fitness and health, not looks – so why all the emphasis on muscles and definition. That’s an extreme. Most women have a much higher percentage of body fat and THAT IS OKAY. These pictures that show athletic women with minimal body fat make women with the normal, healthy amount of body fat feel fat – even though they are not.

I’m not suggesting that these models are unhealthy – but it is their job to look this way. Victoria Secret models aren’t unhealthy either for the most part. They are thin because of the way they work out and eat. It’s their job to confirm to a certain image. Regular everyday women who have different jobs, however, do not need to look this way, nor should they be pressured into feeling the need to. Again, all it does it put image above health, which is not a positive thing.


Julia May 6, 2013 at 2:38 pm

After most of the comments here, as well, it was kind of an eye-opener for me:
I had always considered fitspo super-inspiritional (as opposed to thinspo), but to read that it makes some people feel awful and depressed, saddens me.

Nevertheless, to me, it is super-inspiritional.
It inspires me to go and work out 3-4 a week and eat clean(er). I have no intention to look like the woman in the last picture or have no curves. I like my curves. I just want to be fit and healthy (and run a 10K). I’m proud of the progress I made so far (5K next week, whohoo). I’m (usually) not comparing myself to those photoshopped girls in ads. It’s not real.
That is what I see in most fitspo pics. I ignore the ones with to many muscles and the ones with too skinny people.To me, it’s about eating clean and being healthy.
I think, for people with a “normal” body image and self-confidence, it can be a motivation.
but hey, what’s normal anyhow?


jjj May 19, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Wow, it’s interesting to see here that the problem a lot of women have with fitspo is the unattainable sexiness. I love fitspo, but the thing is, I’ve only recently come to accept my female body. I currently see it as a beautiful tool that can do anything a male body can do, but I have never been interested in the potential aspect of feminine sexuality that it might display. So, to me, fitspo just looks like beautiful muscles, and sexy poses or pushup bras are just superfluous silliness that I don’t really pay attention to.

Anyway, for me fitspo is very motivating, I often look at it and then go run off to do some lunges or make a healthy meal, which takes the focus away from the fitspo and on to myself. And then when I begin looking like the pictures, the focus remains on myself. Not only that, but being healthy and active makes me feel great emotionally. So for me fitspo has only been a positive thing.


Aud June 3, 2013 at 2:36 am

I recently saw a fitspo that was basically congratulating anamorphic dysphoric disorder. There was a thinnish woman looking into a mirror seeing a big butted woman. The caption was something along the lines of ‘we can control our lives by controlling our perceptions”. What the heck? That’s anorexia at it’s core (I would know)! Not inspiration to be healthy, at all.


Ashley C June 9, 2013 at 6:52 pm

A year late to the party lol but I do agree all around, other than one photo. My stomach turns seeing that Nike one as well. That look is still unattainable by many and is not what most women that have a bigger butt look like. She is still super fit and thin, and sexualized. It is going to still make women feel bad about their own bodies. I know most concerns lie with non-thin women and fitspo/thinspo making them view themselves in an unhealthy way, but as a unintentionally thin person my entire life who does not have much of a butt I get really dismayed but the acceptance of what amounts to thin hate, in an attempt to find acceptance for those who are not thin models like in magazines. The Nike photo made me ashamed of my body as much if not moreso than all the other fitspo images. I appreciate the sentiment, but not at the expense of others as it so clearly points out when referring to thin women and clothing sales. They are all equally damaging.


Ashley C June 10, 2013 at 8:54 am

I also wanted to add, that I don’t find advertisements (like the Nike originals that the big butt one is based off) inspiring at all. Not that I find fitso inspiring anyway, but ads are marketing. While I understand marketing is crucial for business and do not fault them for doing their jobs, I find no inspiration in anything meant to sell me a project no matter how relatable it seems. Even moreso then! They’re preying on you, counting on you to nod your head and feel those fuzzy feelings. So that next time you’re in the store, you might just pick up their brand knowing how supportive of “real women” they are.


Leti P. June 20, 2013 at 12:55 pm

I personally think we are all doing it wrong. Exercise shouldn’t be a task, if you don’t like hitting the gym, but like biking, why to not bike? Exercise should be a form of keeping yourself healthy, and for that you need 30 minutes or so, 3 to more days in a week. Plus a regular eating schedule, but that doesn’t mean you can’t eat the cake you want so much, it’s torture to deny yourself things when you’re blessed to have the ability to get them anytime you want. How many people would give their left arm to be able to eat a whole cake ANYTIME they want? I’m not encouraging obesity, but a happy lifestyle that has no worries in food matter.


Jennifer July 10, 2013 at 6:03 am

Thinspiration turns into a healthy way so no need to say about thinspo girls that harm themselfs. The mindset will change and slowly girls will adapt a healthier way of losing weight with thinspiration. You can join healthy thinspo discussions


gemma July 31, 2013 at 12:25 pm
Dumb Jock September 17, 2013 at 3:49 pm

FWIW if you visit bodybuilding forums MANY fit guys like fit women built like the woman in the poster and encourage doing squats etc for useful strength as opposed to looking like an HIV victim.

The thinspo BS is the result of a fashion industry run by male faggots who feature women that represent the “skinny twink” MALE ideal. There is nothing positive for real women to be had from the male faggot aesthetic. Repudiate that the same way you would repudiate straight patriarchal oppression.


Leea November 19, 2013 at 6:35 pm

Fitspo is much better than thinspo. Thinspo promotes just getting thin and starving. Fitspo is promoting being fit and getting sexy and strong. If a sexy picture next to some inspirational words help someone lose weight and get fit then GREAT! It’s helping me, and I’m glad I found fitspo, and left thinspo.


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ZuliM March 28, 2014 at 11:55 pm

First of all, Charlotte, I think you are very beautiful! :-) which aids to show that all of these misconceptions that we women have about our lack of attractiveness are mainly just in our heads. I am sure that I am not alone when I say that I am very glad to read that your self-image has changed.
Regarding the last questions: I find “fitspo” to be inspiring! However, I have never been a fan of pictures like the last one. A person can be very fit and super healthy and not look like that at all. I had not not thought about it, but I totally see your point.
Also, between a beautiful bod that comes from elite genes versus elite training, I choose elite training by far! because it shows the character of the person, someone who fights for what he/she wants and does what is necessary to be fit (as long as it is also healthy).


ZuliM March 28, 2014 at 11:59 pm

I meant to say “I had not thought about it”

And… I looove that second to last image with the message about the butt!! I so can relate! haha


anna April 16, 2014 at 9:11 pm

Last year when I first started to work out and “eat healthy” I was really inspired by such images! they really helped me keep focused on my goal (I wanted to lose weight). I ended up losing weight and I was so much into working out I even applied for a personal training certificate at school. I did end up getting in and so for the past year I took a bunch of health/fitness related courses. Oh BOY! they changed my mind so much!

last year i barely ate and i exercised like crazy because i wanted to look like all these models. i had a very clean diet but i was constantly hungry, i didn’t have cravings for anything specific, just food in general. there were nights in which i would go to bed and hear my heart beat like crazy… i would go and have an apple in those nights and that seemed to calm me down. and no matter how much i tried i never got my tummy to look as masculine as these girls.

once i enrolled in my courses, i realized that its soooo hard achieving such body in a healthy way. it really is. and the more pages i liked on instagram and Facebook the more i noticed that these girls were using so many supplements, so many ‘fat burners’ and other BS.
Have you checked whats on the ingredients list of any of these? whey protein (the gold standard one) has something called acesulfame potassium which breaks down to some carcinogenic compounds in your body. if its not that, the protein bars often contain brown rice syrup. which if anybody has researched has some natural arsenic present in it. in the long term it also acts the same way. but those girls just have gorgeous bodies. and a lot others think thats healthy and they try to do the same.

Why is it that so many see masculine bodies and think they are necessarily healthy? I look at them now and I think the exact opposite. One of the things fat is responsible for is menstruation, I see girls like this and it makes me wonder if they even have periods. No matter what you tell me, if you don’t have your period regularly YOU ARE NOT HEALTHY.

Now I am back to my starting weight. But I don’t feel deprived of anything. My heart doesn’t make any unusual sounds, oh and YES now I have a regular period too ! :)

Healthy is not whats on the outside, its whats on the inside.


Jay Worling May 13, 2014 at 2:52 am

This is a fantastic post.. From someone who has gone from overweight to anorexic to chubby to body-building nutbar and everywhere in between, I find a lot of the fitspiration around alternately inspiring and depressing! I love stuff that encourages us to be who we truly can be and not so much with the stuff that holds up an ideal that is not acheivable without bizarre diet tactics and a life spent at the gym.


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