Health & Wellness

Fitspiration, thinspiration...same crap, different boss

oleg filipchuk/e+/getty images / Today

Old news: Thinspiration. New hotness: Fitspiration. Often accompanied by sayings like "strong is the new skinny," proponents often insist that Fitspo is way better than Thinspo because it is about healthy and not skinny. Except that healthy and skinny aren’t comparable—there are people of all different sizes, in different states of health, for many different reasons and nobody should be judged for it. Besides making sure that everyone has access to the healthcare they want, people’s health is actually nobody else’s business.

If you spend enough time looking at the pictures on fitspo sites you soon get the idea that “skinny with muscles” is...well, the new skinny. Cheryl Haworth is an Olympic medalist who was once the third strongest woman in the world, but at 300 pounds I’ve never seen her, or anyone who looks like her, on a Fitspiration website. There’s nothing wrong with skinny bodies, or skinny muscular bodies, or any other bodies. The issue is that there should not be a “preferable” body size and we should stop confusing health, strength, morality and all things good with a specifically-sized body.

If, as it claims, Fitspiration is really about meeting fitness goals then it wouldn’t be endless pictures of women, or parts of women, who all look roughly the same. It would be pictures of women of all sizes, ages, colors and abilities actually meeting fitness goals. For some, that might mean benching their body weight, for others it might mean lifting a grandkid or completely a 5k in their wheelchair. If it was really about fitness, then Fitspiration sites wouldn’t be flooded with “advice” that suggests that women ignore their bodies signals and work through pain and exhaustion. Pain is not “fear leaving the body.” Pain is your body telling you that something is wrong.

Let's just call it what it is. This skinny is the new skinny but it's still wrong. New boss, same as the old boss. I think the message we’re looking for is “we shouldn’t measure our worth based on an arbitrary standard” not “we should measure our worth by a different arbitrary standard”.

A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.