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I have a love hate relationship with Pinterest. I love pinning stuff…. and I hate the fact that I will likely never make that DIY skirt. Or that photo frame. Or that four course meal. The fact is, I’m not much of a DIY person, and Pinterest sometimes (ahem – always) makes me wish otherwise. 

There’s something else that has been bugging me lately about Pinterest, Instagram, and much of the rest of the social media world, and that’s the “fitness inspiration” or “fitspo” that I keep seeing plastered all over social media sites. In case you aren’t aware, here are some examples what I’m talking about:      

fitspo sucks While it may seem on the surface that these quotes and pictures might help you feel more motivated, their message may be more damaging and de-motivating in the long run. 

In fact, take a moment and think about how theses photos make you free right now.  At first it might make you feel pumped, excited, like “I CAN DO THIS,” and this is honestly why people share and post these pictures — In an attempt to motivate themselves. 

Unfortunately, when we look a little deeper, what’s tugging at us when we see these pictures isn’t inspiration, excitement, or happiness. What we’re truly feeling is: 

— Shame

— Guilt

— Comparison


— a focus on appearances and external goals (how other people see us). 

— objectification of the female body (why no faces? Just abs?)

Yes, you may feel excitement. But the root of that excitement is likely because of the feeling that: “IF I LOOK LIKE THAT THEN I WON’T HAVE TO FEEL THOSE THINGS.”

More harm than good… for all of us

Here are what some members of the Youtrition community say about their experiences with fitspo:

Jen —  I would scroll through their pictures thinking “if I looked like that then I would be happy and my life would be perfect.” and it would end up being a huge diet trigger for me and I didn’t even know it! A few weeks back I ended up deleting most of them and it already feels better not being bombarded every time I open Instagram.

Stephanie —  The thing is, those of us who already exercise already understand the concept of challenging our bodies. And I think for people who are not exercising and in the shape they want to be in, those kinds of posts tend to make them feel worse rather than motivated.

Rebecca —  Not motivating at all. Usually makes me feel like I’ll never be good enough…. It’s just another way to shame people.

So where do we get motivation from then?

Beyond the fact that these images tend to make us feel worse, not better, there’s another reason why they are killing your motivation. Psychology research shows that the more externally pushed feel to do things, the less internally motivated we are.  Lasting success doesn’t come from continually infusing yourself with external motivation. It comes from tapping into your internal motivation—your reasons for doing what you do. 

This is what Simon Sinek terms “finding your why.” When you know your why, it feels more natural to make good decisions because they feel aligned with your goals and your values…. No shaming memes required!

Earlier this week, I walked the Youtrition Community through a quick but powerful exercise on “finding your why,” and the results were powerful… these women found themselves more easily making choices that support their goals, clarifying their goals, recognizing what would really make them happy, and separating their own goals from the ones that other people have told them they should have. I’ve created a short video explaining the process.

Join the Youtrition Community to get access to that video.

And do me a quick favor? If you know someone who would benefit from this post, please share it! We would all be in a better place if everyone recognized how damaging those images truly are.

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Ashley Palmer
Ashley is a Registered Nurse with a Master’s Degree in Human Nutrition. Ashley loves her son, her husband, and lifting heavy things then putting them back down repeatedly. She is a nutrition, fitness and weight loss coach and blogs at www.youtrition.net.


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