Today social media and the fitness industry go hand-in-hand. We can be in the comfort of our own home, open Instagram and see hundreds of new products, must-have supplements, and countless ripped bodies with picture-perfect abs on both men and women. The idea of having a 6 pack, fake boobs, and muscle booty is a social norm. But is it really normal? Why are we chasing this unrealistic goal, while beating ourselves up along the way? Why do we care about the number of likes we get on social media? Why is research showing that this is starting to affect our self worth? How did this happen?
After visiting the Anaheim Fit Expo this weekend and seeing the number of body builders, fitness models, and all the vendors with the countless pre-workouts, fat burners, appetite suppressants, protein shakes, and BCAAs, it made me wonder what the definition of “fit” really meant. According to Google, fit means to be “in good health, especially because of regular physical exercise”. That definition seems to be fine and dandy, but then I started thinking, of the numerous supplements on the market, do we really know what’s inside? How many of them say proprietary blend or contain ingredients we can’t pronounce? How many of them cause your heart to feel like it’s going to explode? How many body builders and competitors are 100% natural? If the vast majority of people in the industry are taking some form of performance enhancement drug, can we say they are fit? According to the definition of fit being that someone is in good health, do they still fit the criteria? Although I respect the sport and the unbelievable hard work and dedication that is involved, I believe today’s fitness industry, especially through social media, is destroying people’s perception of reality and what it truly means to be healthy.
Our society has become so focused on one’s outside appearance that we, as a whole, go to great lengths to look a certain way, regardless of the consequences. As a personal trainer, it is my job to help my clients figure out their goals and what their reason is for coming to the gym. I worry that due to social media and the constant pressure to look a certain way, people are exercising for mainly aesthetic reasons, rather than for improved health. I hear a lot of negative self-talk by my clients if they miss a workout or ate poorly over the weekend. This constant bashing of oneself because they didn’t follow their regimen absolutely perfect doesn’t automatically mean they are a failure and that they will become fat and gross (self-proclaimed statements). We are all human. We all need a little cheat meal every once in awhile and it is truly about balance. Something I can attest to not being an easy feat, but being mindful of eliminating the negative self-talk is a good first step.
According to an article put out by the Buffer Social, in just “10 minutes of social media time, oxytocin levels can rise as much as 13%—a hormonal spike equivalent to some people on their wedding day.” When Oxytocin is released, it reduces stress, eases depression, and overall improves mood. Dopamine is another chemical released in the brain following reward cues. This would include every time you receive a “like” on your social media page. Each like is positive reinforcement telling you the picture or status you have posted is well received by others. These effects alone can make it very difficult for one to stop using social media and can easily create an unhealthy addiction. The chemical reactions taking place in our brain are very serious and not something we should take lightly. It is extremely important to know that social media is not always truthful. With photo shop, airbrush, and editing, it is very rare to see a picture these days that would qualify as #nofilter.
We, as a society, also need to realize that the young generations are watching and learning. This idea of the perfect “fit” specimen is negatively affecting our population as a whole, especially young girls and boys. I know I don’t want my daughter comparing herself to an online façade, because then she will never be happy with whom she truly is. I challenge you to not care about the number of likes you get. Eliminate the negative self-talk. Love your body and work towards being a healthier and happier version of YOU. Post pictures of your life so people can see what your hobbies are and learn more about you, but don’t rely on other’s validation to tell you that what you are doing is worthy. Workout, exercise, eat balanced meals, play sports, follow your passion, and do what makes you happy. Don’t feel the need to fit the cookie cutter mold because no one truly does.