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.

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[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*~

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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