Real Talk | Fit Shaming: Overcoming Fitspo Culture and the Thigh Gap

Editors note: Welcome to Real Talk, our new bi-weekly series coming to you on Wednesdays. As mentioned last week, Lookin’ Good Girl has returned to it’s original purpose (fashion/DIY) and Real Talk is here to bring you all those firece, feminist and personal posts our readers have come to love so much. With that here is new Toronto Squad member Siobhan Ozege’s first piece with us.  Siobhan’s full bio coming soon.


[TW!] This post contains fitspo imagery.

It’s hard out here for a lady, regardless of your size. As a bigger girl, it seems like everywhere I turn I’m getting fat shamed by magazines, advertisements, television programs, and hate groups like Return of Kings (a men’s rights group who recently ran a Twitter campaign called #FatShamingWeek). On every platform, someone’s telling me that I need to be thinner, wear bigger clothing, or hide in my house never to be seen again. Quite frankly, putting up blinders against this kind of hateful vitriol is exhausting. They renewed The Biggest Loser? There’s 10 tips I must follow to curb my cravings? My BMI is too high? I need to stop eating what? Enough already. This kind of fat shaming hurts women of any and all sizes, and it’s recently reared a new, incredibly harmful head called ~*fitspiration*~


That’s right. The Internet has recently upped its fat shaming game. Fitspo, or as I like to call it, fit shaming, is the creation and perpetuation of unhealthy eating and exercise habits that encourage over-exercising, under-eating, and an obsession with counting calories and inches. This horrifying phenomenon is a guilt-laden combination of photos of fitness models overlaid with quotes like, strong is the new skinny, do not reward yourself with food – you’re not a dog or don’t stop until you’re proud, equating self-worth to your ability to workout. This kind of imagery is popping up all over Tumblr and Pinterest, and is compounded by people like fat shaming “What’s Your Excuse?” mama Maria Kang and Lululemon’s CEO (who recently asserted that it isn’t a manufacturing defect causing their pants to run sheer – it’s your thighs, ladies).


It seems like everywhere we turn, we’re being told that even when you’re trying to get into shape for your health – whether that means drinking more water, learning a new activity, trying to add more fruits and veggies to your diet, or making any changes that youdetermine are good for you (because let’s remember: health is a private thing between you and a medical professional), we’re being fit shamed and held to standards and ideals that not only seek to demoralize us, but aim to associate our self-worth with unfounded claims about what it means to be strong, sexy and healthy. Fitspo imagery and its quotes are dangerous. At best, they espouse fitness and nutritional misinformation. At worst, they encourage us to push ourselves to unhealthy limits, view our bodies as an enemy, and manipulates us into accepting new standards of beauty and self-worth under the guise of health.


We need to acknowledge is that fitspo is just thinspo’s sneaky sister, using similar tactics to achieve a similar result. Both seek to encourage and foster obsessive behaviours that shame rather than motivate and aim to create an idealized vision of “health” that specifically looks a certain way. This can be seen most clearly with the thigh gap debate that seems to be popping up all over the Internet. There are thigh gap workouts, comparison sites and, of course: fitspiration pinterest boards dedicated to the cause. It’s an unrealistic “health goal” that the fitspo/thinspo community has decided measures your worth and beauty.


Fitspo targets women (and men) of all sizes, and needs to end, simple as that. It spreads misinformation about the physical limitations of working out and ignores concerns for beginners or anyone who may have an existing health issue. Its claims about diet and nutrition are founded in nothing, and I feel confident that we’d be hard pressed to find a trained medical profession who’d endorse the lifestyle that fitspo encourages.


We need to remember that health doesn’t look any specific way, and it’s different for everyone. The strongest and most motivating thing we can do for ourselves amidst all this bullshit that we find ourselves inundated with is to adopt a body positivity outlook that seeks to support men and women of all different sizes and all levels of fitness. We need to throw out measures like the thigh gap and BMI as some kind of metric for success and set goals for ourselves that are realistic, and importantly: founded in something real.

So please, love yourself and love each other. Fitspo needs to GTFO and the best way to do that is to encourage body acceptance and positivity in your own life and in your social circles. I’ve had enough of the haters trying to keep me down.

17 Comments on Real Talk | Fit Shaming: Overcoming Fitspo Culture and the Thigh Gap

  1. Daniella
    November 21, 2013 at 3:21 am (8 months ago)

    Haters trying to keep you down? How? By motivating each other to workout and eat right? If you don’t like the message no one is forcing you to look at them. Also, I hate when people try to claim a thigh gap as a personal goal is unrealistic.

    If I can get a gap with my small narrow hips from being disciplined anyone can – and I’m far from starving or unhealthy. In fact, i’m in the best shape of my life.

    I’m grateful for those blogs and websites that keep me motivated. If it weren’t for them, I’d never have learned of and bought the book (shout out to the thigh gap hack) that helped me lose my thighs.

    I feel like the writers of these types of articles just don’t like that it reminds them of their shortcomings or inability to be disciplined. That you can look at these images and think they automatically are telling you to be obsessive about exercise and calories and to under eat suggests something else going on inside of you.

    Let’s be real here, you aren’t failing to put blinders on because it’s exhausting, you won’t put blinders on because you’re looking for an excuse to reject having to put in the work.

    • Megan
      November 21, 2013 at 10:21 am (8 months ago)

      The point is that we increasingly *don’t* have the option to ignore fit shaming, which operates much like fat shaming, and thin shaming. Healthism is everywhere we look. (I’d encourage you to read this primer on healthism:

      Body positivity does not equal a lack of “discipline” or unwillingness to “put in the work.” Body positivity is about feeling confident in making choices that work for *your* body in the context of *your* life.

      It is dangerous and harmful to make assumptions about other people’s health. Do you like it when people make negative comments about the choices you’ve made? I think the writers of these types of articles are examining bigger systemic issues, and encouraging us to think critically about them. I think that’s all we need to assume here.

      • Neha Soni
        November 22, 2013 at 6:01 pm (8 months ago)

        We also increasingly *don`t* have the choice to ignore Mcdonald`s and other fast food companies` unhealthy food advertisements. – NEHA SONI

    • LG
      November 21, 2013 at 1:30 pm (8 months ago)

      Well Said Daniella! Fitspo can be (and is to me) incredibly motivating if you look past the broadness of some posts and pictures and do the research on how you can make it work for yourself. The majority (and I’ll admit not all) of this culture is promoting healthy eating (not dieting) – it is impossible to starve yourself and get “fit”. Getting fit involves eating good proteins, your greens and much more. If you want to be “skinny” then sure maybe starving yourself works but its very easy to tell a skinny person from a fit person.

      When in the article it says “…Its claims about diet and nutrition are founded in nothing” that is how I feel about this article. If your serious about your health then you’ll do your individual research and consult with professionals to find what will help you meet your own goals (which doesn’t have to include looking like a lady version of Arnold Schwarzenegger) and not just relie on blogs and pintrest posts.

      If anything fitspo is a refreshing counter balance to all the garbage “100 calorie snack” and “weight watchers” bullshit in the world. It promotes working hard and eating real food. BUT to each their own and no matter how much any one rants/raves or gives their opinion WE are responsible for finding what motivates,fuels and works best for our own bodies. Beauty comes from the heart so we all need to focus on taking care of our body for health reasons and not get mixed up in the idea of body shapes, etc being the idea of beauty.

    • Yochi
      November 22, 2013 at 6:34 pm (8 months ago)

      I very much disagree with your assertion that ‘anyone’ can get the “thigh gap.” It may have worked for you, but your body does not account for every woman with narrow hips and being all around thin. When I was at my skinniest, I never had the “thigh gap.” I have very narrow hips, and my thighs were basically muscle and skin -there was very little fat. Guess what? No thigh gap.

      There’s only two ways to look at your claim -1.You’re wrong, or 2.Perhaps you’re not as narrowly built as you think. Either way, the thigh gap craze is one of the most bizarre physical ‘fads’ I have seen in a long time. Where do people come up with these ideas? What’s next? The toe gap?

    • Shameeza Ali-Hijabi Rafallah
      November 24, 2013 at 6:03 am (8 months ago)

      Here is a great song about body image issues. Another pressing issue is racism in Canada amongst these body images fitness images. Not seeing the appeal of red meat in frankly quite fine by me, as I don’t see the appeal in the semantics of racism. I barely see women of colour in them, whether they be Turkish, Indian etc etc. We need to wage war on the enemy-for-life, by voting with our dollar and not buying into companies like Lululemon. See what society has started, all for nothing, over something they have no idea about? FINE BY ME, LETS PLAY.

  2. Neha Soni
    November 21, 2013 at 9:22 am (8 months ago)

    I think that the author did a great job in expressing her very valid concerns over females and body image issues. She only stated her personal experiences and seemingly accurate beliefs with the shortcomings of certain imagery and messages that are unfortunately forced on to the general population by all forms of media, on all levels of all platforms.These ads/messages she writes of are primarily forms of propaganda in a capitalist society, enabling corporations to make profits from the fears that “they” instill into us.

    Do your own research, make your own decisions. She is very correct in stating that one should consult with their doctor before starting on any exercise regime – especially if it is a bit more extreme. I too am a daily runner, and I do it because of body image primarily, but also because it makes me feel less lethargic and more effervescent, and in turn more productive and mentally focused. I just generally ‘feel better’ and more confident about myself when I am active and eat relatively “right” – whatever “right” may be. We all have reasons for what we do, who we’re with, how we dress, what we eat – let’s just accept one another for who we are, quirks and all.

    -Breaking Bad

  3. Shameeza Ali-Hijabi Rafallah
    November 22, 2013 at 3:17 pm (8 months ago)

    I think this is self-justification for her own poor body image. Why am I forced to see unhealthy pictures of fast food and junk everywhere I go, and on even a much larger scale ie. Mcdonald`s advertisements – campaigned on a universal scale.

    The author seems pretty intent on insulting those who are concerned about health and fitness, and to which one ought to be as it is only a current pandemic in terms of number of correlating diseases and related deaths. But no big deal, right?

    There is nothing wrong with being proud of your appearance and maintaining your physique – WITHOUT being judged. But authors such as her (who have always been the “fat girl“ their entire lives, and have unfortunately been teased about just so) will always think that those who pay attention to health, only do it for vanity purposes and are missing in substance, no big deal (I`m proudly used to it!) You know, I too believe that there is nothing wrong with a bit of indulgence – every now and then :)

    New question: Can one be smart and pretty, simultaneously?

    • Neha Soni
      November 23, 2013 at 1:48 pm (8 months ago)

      Yes, sure. This is what happens when people are increasingly nasty in their advertisements, the people-slash-victims should revolt against these ads in any way possible. Civic duty, correct? I bet it would not feel too nice, but some companies are deserving of the absolute worst.

      • Shameeza Ali-Hijabi Rafallah
        November 24, 2013 at 2:52 pm (8 months ago)

        …proven to be quite effective/affected

    • pat
      November 30, 2013 at 3:08 pm (8 months ago)

      well put

  4. Shameeza Ali-Hijabi Rafallah
    November 24, 2013 at 3:29 pm (8 months ago)

    The “writer” stated it rather eloquently in her article – which really now is OUR article, as we have all given our individual input, to top-up. I believe to have read somewhere in there, “GTFO Fatspo”. What does GTFO mean anyway? And what sort of formal education has she acquired to believe that terms like “GTFO” are appropriate for outside of Facebook or Twitter?

    Which brings me to my next question: should language and acronyms as such have any place in a formal article, or perhaps just on platforms such as FB or Twitter? This article would have increased in credibility if she was remotely capable of using more professional, polished language.

    Maybe we can save the, “eee, heyyyy, howww are youuuu feeeling, girlyyy? <3 <3 <3" for fb/twitter. Apart from the minor oversight in language and grammar…EXCELLENT article, and even better top-ups from within OUR FAT GIRL community!

    So proud to be a new member 4lyfe now!!

  5. Neha Soni
    November 24, 2013 at 4:05 pm (8 months ago)

    A big-ass welcome to the FAT GIRL club to Shamu!! Happy Holidays!

    - perfect rodent


4Pingbacks & Trackbacks on Real Talk | Fit Shaming: Overcoming Fitspo Culture and the Thigh Gap

  1. […] Real Talk |Fit Shaming: Overcoming Fitspo Culture and the Thigh Gap ( […]

  2. […] few weeks back, my friend Siobhan wrote an illuminating piece about fitspo and the inherent dangers of such self-destructive imagery. Fitspo shows us idealized images of […]

  3. […] few weeks back, my friend Siobhan wrote an illuminating piece about fitspo and the inherent dangers of such self-destructive imagery. Fitspo shows us idealized images of […]

  4. […] Real Talk |Fit Shaming: Overcoming Fitspo Culture and the Thigh Gap ( […]

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