Stop Fitspiration: A Response to the Criticism
Ever since we began our #StopFitspiration movement, we’ve received a lot of criticism in the form of emails, Tumblr posts, pins, and comments. Clearly some clarification is needed; so after much thought and consulting with people whose opinions I value and respect, I’ve decided the time has come to offer a response to the criticism. Please take note that any negative comments that have been made directly on our website that are pro-fitspiration have not been (and will never be) approved, and therefore will not appear anywhere publicly; this is not because we would rather keep other’s negative opinions about us ‘under the rug’, but rather because many of these comments are triggering and promote values and a lifestyle that we here at Libero Network are working to speak out against. However, for the purposes of this post, we have copied a few and have posted them either in full (in cases where we have saved copies) or paraphrased so we can respond to each one individually, thus the trigger warning below. It is my intention with this post to not disrespect others, but to acknowledge their concern/criticism and respond to it in a way that supports our Mission & Values as an organization. I ask that you offer the same grace while reading this post as we offer you when reading your comments.
Sincerely, Lauren Bersaglio
Founding President & Editor
**Trigger warning: some of the comments posted below may be triggering for those who are in recovery from compulsive exercise and/or eating disorders.**
Stop Fitspiration: A Response to the Criticism
Fitspiration: Images or messages similar to ‘Thinspiration’ but focused on exercise. Rather than promoting a commitment to exercise for the sake of one’s health, Fitspirational messages equate exercise with ‘perfecting’ one’s body – contributing to negative body image and compulsive exercising behaviours. -Lauren Bersaglio
I won’t go into details defining fitspiration in this post, but if you’d like to know more, I suggest reading my previous article What is Fitspiration, Anyways?
The first criticism was aimed directly at me by someone I know personally(albeit, not that well). It appeared the morning after I published my Fitspiration post (yes, that quickly) in the form of a comment on my Facebook profile. I do not have a copy of what was said, as I didn’t even read it in full myself (it was long-winded, ill-informed, and incredibly upsetting); let’s just say I am not the best at accepting criticism without taking it personally… This individual began his comment by saying (paraphrased): “This is the most ridiculous thing I have read in a long time” he then went on to talk about the obesity rates and lack of health amongst the general public in our society and how we all could stand to lose a few pounds and then some filler that I skimmed over. The comment ended with: “And did you really say that having a muffin top is not a bad thing?”
My Response: Yes, I did say that.
Now moving on to more ‘constructive’ criticisms…
The second critic I found through the ‘referrals’ section of our site stats. The link led me to a forum I’d never seen before that was in Spanish (I think?). Thanks to Google Translator, however, I was able to understand the gist of what was being said.
In a nutshell, the girl opened up a forum offering a link to our Stop Fitspiration page, and asked (paraphrased): “What do you think about this? I think it’s just a bunch of people looking for an excuse to sit on their asses.”
My Response: I was upset to see our message so drastically misinterpreted. Here at Libero Network we are for being active and healthy – and we would all agree that exercise has played a positive role in our recovery – once we developed a healthy relationship with it.
I believe in exercise – and I have running shoes, a workout wardrobe, a hula hoop, skipping rope, free weights, and a punching bag to prove it. Believe me, I am in no way looking for an excuse to ‘sit on my ass’. I find sitting on my ass not only boring, but also a direct threat to my staying on track in recovery.
What we are saying is this: Exercise is a good thing. But not when it is used as a means to the wrong end.
Exercise is about becoming healthy on the inside, about having an outlet for your energy & aggression, and about working towards a healthy, balanced life.
Exercise is not meant as a means to ‘form’ your body into some desired shape or size.
This was pinned onto a board entitled: “Things that suck/Stuff I hate” – thanks for that.
My Response: Not much different than with the criticism before; YES, I do know how good it feels to work out. But I also know how terrible it can feel to workout when you do so as a war against your own body. Running is fun, using a punching bag is fun – but when you are running to sweat away those wretched pounds you hate, or when you are hitting the bag so hard as a way of letting out aggression towards your physical self – the fun quickly fades away.
I will say it again: We are not against exercise, we are just against using it as a means of changing your body into something you can ‘accept’. Remember, acceptance comes from within – and no external changes can forge self-love. As Anne Lamott says,”it’s an inside job”.
This comment, in particular, i don’t even really consider a criticism so much as a respectful response.
My Response: I first have to say that I am happy the person who posted this has found a way to “love and appreciate [her] body more than [she] ever has” – However, I must say that generally the Fitspirational images I have seen (of which there are many) have never allowed me to view my body more positively. I may even suggest that the images this women has found so inspiring were not actually fitspiration. An image of a woman with an inspiring quote about ‘True Beauty’, even though the woman may be thinner than you, is not necessarily considered ‘Thinspiration’; and so just because an image may feature someone with a body that appears more ‘fit’ than yours, that doesn’t mean it falls into the category of Fitspiraiton, either. I think what has happened here is a misunderstanding regarding each of our definitions of Fitspiration.
We are referring to images as defined in my POST on Fitspriation; featuring ‘cookie cutter’ body types: with low body fat percent, ‘perfectly’ toned arms, a six pack (or close to), and a tan that puts Californians to shame AND containing messages that say things such as: “Eat clean, train mean, get lean” OR “It takes 4 weeks for you to notice your body changing, 8 weeks for your friends, and 12 weeks for the rest of the world. Give it 12 weeks. Don’t quit.”
So perhaps ‘fitspiration’ has inspired her because what she has been seeing is not fitspiration at all. Or, maybe she thinks it is inspiring her, when really it is planting seeds of discontent in her subconscious, or maybe she is just an exception.
And we 100% agree that it is all about “being strong, healthy, and happy with who you are” – but we don’t agree that’s what Fitspo is about, we agree that’s what having a healthy relationship with your body is about – and the more images & messages that support this, the better!
This comment was submitted to our website.
My Response: “How is inspiring a person to eat well and exercise more often a bad thing?” Well…when it comes to strict diets (that often – in this context – are a gateway to Orthorexia) and exercising beyond what is recommended (which ‘more often’ typically is), well, that’s when it is a bad thing.
It is these very messages- eat less, eat ‘better’, exercise more – that are part of the sociological factors that contribute to the development of an eating disorder.
What I find most disturbing about this comment is the second last sentence: “being healthy and strong is beautiful and that you should push yourself harder to get there”. First of all, being strong has nothing to do with beauty. Being a person of integrity is beautiful, being a person who fosters genuine love, is beautiful. Being YOU, is beautiful. Being strong has nothing to do with beauty (unless you are talking about the kind of strength that is not physical). And being strong does not mean you are ‘healthy’. Health is determined by balance: physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. There are many a professional athlete who would put my cardiovascular system to shame, but the compromises they make to achieve that level of physical health (and sometimes they don’t even have balanced physical health!) result in a lifestyle that is far less healthy than I desire.
And “Pushing yourself harder to get there”: We are all for pushing yourself when it matters – persevering in recovery, sticking to your meal plans, enduring through a relapse – but pushing yourself harder as a means to achieve a physical end is not the form of ‘pushing’ that promotes healthy living. Rather, I only took part in this form of ‘pushing’ when I was struggling with Compulsive Exercise and anorexia athletica (yes, I do in fact have personal experience with all of these issues being discussed).
My Response: First let me say I do not appreciate your language…just joking.
“Have you actually looked at a fitspo tag, or anything?” No, I haven’t, actually. I just came up with the idea to start this movement on my own – I just thought to myself “Hm…maybe there’s some unhealthy messages out there about exercise, I know! Let me start a hashtag!”…..
“It’s full of healthy food and people actually encouraging others.” I think that’s something I read on a pro-ana site, too…something about encouraging each other in ‘our chosen lifestyle’. OK, I’m getting a bit too snarky with this one. But, as I mentioned in the previous response, these forms of ‘encouragement’ about what is ‘healthy’ are really quite relative to one’s views on what Healthy actually is.
“PLEASE, do your research before saying something stupid.” Oh, I never thought about that – maybe I should consider doing a bit of research. Now, if one researches something, and is therefore ‘well-informed’, can you still consider what she says ‘stupid’?
But wait, I have done my research. I was a Human Kinetics major in my first year of university and studied compulsive exercise – as defined by Professional Athletic Trainers and those in the sports/fitness industry. We also spent extensive time assessing our own exercise routines and determining if they were in fact healthy as they related to both our goals and lifestyle. In addition, as mentioned before, I have personal experience with Compulsive Exercise, and had to work to overcome it – so not only do I know what ‘healthy’ exercise is from a scientific & professional point of view, but I also know what triggers compulsive exercise from a personal point of view.
All I can say is that I am glad this person pointed out that we aren’t really supposed to take fitspiration too seriously – as that may lead to unhealthy behaviours. Good to know.
I realize that you cannot please everyone. And when you are going up against messages that are becoming widely accepted by our society, you often please even less. But I (along with the rest of us at Libero Network) continue to stand firmly behind our beliefs – and though we realize that the criticism will most likely keep coming, though we will continue to consider the views of others and will keep an open mind, we will not change our stance in a way that will contradict our Mission & Values as an organization.
In the words of the queen of handling criticism herself, Christina Aguilera:
“They can say all they want to say…but I’m going to carry on, I’m going to keep on singing my song.”
And we here at Libero Network will keep on singing OUR song, too.
As a good friend said to me:
It breaks down to this…
1. You have the Truth and a message to share
2. They do not like the truth and will fight it
3. Speak the Truth (scratch that) SHOUT THE TRUTH
What some of our writers had to say…
Stopping fitspiration isn’t about not being fit, it is about a healthy relationship with your body. Fitspiration, the type we are opposed to, presents exercise as a means to an end, not a part of a complex relationship with our bodies that includes so much more than just eating and fitness.
“Moderate exercise for the sake of physical health and emotional well-being is a healthy behavior, but that is not what fitspiration promotes. Fitspiration is problematic, because it relies on body shame and self-hatred as a motivator for exercising. It sends the message that you cannot love your body until it measures up to an impossible standard of fitness that is based solely on appearance. Just as thinspiration can shame people into restricting their food intake until they lose too much weight but it never feels like enough because they will never look like photoshopped images, fitspiration can shame people into excessively exercising, but it never feels like enough because they will never look like photoshopped fitspiration images. By all means, exercise in a way that honors your body and strengthens it; but do not for a second let fitspiration tell you that your worth is dependent on how athletic you are or how ‘sexy’ you look in a sports bra.”